Each year in late July, the Smiley’s clan gather on the white sands of Florida’s Emerald Coast to enjoy the sense of family. Most evenings, after a fine home cooked family dinner we retreat to the beach and form an informal circle. No TV, no cell phones, just relaxed conversation. As the conversation develops, someone will bring up a tale of a deceased relative and the stories start rolling. There is no leader or agenda – it just happens. During this weeklong gathering old stories are re-told and embellished while new stories are added.
One tale usually triggers an edit or addition many times leading to a whole new line of stories. Once the family gets going, even the younger, shy ones, share wonderful personal stories.
My brother, Dr. Goose, is a retired chiropractor. Like all the Smiley’s, Dr. Goose is a wonderful storyteller, although writing X-rated poetry is his true calling. He likes to call our growing directory of family stories – Smiley lore.
As we were talking golf something was said about sand traps. Immediately Dr. Goose recalled a scene from days long past in Kansas City. Goose, before the Dr. was added, was on his way to class at chiropractic school on a beautiful late fall day in1980.
Dr. Goose, “It was about 7:00 AM and I was driving my Yugo east on Johnson Drive. (For those who don’t know, a Yugo was a cheap little car that got really good gas mileage.) I hated that ugly old car, but it was all I could afford while going to school. The stop light directly across the street form Kansas City Country Club turned red. I was stopped at the top of a hill with full view of the green and sand traps on hole #5 (I think).
The sun was just creeping over the splendid fall foliage that was in full bloom. The silver dewdrops on the unmowed green were a beautiful contrast to the brilliant red, brown and yellow foliage. I recall thinking that the scene would be a feature picture on a golf calendar. Behind the green a beautifully manicured sand trap framed the green perfectly. The sand had perfect rake lines, from yesterday’s last player. Then I did a double take. There in the center of the trap was a big yellow Tomcat doing what cats do in a sand box. That cat, with a familiar arch in his back and his tail straight up, had a contented smile on his face. That smile would rival the Cheshire cat, in Alice in Wonderland, in his finest moment.
The light changed and I pulled my Yugo to the curb to watch the scene develop. As Mr. Tomcat relaxed, he turned to observe his work. The rising sun created a long shadow of Mr. Tomcat in the white sand and a silver on the green. That yellow Tomcat was now raking that sand trap with extreme precision.
I wondered to my self, how many times had Tom Watson, who grew up playing KCCC, struggled to save par from that very spot. I pulled my Yugo away from the curb and drove past the sand trap just as Mr. Tomcat sprang out of that trap. He strolled around the green and down the fairway with the very tip of his long ringed tail twitching back and fourth. He seemed proud somehow, like he had just saved par from the trap.
Then it occurred to me, even the old Mr. Tomcat knew enough golf etiquette to rake the sand trap. Golf truly is a gentleman’s game.”
When Dr. Goose finished his Tomcat story, the kids laughed and asked questions. Then they told a few poop stories of their own.