I just want to go on record right now, in front of God and everybody, that Inever, ever planned it to wind up the way it did. Things just happened.In the end, though, I'm glad it all worked out.See, Jared and I always wanted to play basketball. He was too skinny and Iwas too short for football, and neither one of us could throw or hit or run verywell to play baseball or track.There were endless nights playing half-court in the driveway of Jared'sfamily farm, shooting hoops until his mom finally flashed the outside light to lethim know it was time to come in. I would take a last shot, he'd grab therebound and score. We'd say our good-byes, then I'd walk down that driveway,cross over State Highway 58, and then take the slow walk up to our farmhouseon the other side.That was how we grew up. We did that for years and years. Then, when Iwas in eighth grade, things started to change. And the next five years of my lifewould be completely different.The first thing that happened was the farm. My mom had died a few yearsbefore, and my dad had to sell off some of our cattle to make ends meet. Jared'sparents had helped out in that respect. However, two things happened simultaneously (almost, I don't know which happened first): my dad met MaryLee, and we started having flooding problems on the farm.Mary Lee lived in the city of Whitburn. Whitburn was the county seat of (surprise, surprise) Whitburn County, but in realistic terms, it wasn't much of a city. If I remember my civics courses right, Whitburn had a population in thelast census of 8,343. It was the largest city in the county, mostly becauseWhitburn County had only 28,000 or so people in the entire county. Anyway,my dad fell in love with Mary Lee, and they were married in our equipment shed (basically, a barn with aluminum siding and a concrete slab that could housethree tractors and a combine).We were going to have the wedding outside on the side lawn, but in lateApril we had an absolutely torrential downpour that flooded part of ourplanting area and the entire side lawn. After it had dried up a bit, we discovered that the rain had eroded part of the soil in the one part of the crops, and had actually opened an underground spring. Pretty soon, a good twenty percent of our farm was a huge pond.The problem with the flooding led to an obvious decision: We were goingto have to sell the farm. My dad sat down with me, explained what washappening, why we had to do this, and all the reasons why it was going to be allright. We would move to Whitburn with Mary Lee, who owned a house givento her by her parents, the old family homestead.