There must have been something in the water in the little town that I grew up in. There were a lot of people that had a warped sense of humor. They loved to tease and pull tricks on you and by coincidence most of them were friends with my Dad.
My parents played cards with a couple at least once a week in the evenings and Wendell was almost as bad as my dad. If he wasn’t teasing my Mom he was picking on me.
When they took a break while playing cards he liked to tease me, especially when I was very small and gullible. One night when they were playing cards, when I must have been only about 5, he asked me if I had ever played nothing ball? Nothing ball? I told him I didn’t think I had ever played nothing ball.
He asked me if I wanted him to teach me, and I quickly agreed. He went into the kitchen and brought back at a small brown paper sack and as he was walking toward me he was shaking it and asked me if I could hear the ball in the sack?
I looked up at him and then down at the sack and heard the rattle and said I could hear it in the sack. He opened the sack and asked me if I could see the ball? I peered into the small sack and told him I couldn’t see the ball. He looked at me with a curious grin and asked me to look again. Again I looked and couldn’t see anything. He said, “Let me show you.”
He put his hand down into the paper sack and told me he could feel it, did I want to see it? He pulled his hand out of the sack and it was cupped around what I thought was a ball. I looked at him puzzled. How had I missed seeing it? He asked me to put my hand out and he would give it to me and we would play ball.
I quickly put my hand out and he gently laid the ball in my hand. Only I couldn’t see anything in my hand. I looked at him and then back at my empty hand and back at him again. He said, “Do you have it?” No, I don’t have it I replied, as I looked at my empty outstretched hand.
He stepped forward and picked up the ball and said, “Yes you do, it is right here” and showed it to me in his hand. Then he laid it back into my outstretched hand and said “do you have it now”?
I looked again at my hand and then at him and slowly nodded my head while looking back at my empty hand. He just chuckled and backed away a few steps and told me to throw it into the sack.
I pulled my left hand back and threw it as hard as I could, and to my surprise it hit the sack with a snap and rattled around in the bottom of it. Clapping my hands, I jumped up and down and squealed with joy.
He wanted to know if I wanted to play more nothing ball. I was so thrilled that I had thrown it into the sack that I happily agreed to play some more. He walked back over to me and pulled the ball out of the bag and placed it in my open hand. “Do you have it” he asked?
Nodding my head and looking back and forth between my empty hand and his smiling face, I told him I had it. I thought it must be there in my hand, because Wendell had given it to me and said it was. I proudly showed it to him in my cupped left hand.
He backed away again and I threw it as hard as I could. But I didn’t hear the snap, and rattle of it hitting the paper sack. He turned around and walked a few steps and told me I had missed, and picked up the nothing ball and told me he wanted me to catch it.
He threw the ball toward me and I tried to catch it. He asked if I had it and I told him I wasn’t sure. He walked over and checked out my hand and told me it wasn’t there and began to look around on the floor. Here it is he said and retrieved it from behind me on the floor.
He handed it to me and asked “Do you have it?” I looked at my hand and back at him and nodded, yes I have it. Okay, throw it to me he said, but hit the sack this time.
I tossed the ball at the sack opening again and this time heard the familiar snap and rattle as it went inside. From then on he would toss it back to me and I would catch it in my hand and throw it back to him and he would catch it in the sack.
Once in awhile I would miss it when he threw it to me and I would have to run to retrieve it. I would hear him chuckling while I was chasing after the nothing ball that had eluded my hand.
We played nothing ball until I was a little older and figured out that there really wasn’t a ball. I then asked him about the sound of the ball hitting the paper sack and rolling around in it.
He told me he held the sack between his index finger and the thumb and when the ball was supposed to hit the sack he just snapped those two fingers. Then rubbing the thumb back and forth would make the rattle.
So was it nature or nurture that made me the way I am today? Was there something in the water of the town I grew up in? Or was it the people like my Dad and Wendell that molded me into someone who loves to pull tricks and jokes on people? I will never know for sure, but nothing ball must have warped my mind in some small way.
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