Dear Diary |

Dear Diary

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Mike Vidakovich

“Young. Old. Just words.”

– George Burns

There is an interesting book called “The Fantastic Traveler.” It’s about a boy who creates a dream world more real than his actual world.

Sometimes, with a little unexpected good fortune, we come across reminders of past times that are so distant in years, they almost appear to us like a dream, even though we experienced them as very real events in our lives.

Stopping by my mom’s house on a recent winter evening, I discovered that she had stumbled across my dad’s old, time book from his days as a coal miner at the Mid-Continent mines near Redstone. She left the book on the kitchen table for me to look through as I mooched one of her delicious dinners.

In the book, my dad had recorded mostly events and time worked at the mine, with several diary-like entries in regards to family and sporting events also sprinkled throughout.

As I thumbed through the pages, childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent. Moments from long ago began to stand out in focus against the blur of years.

My dad’s writing, barely legible in places, was short and to the point. All entries were dated, and most were no more than a sentence or two in length.

I laughed, cried and shook my head in disbelief as I recalled many of the entries from a far away time period known as youth.

My dad’s love of bowling and his trusty gold ball, which he referred to as “Goldie,” was noted in many places in the time book. An entry dated March 22 and 23, 1969, read, “Went to Denver bowling in Elk’s Tournament. Didn’t do worth a damn.”

Bowling was a big part of my early years, not as a participant, but from following my dad around to tournaments and the Thursday night league at the old Glenwood Bowl. His team was made up of Corky Lyons, Marv Meyers, Don Miller and Bob Jones.

I would watch all of the bowlers, checking out their form and colorful shirts, but most of my time was spent goofing around and pestering the front desk attendant, Dennis Brown, and the lady who ran the snack bar, Alice Crandell. Those two must have wanted to run for cover each week when I waltzed through the front doors.

As I continued through the book, another entry stated, “Mikey won 3rd in Pitch, Hit, and Throw. May 23, 1970. He is 9 yrs. old.”

Ah, I remember well my inability to defeat Jay Baker and Scott Bolitho in any sporting event back then. I have more bronze trophies than I can count from the old Punt, Pass, and Kick competitions to further prove their constant torment of me.

My dad’s feathers always got a bit ruffled when the Glenwood kids would lose to Carbondale in anything. I never understood this until years later when I found out that whenever the two towns would meet, the Glenwood miners at Mid-Continent would wager some pretty good cash with the Carbondale miners on the outcome of the games.

This July 27, 1972, entry may have cost my dad some money, “Mikey played in Little League baseball tournament. Carbondale beat them 11-2. Better luck next year, kid.”

Carbondale had a pitcher at that time named Neil Jensen, who was pretty much the Nolan Ryan of Little League baseball. He would make his delivery to the plate with a ferocious look on his face that said, “I’m going to blow this baseball right by you!” The ball found the strike zone more often than not, and I would walk, dejectedly, back to the dugout with a big K stamped on my forehead.

In a later entry that same year, I did extract a measure of revenge on Bolitho by grabbing one of the few interceptions he threw in pee wee football.

Oct. 12, 1972: “Mikey’s team beat Gold team 24-6. Mikey intercepted a pass and ran 55 yards for a touchdown.”

I wish I could claim that I had Champ Bailey’s skills at the corner, but we only had four teams (Red, Gold, Blue and Green), and two pass plays in Glenwood Elementary football.

When I saw Glenn Samuelson run the sideline route, I knew where the ball was going. All I had to do was beat it there. I do faintly recall putting the okey doke move on a couple defenders on my way to the end zone.

My best memory from pee wee football was the ride from the grade school to the high school field in Coach Chavez’s old pickup truck on game day. Chav must have set a Guinness Book record for most little kids packed in the front – and back – of a moving vehicle. It was always a heated tussle trying to get those spots in the truck because if you lost out, you had to run the four or five blocks up to the high school.

The time book was also filled with several hunting adventures, many of which I remember trying to get out of as best I could.

A Nov. 10, 1972, entry is as follows, “Dickie [my brother] and J.V. [my dad] got a cow and spike elk today. Dickie did most of the shooting. Mikey went to Colo. Springs to watch Notre Dame play football.”

I was never, nor will I ever be, a hunter. The armed expeditions I couldn’t wriggle my way out of, served mostly as beautiful nature walks for me. I never carried a gun.

I learned in later years, as my dad aged, to go with him when the group “fanned out.” He could only walk for a bit, before we would sit at a place with a nice view and break out the cheese, crackers, and soda pop. He would drift off to sleep and usually, so would I. He rarely killed anything in the twilight of his hunting career, except for a few Zs, and that suited me just fine.

When the final page of the time book was turned, I sadly realized that my fantastic travel, through my dad’s eyes, was at an end. I looked at the clock on the kitchen wall and saw that I had pleasantly relived part of my childhood in just a little over an hour, so I went back to the beginning and started reading some of the passages over again. I wasn’t quite ready to return from my journey.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.

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