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The Perfect Rookie: George Grant, #4

The Perfect Rookie: George Grant, #4

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The Perfect Rookie: George Grant, #4

Length:
344 pages
6 hours
Released:
Apr 8, 2020
ISBN:
9781393998969
Format:
Book

Description

THE PERFECT ROOKIE is the fourth novel in the George Grant Series. George was struck by lightning as a teenager. The doctors said the tingles in his arms and hands would fade away as he recovered. That was almost 40 years ago. He's 55 and still has them.

 

The tingles were initially known to his family, a few close friends and the doctors who examined him. Now only his wife Marcy, his brother Roy and Roy's wife Sally know about them. Marcy has always been able to sense and feel them in George's arms and hands. He doesn't understand how she can. No one else, not even the doctors, could do that.

 

When he's excited the tingles race through his arms and hands and he feels much stronger. He has phenomenal speed and accuracy when pitching a baseball and rarely throws anything but strikes. A strange result of the lightning strike is George sees baseballs moving through the air like they are in slow motion. Nothing else about his vision is affected. He can get a hit every time he bats.

 

George wanted to be a professional baseball pitcher but had to forego that dream to run the family farm. His chance to play professional ball finally came when he was 54 years old and he led the team to the World Series Championship. Then he retired to return to farming.

 

When George retired he committed to be at the next spring training in the Cactus League in Phoenix. He would coach a rookie pitcher who had been struck by lightning and had tingles in his arms and hands that didn't go away like the doctors predicted.

 

Under George's tutorage Bo Bowman becomes a pitching and hitting wonder. Early in the regular season George helps the team when the pitching coach suffers a broken leg. Then, late in the season George is again called on to help when two starting pitchers are hurt in a car accident and cannot play for the rest of the year.

What happens with Bo and George pitching and hitting for the team is beyond the wildest expectations of the team's owner, the players and all the teams they play against.

Released:
Apr 8, 2020
ISBN:
9781393998969
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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The Perfect Rookie - Jay Henry Peterson

The

Perfect

Rookie

a story about baseball

––––––––

Jay Henry Peterson

From the Author

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to every kid who ever aspired to play baseball, whether in a sandlot game or on an organized team. It is for everyone who enjoys sitting in the stands watching the action; from the sound of a pitch smacking into the catcher’s mitt to the sight of a well-hit ball flying in a graceful arc over the outfield to the beauty of a double play.

This book would not have been possible without the editorial advice and assistance of Linda Collum, Gloria Gillen and Patty Rodgers. I am indebted to them for their support.

––––––––

Copyright © 2020 Harvey Owen Dahl

All Rights Reserved.

This story is a work of fiction. All the names, characters, places and events are the product of the author’s imagination or they are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental.

––––––––

Cover images courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Table of Contents

The Perfect Rookie

From the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

About the Author

About The Perfect Rookie

Chapter 1

IT WAS EARLY FEBRUARY and everywhere he looked the ground was covered with a foot or more of snow. The area had been hit with three blizzards since Christmas and now large drifts extended out from the grove of trees on the north and west sides of the farm like fingers in giant white-gloved hands. Most of the non-traffic space in the farmyard was piled high with snow that had been moved out of the traffic areas.

Wide pathways crisscrossed the farmyard for easier access to the houses and other buildings. January had been a bitterly cold month. Winter in the upper Midwest was always cold. When it warmed up enough to snow, the snow had come as a blizzard. This year’s January thaw never happened. Some years were like that.

George Grant was looking forward to warmer weather. He thought of February as the worst time of year. It was usually bitterly cold and the ground often was covered with a heavy blanket of snow. Some years there was very little snow and the exposed dirt of the fields was proof of that lack of moisture. February was always unpredictable and cold.

It was mid-morning and he stood in the open doorway of the barn, looking out at the low drifts that rippled across the open areas of the farmyard. The sky was clear and everything sparkled a brilliant white in the morning sunlight. It was cold out and the light breeze had a numbing effect on his face. He watched the fine, light snow slowly sift across the drifts, constantly changing their shapes. He waited as his brother Roy trudged through the snow from the machine shed to the barn.

George, Roy and George’s wife Marcy owned the Caldwell-Grant Farms, a diversified grain and livestock operation. They raised small grains, corn, beans and alfalfa. They had beef and dairy herds, hogs and chickens. The farms employed more than 20 workers, including the family members.

Roy stepped into the doorway next to his brother. Looks like another toasty day in the neighborhood, he said with a big grin. That is, if you think eight below zero is toasty.

It might warm up enough to get toasty this afternoon, but I wouldn’t count on that happening before April. Maybe not until May, George replied with a chuckle. I just finished checking on the beef cattle and everything is okay there so as cold as it is just standing here in the doorway I think now would be a good time to head to the house. Marilyn was bringing some cinnamon rolls and donuts over when I left the house after breakfast.

Marilyn was Greg Robinson’s wife. Greg was a long-time employee of the Caldwell-Grant Farms and he was in charge of the daily chores team. That team’s primary responsibility was to feed and water the cattle and chickens and to tend to the milking. Mark Robinson, Greg’s older brother, lived across the road and managed the hog operation. Marilyn was an excellent cook and baker and for many years she had made rolls and donuts for everyone on the farm to enjoy with their morning and afternoon coffee breaks.

That’s a great idea, Roy said. Marilyn’s donuts are the best. Let’s head to your house. They moved out of the doorway and George slid the door shut behind them. As they walked toward the house, Roy pointed to the edge of the cleared driveway and commented, It looks like Brian will need to get the snow blowers going this afternoon to remove the new drifts.

Brian was Roy’s son and he managed the home farm. Roy’s daughter Irma was a high school senior. George’s sons Gene and Ralph managed the Caldwell farm. His wife Marcy’s maiden name was Caldwell. Her parents had turned their farm over to her a dozen years ago but they still lived in their original farm house. Although he pleaded that he was retired, her father John often advised his grandsons on good farming practices. George, Roy and Marcy had merged the farms to form the Caldwell-Grant Farms family corporation. Over the years they had managed to purchase other land adjacent to the farms and their holdings now made them one of the larger farming operations in the region.

George and Marcy’s third child was their daughter Mary. She had been named for Mary Anders, Marcy’s best friend and a high school classmate. Mary Grant had graduated from the State College the previous spring with a degree in financial and business management. She was hired by a West Coast firm and initially worked in their Portland, Oregon office. She was promoted and transferred to manage the firm’s office in the metro a month ago.

Now I’ll be able to come home for a visit more often. Being in the metro means I can go see some of the baseball games of Dad’s team, she told her mother when she called to tell her about the promotion. I wish he hadn’t retired before I got close enough to see him play. Watching him win a World Series game in person would have been awesome.

He’s going to be doing some coaching for the team during spring training in Phoenix in March, Marcy had responded. You won’t see him play, but if you can get away for a few days we have room for you in our motel suite.

That sounds like a lot of fun, Mom, Mary answered, but the responsibilities of my new job won’t let me take time off for a trip south this spring. When the regular season starts I’ll be able to join you and dad for some weekend games. I’m looking forward to seeing Norma and Johnny prancing around with Mr. Hemmings when someone on the team gets a home run. She laughed as she mentally pictured that and asked, When are you planning to go to Phoenix?

Not until late February or early March, Marcy told her. We still have some cold weather to endure before we can go. Your dad needs to hear from Willie about when they want him there.

What kind of coaching is he going to do? Mary asked. I don’t remember hearing anything about him doing any coaching last year.

He hasn’t done any coaching at all, Marcy exclaimed. Unless you want to call all the advice he gave to the other players last season coaching. What they want him for this spring is to coach a 19-year-old rookie pitcher. The boy was struck by lightning last year and the team’s owner thought your dad would be the best person to coach him since he had been struck by lightning.

That sounds sort of logical, Mary agreed. Is this only for spring training? Is he going to keep doing it in the regular season?

It’s only for spring training, her mother answered. When that’s over your dad and I are planning to come home and help with the planting.

As George and Roy walked to the house Roy asked, Didn’t you say you expected a call from Willie today? Willie Anders was a good friend of the Grant brothers and he was the pitching coach of the professional baseball team George had played for the previous season. He was the older brother of Mary Anders, Marcy’s best friend and the person George and Marcy had named their daughter after. Willie had been a professional pitcher and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he was eligible. George and Willie had been teammates when their high school won its first state baseball championship nearly 40 years ago. George was credited with leading the team to that title when he was a sophomore and he followed it with two more state championships his junior and senior years, the only high school in the state to have three championships and three consecutive titles.

Two years later Roy had led the team to the school’s fourth state baseball title. Over the next 35 years the Central High School Tigers had won two more state championships. Billboards along the highway north and south of the city proclaimed it as the state’s baseball capital. No other school in the state had won more than two state baseball championships and the Central High School Tigers had won six titles.

George’s role with the professional baseball team had happened because his wife and brother had talked him into a spring vacation in Phoenix where they could watch some baseball games during spring training. Unknown to him, Roy had arranged for George to show up at a professional team’s spring training camp and see if he could get a chance to pitch for them.

George had been denied a chance to go to college and pursue a professional baseball career when he graduated from high school because they were unable to hire enough help to run the farm. His father had been killed by a lightning strike the summer before George was a high school sophomore.

George had been struck by the same lightning bolt but had survived with burns on his arms and back. He and Roy inherited the farm when their mother died a year and a half later. Their Grandpa and Grandma Grant helped them manage it for several years. George had stayed on the farm and it had grown into a large, successful family corporation. Although denied an opportunity to play baseball as a young man, for the 35 years that had passed since then George had practiced his pitching, aided by his brother.

The problem in Phoenix would be getting someone to give a 54-year-old farmer a chance to show them he could pitch in the big leagues. Roy had counted on Willie’s connections to get George an opportunity to show his skills.

The trip to Phoenix had resulted in George giving the professional team a pitching and hitting demonstration unlike anything they had ever seen before. None of the team’s batters were able to hit George’s blazing fastball or his two curves. None of the team’s pitchers were able to get George out. The team’s players, coaches and owner were so impressed George was offered a contract and he led the team to a World Series Championship.

At the end of the season George said he had fulfilled his dream of playing professional baseball and was going to return to doing what was most important to him, being a farmer. He retired after winning in one season more baseball awards than most players win in a career. His teammates had been so impressed with his season-long performance they voted to retire number 54. He had been issued that number because he had been 54 years old when he had showed the world his pitching and hitting skills.

Yes, Willie will probably call while we’re in having coffee, George replied to Roy’s question. I think he and Sharon have been at their lake cabin doing some cross-country skiing. Willie said they were stopping in Minneapolis to visit their daughter and family for a few days and then they were driving to Phoenix.

Have you decided when you’re going to Phoenix? Roy asked.

Hope to get some information from Willie about when they want us there, George said. Marcy and I talked about it last night and we’re both anxious to get there and meet the kid Willie wants me to help coach.

Last fall after the baseball season ended Willie and Arnold Hemmings, the owner of the team George had pitched for, visited the Grant farm. Willie suggested that George could help the team in the next spring training by working with a young man from eastern Nebraska they hoped to have as a pitcher. The boy had been struck by lightning while standing under a large cottonwood tree during a hail storm. He had burns on his arms, back and legs that had healed and he appeared to be recovering quite well. Willie and Arnold’s rationale was that since George had been struck by lightning when he was a teenager, he might be the ideal person to help.

George agreed to show up for spring training in the Cactus League in Phoenix and work with the youth. The Cactus League was the professional baseball spring training period for teams from the Midwest and the West Coast. They came to the Phoenix metro for a month of training and competition in March. The regular season would open in early April. East Coast teams met in Florida and played in the Grapefruit League.

George knew it was time to plan the trip to Phoenix. He and Marcy were looking forward to enjoying the warm weather in the Valley of the Sun. George didn’t know anything about the youth they wanted him to work with except that he had survived being struck by lightning and he was reported to be a decent pitcher. George was anxious to meet the youth and see if he could coach him to the best use of his talents.

After George had recovered from the lightning strike when he was 15, he discovered he still had tingling in his arms and hands, especially when he threw a baseball or tried lifting something heavy. The tingles seemed to give him extra strength and greater accuracy when pitching a baseball. The extra strength applied to everything. It allowed him to pick up heavy things because they felt light to him. He could easily pick up a 75 or 80 pound alfalfa hay bale because it seemed to be half that weight to him. The doctors said the tingles would go away over time but they never had. They were just as strong now as when he was a teenager. In addition to the tingles he had an unexplained change in his vision. Since the lightning incident he saw a baseball moving through the air like it was in slow motion. Everything else moved at normal speeds.

Initially, George’s tingles had remained a secret known only to his family, a few close friends and the doctors who examined him. They never showed up on any medical testing equipment, they weren’t visible and they never hurt. They just felt funny, like he had bumped his funny bone.

The only person who could sense or feel the tingles in George’s arms and hands was Marcy Caldwell, a very pretty girl and one of his classmates. George and Marcy were married six months after they graduated from high school. George had never understood how Marcy could tell he had tingles. They never told their children or anyone else about them. Now, nearly 40 years after the accident, the only people who knew about George’s tingles and vision were his wife, his brother and his brother’s wife, Sally.

George, Marcy and Roy were seated at the kitchen table. The coffee pot was in the middle of the table and plates with partially-eaten cinnamon rolls and donuts were in front of each of them. George was pouring himself another cup of coffee.

The phone rang and Marcy got up and went into the living room to answer it. They heard her say Hello and then she called, George, its Willie.

George pushed back from the table and walked through the doorway into the living room. Good morning, Willie, he said as he took the phone from Marcy. I hope you’re enjoying Mother Nature’s brisk weather.

Hey, George, Willie answered, It’s good to hear your voice. I had hoped for a little bit of warmth when we got to Minneapolis but we’ve been here three days and it hasn’t been above zero yet. It’s as cold as it was up at the cabin. Sharon and I are really looking forward to some warm weather in Phoenix. Sharon was Willie’s wife. She was George and Marcy’s high school classmate.

It’s been rather nippy here, too, George commented. Marcy and I are anxious to get into some warmer weather. What’s the plan for Phoenix?

I talked with the manager last night, Willie said, and he suggested the pitchers and catchers should get there on the 15th or 16th. He’d like us to have a couple of days with the rookies before the rest of the team shows up. The pitchers can work independently for several days before our first team practice on the 22th. Our first practice game is the 24th and the first competitive game is the 27th.

That should work for us, George said. I’ll check with Marcy about whether she wants us to fly down or leave early enough to drive down and do some sightseeing along the way. We’ve got a reservation at the motel we stayed in last spring and all we need to do is call the owner and tell him when we’ll be there.

Great! Willie responded. Sharon and I are really looking forward to seeing you and Marcy again. Will Roy and Sally be coming with you or will they be coming down in early March?

No, they won’t be coming with us. I think they plan to drive to Dallas and visit with a couple of their college friends and then drive out to Phoenix. Roy told me they plan to be there for the opening game of spring training, though.

I know Arnold and Edith Hemmings are looking forward to seeing all the Grants, Willie told him. Roger told me that Arnold was asking about you when they talked late last week. I think they’re both afraid you won’t be there to help our Nebraska rookie get started.

Roger Collins was the team manager and he had led the team to the World Series Championship last fall.

We’re probably as anxious to meet this kid as Arnold and Roger are, George laughed. By the way, what’s his name? I don’t remember ever hearing it.

It’s Robert Bowman, but our scout told me everyone calls him Bo, Willie said. Since I told you about him when Arnold and I came out to the farm after the Series, he’s had a family tragedy that completely changed everything for him. Our scout in Omaha called me the week before Christmas to tell me that on Thanksgiving Day Bo’s dad suffered a stroke and is pretty much incapacitated. Apparently, the family didn’t have insurance to cover the cost of long-term nursing care so Bo’s mother opted to sell the farm to get enough money to take care of her husband.

Wow! That sounds like a real family tragedy. His dad is pretty young to be a stroke victim, isn’t he? George asked.

Yeah, he’s only 52, Willie replied. Bo just turned 19 in January. Mrs. Bowman’s lawyer found a buyer right away, there was a good offer and she took it. The scout told me it all happened very fast. Apparently, the farm was in her name. The sale included all the equipment and livestock. Bo moved his mother into an apartment near the nursing home so she would be close to her husband. I understand the lawyer arranged for the farm payments to be spread out over the next five years, which should help Bo’s folks a lot with taxes.

I’m guessing this ruined his chance to go to college, George commented, remembering his own disappointment at not being able to go to college.

It sure did. But, when I told Arnold about it, he contacted Bo and offered him a spring training contract and if he does okay there, he’ll get a one year contract with the team. Willie paused for a moment and laughed. I’m sure you remember Arnold insisting on you signing with our team if you were going to play ball. He put the same clause in Bo’s spring training contract. He didn’t want to take a chance on losing someone who might be a good pitcher.

Arnold’s a very sharp businessman, George laughed, so that clause doesn’t surprise me.

I’m sure you can read between the lines, George, Willie added. Arnold is expecting you to bring the kid along and turn him into a good pitcher. I think he expects the kid to have skills similar to yours because you’ve both been struck by lightning. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on you, my friend, but I suspect Arnold believes that if he can’t have Grandpa Grant as a pitcher, he can have a pitcher who’s been coached by Grandpa Grant to have similar skills.

Whoa! That’s a pretty big order. We don’t even know if the kid will have anything to do with me.

I don’t think that will be a problem, Willie laughed. When he found out Arnold was planning to have Grandpa Grant help coach, he was eager to sign.

Well, George said, Arnold was very good to me so I guess I should try to pay him back. But, I’ve never coached anyone before so I’m not sure how I should do it.

Coaching is easy, Willie laughed. All you have to do is remember all the tips you got from Joe Wagner and pass them on to the young pitcher. That strategy has worked for me, it works for Toby at the State College and it will work for you.

I hope so, George responded. He thought back to all the years that Joe Wagner had been a hired man on the Grant farm. Joe had played semi-pro baseball as a young man but gave it up when a young pitcher he was working with was called into the Army during wartime and was killed.

Uncle Joe, as George and Roy called him, knew more about baseball than anyone else George had ever met and he passed on that knowledge to George and Roy during their high school careers. Uncle Joe had even shared his knowledge with Willie and Toby Corbet, another member of the high school baseball team who went on to pitch professional ball.

Incidentally, my friend, Willie added, Roger suggested that since you’ll be working with Bo we need to make you the assistant pitching coach. Arnold agreed. I think the two of us will be a great coaching duo.

As long as you’ll be the pitching coach, Willie, I guess I can be your assistant.

Great. I’m looking forward to your help, Willie said. I need to finish packing and then I’m taking the grandkids to a new Disney movie. Sharon and I are leaving here early tomorrow. I’ll see you in Phoenix in about 10 days. Say hi to everyone for me.

When George finished with the phone call he returned to the kitchen. As Marcy poured him a fresh cup of coffee, he said, It looks like they want us in Phoenix in eight or nine days. If we drive we need to plan on leaving here in a few days.

Oh, that shouldn’t be a problem, Marcy said with a smile. My swim suit and sandals are ready to be packed. I just need to add a hat, some sunscreen and sunglasses and I’ll be ready!

George laughed, I need to take a little more than that so I might need a little more time. But, as cold as it is now, it won’t take me much longer to get ready.

He looked at Roy and said, Willie told me the kid they want me to work with—his name is Robert Bowman and they call him Bo—had a family tragedy before Christmas. His dad had a stroke and his mom sold the farm so she would have money to take care of her husband in a nursing home. Those changes eliminated any chance the young man had to go to college.

He took a sip of coffee and added, When Arnold heard about the tragedy he called the kid and signed him to a contract for the spring training season and if he does well Arnold will give him a one-year contract. Willie said he thought Arnold was counting on me making a good pitcher out of the kid. Roger and Arnold decided I should be Willie’s assistant pitching coach.

That sounds to me like Arnold has as much faith in you as your family does, George, Roy laughed. I don’t doubt that you’ll be able to teach Bowman all the things you’ve learned about pitching. Remember what Joe Wagner taught us and you’ll be a good coach. If this kid has the same amount of determination that you had when you first started playing ball in high school, he should do well.

George nodded and said, That’s what Willie said. I guess it’s my responsibly to pass on Joe Wagner’s tips to the next generation.

He dunked a donut in his coffee and ate part of it before continuing. I’m curious about any tingles the Bowman boy might have, he told Roy and Marcy. If he still has them, maybe they somehow give him extra strength like they do me. Maybe his vision is also affected. But what’s most important about any tingles he might have, he added with a grin, is whether Marcy can tell if he has any.

Roy and Marcy laughed. Like you, George, Roy said, I’ve never figured out how she could sense or feel the tingles you get. But, if she can sense if this Bowman kid has tingles that will really be something. Then I’ll be positive I have a spooky sister-in-law! Marcy laughed and told him it wasn’t spookiness, just good old fashioned farm girl magic.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Marcy and George were going to Roy and Sally’s house to have dinner with them. They would leave for Phoenix in the morning. They had decided they would drive and do some sightseeing along the way.

As Marcy and Sally waited for the men to come in from doing chores, Marcy said, We might be gone for a couple of weeks or we might be there until spring training is over. I guess it will depend on how things go with the rookie pitcher. George doesn’t know anything about him or what his pitching skills are. They must be pretty good for Arnold to sign him to a spring training contract and the possibility of a regular contract for the season.

I’m not sure how long we’ll be gone, either, Sally said. We hope to stop in Dallas for a couple of days so it will take us a week to get to Phoenix. We probably won’t leave until late this month. She put some items on the dining room table. Roy said he wasn’t positive George would leave Phoenix before the end of spring training. When I asked him if he thought there was any chance Arnold could talk George into staying with the team when the regular season starts he laughed and said he wouldn’t bet against it. He thinks George still has an interest in playing ball. I told him I agreed. They still practice pitching, even though George has said he’s through with baseball. Roy says they do it to help stay in shape. I told Roy I thought there was more to it than that. He just nodded when I said that and admitted it certainly was a possibility.

George hasn’t said anything but sometimes I think he would like to try pitching some more, Marcy confided to Sally. I know he’s won just about every honor baseball can give him and I don’t think he would do it for the accolades. He’s not vain. Besides, he doesn’t have room in his trophy case for all the awards he has now. Some are sitting on a shelf in a closet. I think he just likes to pick up a baseball and throw it as hard as he can.

What do you think about another season of baseball?

Oh, I don’t think I would mind, even though the season is really long. I enjoyed the time I spent with Edith and Arnold and it was lots of fun watching Johnny and Norma at the games. It was really nice to see George so happy. Marcy paused for a moment. The only thing I worry about is what I’ve worried about since we were teenagers. What happens if all of a sudden the tingles disappear and he can’t pitch and hit like he did last summer?

I worry about that, too. Last week I asked Roy about that possibility and he said he didn’t think it was going to happen. Sally paused and shrugged her shoulders. Roy said that George has had them since he was a sophomore in high school and he’ll probably have them forever.

I just hope he has them until he no longer wants to play baseball, Marcy said.

What about the farm? Sally asked. I know he and Roy were worried about it last summer when George wasn’t here to help.

I think if he decided to play again this summer, Marcy said, all the farm workers would make sure everything went smoothly here. They were really proud of what he was doing last summer and I believe they would do it again. Besides, he really doesn’t do that much anymore. Brian has the Grant farm running very well and he has the Robinson boys to help him. Gene and Ralph have everything running well at the Caldwell farm.

If he does decide to play, Sally commented, "I think

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