MY OTHER SHINING MOMENT IN SPORTS
By Steve Moreland, April 13, 2018
I think it was the year 1988 when Jim Gray and Dave Roth sold their ranch on the Niobrara River south of Merriman to Butch Shadbolt. They acquired the old Clyde and Bruce Weber ranch northeast of Merriman at that time. My son Will was only five years old, but he and I helped Dave Roth and his family trail their cattle from their old ranch to their new. This would have been sometime in May. The morning started out with frost on our pickup windshield, but it turned into a nice day, and the cattle drive was completed successfully.
It was either that summer or the next, when Butch Shadbolt decided to have a good old-fashioned picnic and baseball game on his newly acquired land in the pretty Niobrara River valley. Butch made numerous phone calls to friends and neighbors, and a nice-sized crowd congregated for the festivities. I had no interest in playing baseball, but thought it would be a good opportunity to enjoy the picnic and hob-nob with the neighbors.
Carol and I loaded up our youngsters and a food contribution, and journeyed to the river. We enjoyed the picnic, and then the baseball games commenced. I hadn’t intended to play at all, so was decked out in high heeled high topped riding boots and a straw cowboy hat. However, it seemed by then that all able-bodied persons were needed to have enough players to make four teams. The baseball teams that day were represented by four ranches, and they were the Shadbolt Ranch, the Abbott Ranch, the Kime Ranch, and the Saults Ranch. I found myself on the Shadbolt Ranch team.
Having never been sports minded, I’ve never paid much attention to any ball games, and don’t actually know all the rules to any of them. I didn’t want my lack of interest to deter from the success of my teammates, so thought I could do the least amount of damage if I volunteered to be an outfielder. I got clear out across the ball field about as far away as I dared, and just tried to stay out of everyone’s way.
Jerry Dahlgren was up to bat on the other side, and I was stationed a long ways out. He could very well have been the best player of all the participants that day. He has natural athletic ability, he enjoys sports, and he is very good at whatever he does. He walloped that ball very hard with his bat, and it sailed a long ways out, incidentally coming right towards me. I thought I probably should at least act like I was trying to catch it, so the others wouldn’t think I was a complete shirker.
Reluctantly I started running towards where it looked like the ball could come down. Bumbling along in my high heeled riding boots, I lost my footing and stumbled for several steps before coming upright again. In the hullabaloo of the near nosedive, I lost sight of where the ball had gone. It should have made some noise as it hit the ground, but if it did, I didn’t hear it. In looking for it, what to my wondering eyes did appear but the ball safely snuggled in my catcher’s mitt. As I was nearly falling, my left arm went out to catch my balance, and the ball slipped into the unsuspecting glove. Anyway, the result of the action and the reaction was that the ball was caught and Jerry was out. About half of the onlookers realized that the whole deal was a fluke, but the ones that didn’t see how it happened thought I was quite a player. It was a satisfying golden moment of my sports career, fluke or no fluke.