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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
(530) 795-4551
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Will there be one more swing of the bat?

Before time began Bob Graf’s family decided to celebrate his birthday with a wiffle ball tournament. I’ve been going for a few decades, but Spider Thomas, the wiffle ball commissioner, has been showing up for something like 30 years.
I look forward to my invitation each year. Bob’s address may say Stockton, but it isn’t the Stockton you read about in newspapers or see on the nightly news. His home is part of a subdivision of two plus acre parcels and gorgeous homes. Most people who knew Bob when he was growing up would be surprised at how well he has done for himself. Maybe it was the eight years he spent at Cal Poly that made people think that he wouldn’t find a job, any job.
Bob was running the Libby cannery in Sunnyvale when I was in college and he hired me one summer. It seemed like half of Winters was working there. He was one of the top managers, overseeing over 3,000 people. It was a different side of Bob that I hadn’t seen before. He was in charge and he was good at what he did.
It wasn’t long before he moved to Oroville to run a different cannery and we used to hunt on the irrigated pasture where the cannery got rid of their wastewater. We called it kick and shoot because some of the pheasants were too fat to fly, so you had to give them a little help getting into the air. It was a great event, but sadly came to an end when Bob took a job in Stockton.
The annual wiffle ball tournament took on new meaning when our ex-temporary tenant married Rance, who was from Modesto. After they had our grandchildren it became a tradition to watch a soccer game and then drive up the road to the birthday party. My extended family crashed the party with Rance, Brett and Jenna all playing in the tournament, which is very competitive by the way.
Last year Bob turned 70 and he was telling everyone that this was the last tournament and he was retiring his bat. No one believed him and sure enough an invitation showed up last month for his birthday party. There were rumors last year that the Grafs were going to sell their home and downsize. Looking at the home and realizing that only two people lived there gave credence to the rumor. This year the rumor is taking on new life and the Grafs’ move seems imminent. Bob’s wife Joanna has retired which eliminates one more reason to stay put.
After the end of this year’s tournament, my underdog team having upset the number one seed, Bob’s daughter, Peaches, was crying and hugging her father. It was quite emotional. She believes that this was the last year on this field and if that is true it will be sad. I offered up the suggestion that they plan future parties at the historic Graf Ranch, just north of Winters, but I don’t think the idea caught traction with anyone but me.
EARTHQUAKE FESTIVAL. I don’t think there is any chance that the Earthquake Festival will be crashing anytime soon. The annual celebration of the earthquake of 1892 seems to be getting bigger each year. It doesn’t matter that we have the same entertainment year after year, people just show up, have a good time, and mark the last Friday in August on their calendar for next year.
I do worry about Youth Day. It has a following, but the effort to put on a full day of activities is taking its toll on the organizers. While the Earthquake Festival is a lot of work, it is a huge fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce. Youth Day is costly to put on and the profits are smaller.
Continue to support our community events and remember to buy a beer, or two, from the Chamber booth after 8:30 on Friday.
Have a good week.