The following article by David Strange was originally published on 31 May 2015. It is archived here for your reading enjoyment.
If you have read many of my stories, you know that I like to reflect on life a bit. Today, for example, I am thinking about the remains of a trophy that I found while exploring the Salt River back in 2005.
Several of us were walking the river, downstream from the Highway 61 (Buckman Street) bridge in Shepherdsville. I say "walking" the river because at certain times of the year you can do just that. In rainy season the river can be thirty feet deep, surging widely out of its banks. But at dry season, it might be less than a foot deep across its entire width.
And so it was that Bob Druin, Ken Blair and his son Josh, my son Nathan Strange, and I were walking the Salt River. At the time, we were searching for the remains of an 1830's-era dam, which we found.
But you never know what you will discover when exploring the Salt River.
And I found that, too.
Of all the things that might be found washing down a river, what caught my attention was a small trophy lying there in the shallow water. It had clearly been in the river for some time. The six-inch-long white marble base was badly worn. An algae-covered, corroded brass-plated football was mounted on one side of the base; the center piece was missing; a slightly bent 2nd place insignia sat on the other side.
That got my imagination going. Why would a football trophy be lying in the middle of the Salt River? The bridge crossed the river just a little upstream from where I stood. Had the trophy been thrown off of the bridge?
Was someone upset for getting "only" second place? I looked up and could clearly imagine some boy standing up on that bridge and just throwing the trophy in misguided rage as far as he could.
We have all seen it so many times in so many ways. After all the work, all the commitment, someone didn't "win." Someone "only" came in second. I remember many years ago when my son was in a youth-league basketball tournament. This was an age group just old enough to make an occasional shot and maybe follow strategy a little bit. I was proud of our team coach, who not only knew the game; he was patient with the kids and made sure each one had a chance to learn and play. Of course, it helped a lot that we were winning as well.
In the final game the opposing team looked tough. It was obvious they were in it to win it. Their coach had clearly primed them and pumped them. But then I noticed something else. Their coach was yelling at them. Not the expected fiery-coach yelling, but demeaning slurs and threats. "You no-good kids! If you can't beat this team, you're nothing! If you can't win this game you should be ashamed to go home!!" These child players were grim, even frantic to please their coach in this end-of-the-world little game.
With both pride and worry I watched as my son's team won the game and the tournament. I watched the other team, as those little kids broke down in bitter tears, coach still yelling at them, not knowing how they could possibly face life after such a horrible "disgrace." They had defeated every team in the league except one, but they were utterly miserable.
They had only won second place.
It's all water under the bridge now, both that memory and the football trophy in the river. At least I hope so for whoever might have thrown the trophy over the bridge and been so disappointed.
But somehow I have not been able to let go of that old river-worn second-place trophy. I still have it, sitting on my desk. My wife shakes her head at why on earth I would keep such a thing. I have had my share of second place, or worse, in life. That little worn trophy serves as a reminder of sorts, about keeping a balance about it all.
Copyright 2015 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.