Dad was saved by a baseball
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Sixty years ago in Walker County, Alabama, my dad was born. It was Dec. 26, 1942, just one day after Christmas. He was the middle child and the third boy. A girl and another boy followed.
My grandfather, Clarence, was a coal miner. My grandmother, Margaret, was, in modern vernacular, a homemaker.
She would not have referred to herself in that term. She would have said she spent her days "rasslin' them kids."
My dad's two older brothers are Joe and Jimmy, the two younger siblings are Johnny and Dian. My grandparents named all of these children but, for some reason, left the naming of my dad to a neighbor.
She chose a name – Huey Lannie. No one knows why. The same neighbor named another baby in the neighborhood a few years later. She named him Huey Lannie, too. I guess she just liked the name.
My dad grew up in the country. He was poor, but said he didn't realize it.
"Everybody else was poor too," he will tell you.
My grandmother swore none of her sons would follow their father into the mines and be left with a lung choked by black coal dust.
For my father, the escape from the mines came in the form of sports.
Early on, people noticed my dad could really throw a baseball. Fast. And accurate.
He started playing ball. And then he joined the Army.
It was the 1950s. America was recovering from Korea and learning about a place called Vietnam.
"I saw young boys coming through the post and crying because they didn't want to go to Vietnam," dad said. "They were bawling like babies."
Dad was safe. Once again, a baseball possibly saved his live. He and another man were throwing a baseball while standing in line when he caught the attention of some Army official.
"Can you throw like that every time?" they asked.
"Yup," he said, and proceeded to prove his point.
My dad spent his tour playing baseball for the Army.
"I didn't even know how to walk post or make a bed," dad said. "They put me in charge of inspecting the troops once. I walked out there and said 'they look pretty good to me.' I had no idea what I was supposed to do."
This weekend, we found some pictures of Dad in his Army uniform. They were in a scrapbook my sister-in-law made him for his 60th birthday.
He is young and handsome, wearing his Army fatigues with a gun on his shoulder.
"I just carried the gun to have my picture made," he said with a laugh.
It's a good thing. It would have been a shame not to have you around, Dad, to celebrate the big 6-0.
Happy birthday, Dad.