A year or so before this 1980 card came into my possession, I read a description of the title character in Louis L’Amour’s novel, Hondo, that may have changed my life. Hondo, this tan, unshaven, high-cheekboned guy who slept on the ground under the stars and engaged in knife fights with bloodthirsty Apaches and occasionally swooped down from parched mesas to save defenseless women out on the most brutal fringes of the 19th century American West, was characterized at one point in the narrative as a loner. I clearly remember what I thought upon reading this: when I grow up I want to be a loner. It seemed tough and mysterious. You’d occasionally ride into town for your grim, manly supplies and people would look at you with awe, respect, even envy.
Anyway, now I’m a 38-year-old part-time proofreader who yesterday sat alone in the company cafeteria for an excruciating five minutes near tables of people sitting in groups or at least pairs at a surprise baby shower for a coworker. When she was brought in by her manager I participated in the tepid corporate cheer–”Surprise!”–by briefly affixing a rigor-mortis smile to my face. A few moments later, one of the planners of the party mentioned something about starting up some games, so I left the room as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. I like to think I’m invisible but how invisible is a bespectacled 6’2″, 200-pound man who badly needs a haircut? Probably most people didn’t notice my exit, having plenty of other better things to think about, but perhaps some did notice, and I doubt they gazed at me with awe, respect, and envy.
But back to my youth. By a year or so after reading Hondo, I had begun junior high and was beginning to experience the realistic dimensions of the life of a loner. I did poorly in school, my friends dwindled to a few misfits that I played chess with in the library, the basketball team I was on lost every game. Maybe I’ll delve into it all in much greater depth some day when I’m not running late to my proofreading job, as I am now, so for now all I’ll say is that Kent Tekulve, who wore glasses and threw underhand and didn’t seem to have anything at all in common with the other loud and wild disco-dancing coke-snorting home-run smashing “We Are Family” World Champion Pirates, was one of my favorite players ever. I sincerely wish I had time to write more about him, but as the television advertisement that uses the theme of living life to the fullest to sell intoxicants puts it, life beckons. I have to go take that train to my cubicle.