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A Young Pitcher: George Grant, #1

A Young Pitcher: George Grant, #1

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A Young Pitcher: George Grant, #1

Length:
276 pages
5 hours
Released:
Jan 14, 2019
ISBN:
9781386251170
Format:
Book

Description

About this book

George Grant is a 15-year-old farm boy who is struck by lightning while helping his dad with the summer harvest. His dad is killed but George survives with burns on his arms and back. When the burns heal George and his younger brother Roy resume their baseball practices. That fall George is a high school sophomore and his goal is to pitch for the high school baseball team.

George has lingering effects from the lightning strike. When he throws a baseball or when he picks up something heavy he gets tingling sensations from his fingertips to his shoulders. The tingles are never painful. They just feel funny, like he bumped his funny bone. They seem to give him extra strength and he can pick up heavy objects with ease. George discovers he now can pitch with great speed and accuracy. Almost every pitch is a strike.

Another strange affect is he now sees a baseball moving through the air like it is in slow motion. His vision isn't affected in any other way. He is often checked by doctors. The results are always the same. None of the strange effects show up on the testing devices. George appears to be a healthy teenage boy.

Early in the baseball season the high school coaches and players realize that George has unique talent and he becomes a highly valued member of the team. As the season progresses he plays a critical role in helping the team achieve greater success than anyone thought possible.

Released:
Jan 14, 2019
ISBN:
9781386251170
Format:
Book

About the author

Jay Henry Peterson grew up as a farm kid on the northern Great Plains. He milked cows, handled beef cattle, hogs and chickens and spent many hours on tractors and other equipment planting and harvesting small grains, corn and soybeans. He began writing as a teenager, creating whimsical poems and stories to amuse his high school classmates. Most of that unpublished writing has been lost. After being passed around by his classmates, much of it was wadded up and tossed in the trash basket in some classroom. He often wrote sports and feature articles for his high school and college newspapers. His college years were interrupted when he was called to serve in the United States Army, a time that included a year in combat operations in the swamps and jungles of South Vietnam. He returned to college after the service and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.   During a professional career of more than four decades as a printing and publications executive his writing was largely confined to business projects. Jay Henry Peterson is retired. He recently returned to writing for pleasure, this time concentrating on short stories and novels. He and his wife live in Arizona.


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A Young Pitcher - Jay Henry Peterson

Author

Chapter 1

It started as a warm and dry summer day perfect for combining grain. But in the early afternoon it suddenly turned cool and windy with ominous black clouds rolling in over the horizon.

Roy Grant sat on a tractor seat and waited near the end of the field for his father to finish another round with the combine. As soon as his dad got close to his end of the field Roy’s job was to drive the tractor and trailer over near where the combine would turn. Then he would stop and wait. His dad would drive the combine up close and position the auger on the combine’s grain hopper over the trailer. It would take only a few minutes to empty the grain hopper and his dad would start another round.

Roy had done this many times, even though he had just turned 13 a month ago. He had been driving a tractor since he was 10 years old. It was not a large tractor and wasn’t used for much of anything except pulling trailers, raking hay and cutting the grass in the farmyard.

George, his older brother who had turned 15 last November, was driving the truck. Like many farm-raised children, both boys and girls, what Roy and George were doing during the fall harvest was a common sight. George had parked the truck at the other end of the field, a half mile away, so he would be in position for the next load of grain.

Roy knew the Grant family farm was a little larger than the farms of their neighbors. His parents, Gene and Irma Grant, had five quarter sections of land and most of the other farmers in that area had two or three quarters. One quarter of the Grant land was five miles away from the home farm in a hilly area with sandy soil. His dad didn’t want to plow that quarter and plant it in crops for fear the sandy soil would blow away in a dry year. It was used only as summer pasture for their herd of 100 Hereford beef cows and their calves.

The Grants also had a pasture that bordered the farmyard on the south side. That was for their large dairy herd, leaving them about 560 acres for raising crops.

The Grant farm hadn’t been this large until eight years ago, when Roy’s Grandpa Wilson had died and his mother inherited her father’s two quarters of land. Roy barely remembered his grandfather, even though he had only lived a half mile away and his land was next to their farm. His Grandma Wilson had died before George was born. Grandpa Wilson had retired when George was a baby and Roy’s dad had farmed the Wilson land ever since.

Roy knew well the story of his parents growing up as neighbors and his dad telling him and George how he had to wait forever and ever for their mother to grow up so they could get married. He smiled as he thought of his mother’s response, Pooh, she had said, your dad’s only two years older than me and I’m the one who had to wait for two long years until the Army sent him home from the war.

The Grant farm had belonged to Ralph and Lois, his Grandpa and Grandma Grant. They retired and moved to the city when his dad and mom married and took over the farm. The city was four miles away and more than 3,000 people lived there. Sometimes during winter storms the two boys would stay with their grandparents in the city. Grandpa would tell them stories about farming when he was a boy and show them old pictures of horse-drawn equipment, but Grandma Grant always insisted on making sure their school homework was done, even if the storm turned into a blizzard and there wouldn’t be any school the next day.

Five quarters of land with dairy and beef cattle, hogs and chickens, was more work than one man and two young boys could handle. They had a hired man, Fred Ross, who lived with them and helped with the livestock and crop raising. He had been with them as long as Roy could remember and he was like a member of their family. He was in his late 50s. The entire family called him Uncle Fred even though he wasn’t related to the Grants or Wilsons.

However, Uncle Fred wasn’t at the Grant farm now. He had been gone from the farm for three days. His mother lived in Ohio and Uncle Fred had gone there because she was in the hospital with a serious illness. Roy didn’t know how long it would be until Uncle Fred came back from Ohio. When he left he said it might be several weeks before he returned.

It was the middle of the summer so Roy and George didn’t have to worry about school, but without Uncle Fred to help with the harvest the three of them had to put in very long hours each day.

Roy nervously turned his head to look over his shoulder at the approaching dark clouds. He knew that when the clouds were that dark and seemed to be rolling across the sky, it usually meant a thunderstorm was coming. That was bad news for the harvest. If the storm just blew through without raining, or if they got just a very little bit of rain, they might lose only one day of combining. But if they got a heavy rain with strong winds, it would very likely be at least three days until things dried out again. And, Roy knew, it might be worse. If they got hit with strong winds and heavy rain some of the standing grain would probably get beaten down and lodged. He had seen that happen in other storms when the grain stems were broken and the seed heads beaten down to the ground. It meant extra time and work to combine the grain. It also meant losing some of the grain.

Roy was aware that a storm with dark rolling clouds also could mean a tornado and that was the worst kind of storm. A tornado had hit a farm several miles south of them last summer and it had destroyed a barn, a windmill and some grain bins.

His dad stopped the combine next to the trailer and pulled the lever to start the auger. As the grain came out of the auger and fell into the trailer a swirling gust of wind caught the chaff and Roy was covered with dust and small bits of hard grain husks that stung as they hit his face. He quickly closed his eyes and turned his head away, hoping to keep the dirt out of them.

Roy, his dad yelled from the cab of the combine, I’m going to try get in another round before the storm hits. As soon as I get back here I’ll dump the grain and I want you to drive straight to the granary and park the trailer inside. We won’t worry about trying to unload it until after the storm passes. Then climb up and get the elevator out of the hole and pull the cover over it. Just wait there for George and me to get in with the truck. At the rate this thing is moving in, it looks like I’ll be lucky to finish the next round before the rain starts. He put the combine in gear and drove away. Roy had waved his arm and mouthed an Okay to his dad and then ducked his head to keep the dirt out of his face.

Roy was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and had buttoned it up around his neck to keep the chaff and dirt out. Even without the strong wind, the dust had swirled around and his face was covered with it. Roy’s mom always insisted on the boys wearing long sleeve shirts and he was glad he had one on as the wind had really cooled down the temperature.

Roy knew his mom didn’t want them getting sunburned from a full day in the fields so he and George never said anything about all the times they were driving tractors with their shirts off so they could get a little sun tan. The boys often joked about having farmer tans with their hands, faces and necks deeply tanned but no tan at all on their foreheads, arms and backs. But, they never took off their shirts when their mother might catch them at it. They didn’t worry about their dad catching them shirtless. He was usually out in the field with them and his response was generally a smile and a slight shake of his head. Roy suspected his dad had done the same thing when he was a boy.

He watched as his dad drove down the field, sometimes clearly visible, sometimes hidden behind a cloud of dust and grain chaff. He saw him reach the end of the field and watched as George pulled the truck over under the combine’s grain auger. His dad didn’t stop. As he kept the combine moving, George kept the truck under the auger so the grain fell into the truck box. That was a trick George had learned last summer and he only drove the truck too slow one time and had ended up with some grain on top of the truck cab before he corrected his speed.

George still needed a cushion behind him so he would sit far enough forward on the seat to reach the clutch and brake pedals. Last year his dad had taped 2x4 blocks on the brake and clutch so George could reach them, but he had grown a lot in the past year so he didn’t need the blocks this harvest. He used the hand throttle instead of the accelerator because that was easier to control the speed.

As the combine approached, Roy could see George following it in the truck. He knew the truck box wouldn’t be full of grain yet but with the weather change this might be the last round for the day. He quickly got the tractor and trailer positioned and waited, turning his head away from the driving wind and dirt. The combine was quickly beside him and as he turned his head he could see the grain falling into the trailer. As the grain stopped coming out of the auger, Roy’s dad yelled at him, Head for home now and drive right into the granary. George and I will get everything covered here and then we’ll be right behind you.

Roy saw his dad drive the combine to the end of the field and park it on the farm road that ran a full mile down the middle of their land. The road had originally been laid out on the line between the Grant and Wilson farms. When Gene started farming his father-in-law’s land, the road was conveniently located in the middle of the farm. Gene got off the combine and waited for George to pull the truck up so he could get a tarp to cover the combine’s grain hopper.

As Roy turned to put the tractor in gear there was a loud crack and a flash of lightning immediately followed by a tremendous clap of thunder. The storm had reached them. Roy shuddered and then as he drove onto the farm road, he leaned forward to push down on the clutch and shift into a higher gear. He reached for the throttle and opened it more to get the tractor and trailer moving faster. He looked back to see his dad and brother struggling to pull a tarp over the grain hopper on the combine and he knew they would put the tarp over the truck box next.

Roy ducked his head as he felt a rain drop hit the back of his neck and saw a few large drops of rain sizzle and disappear as they hit the hot cowling over the tractor engine. He opened the throttle more so the tractor would go even faster.

It was nearly a quarter-mile to the granary in the midst of their farm buildings. The house and garage were at one end of the farmyard with a grove of trees on the west and north side of it. The large barn and milking parlor was in the middle with two tall silos right next to it. The chicken and hog houses were about 50 yards away from the barn and the large granary and machine shed were between them and the road. Two large round metal grain bins stood on one side of the granary. There was a large wood-fenced barnyard with a windmill and wooden water tank near the barn. A large pole barn for the cattle in cold and wet weather was along the north side and it was open to the barnyard on the south side.

Roy was in the farmyard and turning toward the granary when there was a blinding flash behind him and a thunderous crash that seemed to come from all directions. He could feel the electricity in the air and he felt a tingle in his hands on the steering wheel. He turned his head and looked back at the field but his vision was blocked by a solid wall of rain. He eased back on the throttle and reached down to shift gears to drive into the granary doorway at a slower speed. He felt the sting of a fine mist of wind-blown rain at the front edge of the storm and breathed a sigh of relief when he knew he had made it just in time.

Roy drove the tractor and trailer into the middle of the granary and shut the tractor off. He jumped down from the tractor and quickly climbed up the ladder to the grain bin with the open hole above it. Rain was starting to come in. He stepped along the catwalk beside the bins, holding on to the railing to keep his balance. He moved to where he could reach up and shove the elevator end out of the hole. With the rain pounding down he pulled the lid over the hole and hooked the two latches shut. He was glad he was wearing a baseball cap that helped keep the rain off his face. He and George usually wore cowboy hats that shaded their faces and kept the sun off their ears and the backs of their necks, but not on days like this. The wind was howling and the rain sounded very loud as it pounded on the granary roof. Roy moved back to the ladder, climbed down and walked to the open doorway.

It was really raining hard. The strong wind was driving the rain so it looked like it was coming from the side instead of down from the sky. He thought about how his dad jokingly said that unlike everyone else who got their rain and snow from the sky, they always got theirs from Loganland. Most of the storms came from the west and Logan County was just west of the farm. If they had a big snow storm with large drifts filling the farmyard, the next morning when they got up to do the chores, his dad would smile and say, Looks like we had visitors from Loganland last night. In the spring and summer months when they had hard driving rains, his dad would say, They must have a lot of ducks in Loganland.

Roy looked toward the house but could barely make out the outline through the heavy rain. The flashes of lightning cracked like a whip and the thunder claps were instantaneous and a continuous roar. Roy hoped there wasn’t a tornado in the storm. As a gust of wind swirled the rain around inside the doorway, Roy stepped back to keep from getting wet. He sniffed the air and thought it had a funny smell, like someone had struck a match. He sniffed again but the wind was blowing so hard all he could smell was a faint odor of wet dirt in the air.

He waited just inside the doorway for several minutes, occasionally leaning forward and looking out around the corner, expecting to see his brother driving the truck up. He stepped back again and turned to look at the back end of the trailer, realizing he hadn’t left enough room for George to get all of the truck into the granary so they could close the door. He walked over and got back on the tractor, started it and drove it to the far end of the granary to leave room for George to get the truck in where it would be dry. He turned off the tractor and climbed down.

As he turned to walk back to the open doorway he brushed against George’s mattress hanging on the wall of a grain bin. This was the backstop they used when George practiced pitching a baseball. Several evenings each week after chores and supper Roy and George would go out to the granary, hang the mattress up and George would pitch baseballs at it.

They had talked their mother into letting them have the mattress from the crib each of them had used as babies. It was just collecting dust leaning against the crib up in the house attic. The boys convinced her they could make better use of it. They had painted a red strike zone box on the mattress, put hooks on the inside of the granary door to hang the mattress at the right level and set an old oval laundry basket on the floor beneath it so most of the balls would fall in it.

They had a couple dozen balls, most purchased from a second-hand store. The granary was about 80 feet long and the alleyway was 12 feet wide, so George could pitch from a regulation 60 feet, six inches. They had painted a line on the granary floor so the pitching distance would be right. During wet and cooler weather they did their practicing in the granary.

The only thing that was missing inside the granary was a pitcher’s mound. That wasn’t a problem in the summer. They would hang the mattress outside on two hooks in the side of the granary. They had hauled some field dirt in and built a pitcher’s mound outside. The only comment from their dad had been that it seemed bumpy driving around that end of the granary.

George had finished the ninth grade in the spring and he really hoped he could be on the high school baseball team next spring as a sophomore. Roy thought George’s pitching was great, especially since he wasn’t yet 16. George was a little taller and heavier than most of the boys his age. Their mom said he was turning into a handsome young man. He could hit the strike target much of the time, had a pretty good fastball and was working on his curve. Roy was sure George’s pitching skills were at least as good as any of the current pitchers they had on the high school team.

They frequently spent an entire practice session with George trying to figure out how to throw other pitches. Sometimes Roy would be the catcher so they could have a more realistic practice. They had purchased a used catcher’s mitt at a secondhand store in the city just after school was out in the spring. It was well worn and didn’t have a lot of padding in it, so they unlaced part of it and added some cotton padding they got from their mother. Roy thought the extra padding helped a lot, especially when George would throw as hard as he could.

Occasionally, Roy would stand next to a board they had cut and painted white like a home plate. He would hold a bat so George could practice pitching with a batter standing there. Roy would never swing the bat so they wouldn’t have to chase after the balls, but would call out the strikes and balls to George. Mostly, they were strikes.

* * * * *

Roy stepped into the doorway and listened for the truck but with the rain pounding on the roof of the granary and the continuous roll of thunder, he knew the truck would have to be right beside him before he could hear it.

He looked toward the barn and the slightly open door on the east end. He saw Tippy, their cattle dog, standing just inside the door. Tippy was a full sized Collie and a great cattle dog but he did not like rain. Lightning and thunder really scared him. Roy knew the dog would stay in the barn until the storm had passed.

Roy stood by the granary doorway and waited for a few minutes but no truck, no George, no Dad.

After several more minutes the rain and wind started to let up but still no one came. He could tell from the amount of rain they had that there would be no more combining for at least two or maybe three days. He hoped the hard wind-driven rain hadn’t lodged the grain too badly.

The rain had eased up and the wind had slowed down when his mother stuck her head out the back door of the house and yelled, Roy, Roy, can you hear me? He turned his head to see her in the doorway and waved to her. Are you there by yourself? Where are your dad and brother? she yelled. Are they staying out in the field?

They were supposed to be coming in right behind me, he yelled back, but maybe they had trouble getting the tarp on the truck. It was real windy. Dad dumped a load of grain into the trailer and then sent me in with it. They’re probably sitting in the truck waiting for the rain to slow down before they come in. They should be here any minute.

Are you okay? Did you get wet? His mother was yelling her questions but with the wind and rain and him standing in the granary, it sounded like she was yelling from a long ways off. He waved and yelled back that he was okay.

He was startled to hear a horn honking and looked out at the road to see a green pickup turning into the driveway. He knew immediately it was Ernie Belsen, their neighbor on the south. He could see two people in the pickup and recognized Ernie and his son Jack. Jack was 18, the youngest of Ernie’s four sons, and he had just graduated from high school in the spring. Roy wondered why they were driving around in the storm.

The pickup skidded to a stop on the wet driveway near the house and Ernie jumped out. He ran to the back door where Roy’s mother still stood. Goodness gracious, Ernie, she started, What are you doing driving around in . . .?

Irma, Ernie interrupted as he held up his hands in front of her and tried to keep the excitement out of his voice, Jack and I were on the way home from the city when the storm hit. It was raining really hard and we were driving very slowly by the field where we had seen Gene combining just after lunch. There was a big flash of lightning that almost blinded me and probably would have if I had been looking that way.

Ernie paused to catch his breath. I had to stop the pickup for a minute until I could see again. I could barely see anything through the rain but after sitting there for a couple of minutes, Jack said it looked like there was a fire burning where we figured Gene’s combine was parked at the other end of the field. The rain was letting up a little and when we could see better Jack said it looked like the combine was burning.

He stopped for a moment, then added, I think you better get in the pickup with us and we’ll drive out to the field and see what happened.

Irma just stood there staring at him and Ernie didn’t think she comprehended what he was saying. Irma, Irma, Ernie said again as he put his hands on her shoulders to steady her. I think there’s a fire where Gene was combining. You need to come with us and we’ll drive out to the field and make sure he’s okay.

Ernie turned to his son, who had gotten out of the pickup, and told him, Jack, why don’t you jump in the back so Irma can ride in the cab. It’s not raining hard so you won’t get very wet if you kneel up front behind the cab.

Sure, Dad, Jack responded. He turned to climb into the pickup box as Ernie led a stunned Irma over to the pickup. As he stepped on the running board to get into the pickup box Jack looked over and saw Roy watching them from the doorway of the granary. He turned his head and said, "Dad, I can see Roy is in the granary and there’s a trailer and tractor in there, but

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