Don is a lifelong resident of the Missouri Ozarks where he still lives with his wife Susan. They have three children, Laura, Jana and Michael and two grandchildren, Jackson and Camryn. Don enjoys spending most of his free time in the outdoors of the region either at the lake, floating down the James, or hiking through one of the forests that make up the region. It is from these outdoor settings that he attains the inspiration for most of his stories.
by Donald Provance, Jr.
by Donald Provance, Jr.
Published Dec 23, 2020
Genre: FICTION / Coming of Age
JIMMY is the perfect story for anyone searching for the love to accept themselves or the grace to forgive. A terrible accident carries Jimmy and his father down different forks in the river. While Jimmy refuses to be defined by his new physical limitations, his father struggles with emotional wounds that threaten to consume him. Through Jimmy’s eyes we see the immense natural beauty of the Ozarks and we remember that friends bring joy to life and soften the pain of loss. Jimmy is the caring, emotionally brave hero we all need. JIMMY is a baseball story, a tale from the Ozarks, and a salve for the soul.
By the middle of May, with the days getting warmer, and with daylight savings also coming into play, we were able to get a lot of good practice in. We were also able to pick up a couple of practice games against two other teams in our league, the Aardvarks, and the Snapping Turtles. During the game with the Snapping Turtles, Lenna actually got to play, filling in for Skel, who was away from the game due to a trumpet recital that he had. He was actually pretty good on that thing and I always kind of admired him for that. I personally, couldn’t even play a kazoo. Believe it or not, one time we actually had a concert in which our music teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, told me not to even blow into the thing, just pretend so that I wouldn’t mess up the rest of the group. I had to kind of laugh about that, a guy with so little musical ability that he wasn’t even allowed to play the kazoo. But it really didn’t bother me that much.
Anyway, since it was just a practice game against the Snapping Turtles it was fine with them that Lenna played on our team that game. They were always a lot of fun to play against because they just always had a good time. They weren’t that good, and they knew it, but it really didn’t bother them that much. They just wanted to play ball.
Well Lenna, she was really throwing some good stuff that game. Now she didn’t have the fancy curveball technique and all that Skel had, and she couldn’t throw a blazing fastball, but she was absolutely pin point accurate. I mean she could put that ball anywhere she wanted it over the plate. She never did strike a lot of batters out, but she also never gave up a lot of hard hits because of her control. I’m telling you it was the best of both worlds. The Snapping Turtles got to swing the bat and make some good contact, and we got to get our fielders some well needed fielding practice, we really did. As I said it was a true win, win.
It was toward the end of the practice that I met with both Doc and Lenna about the upcoming weekend. With the weather getting warmer, and summer quickly approaching, I was really getting the floating bug. Mom, she never minded at all if I went on a float, but she always demanded that I have at least one other person in the canoe just in case something were to happen. This was perfectly fine with me, and I totally agreed with her. Cheating a little bit at the river down at Kinser Bridge was one thing, but floating a several mile stretch by myself was another. It just wasn’t worth the risk in case something should go wrong. After a brief discussion about it both of them were fine with the plan and we made arrangements for the trip for that Saturday morning………
Now Doc, he was a great guy to float with. He just knew about a lot of stuff, and he was a great guy to talk with. He was just so easy going and funny about stuff. He could just really make you laugh, but in a kind and pleasant way. He just had that way about him and he always made you feel good when you were around him. Also, he didn’t give one rip about fishing, which was perfect to me, because it meant that I could sit up front and concentrate on fishing with him in the very back concentrating on paddling. I’m telling you that was just perfect. I never got to sit up front with Mom, because she was just too darned competitive about it. She always claimed that she did that to help me with my paddling skills. I am sure that there was some merit to that, but I really do believe that her main purpose was to give herself the best fishing seat. I really do. But that was Mom for you, she sure was competitive.
Now Doc, he was great to float with and all, but Lenna she was a blast! She was just always coming up with some kind of game, or theme, or something that made the float trip more interesting. Also, while I was a good fisherman and absolutely loved it, Lenna was a REALLY good fisherman! I’m not sure that she loved it more than I did, but she was great at it and kicked my teeth in every time we challenged each other. I never could figure it out, but she just had a knack at picking out the right lure, or bait to use at the right time. She also casted like she pitched with pin point accuracy. I’m telling you I don’t know how many times I watched her drop a lure one inch from a nice looking log only to have her pull out a gorgeous bass or goggle eye. She just had the touch. She really did.
She also was very adaptable and she didn’t necessarily have to fish, or paddle, to have a great time. She was a really good paddler and could handle herself well at either end of the canoe, but she didn’t have to in order to enjoy the trip.
On this day Lenna decided to go Cleopatra on me and Doc. She decided that with all of the work that she had to do throughout the school year in order to keep us boys in line and so forth, that she deserved a little pampering. And so she decided that she would stretch out in the middle of the canoe on one of those fold out lawn chairs and just kick back and enjoy the scenery. I will have to say that she looked pretty royal stretched out in that lawn chair lounger in her bathing suit with that big, fancy hat that she wore and her fancy dark sunglasses. Yep, she really did. But it was fine with us and actually she did kind of deserve it.
Well once we got the canoe loaded and Queen Lenna on her royal throne, Doc and I got aboard and we headed down the river for a nice float. We knew that it wouldn’t be a long float, maybe three hours at the most, and that was perfect for us we just wanted to test the river…………
We had floated another mile or so down the river when we came to a nice gravel bar that was situated on the right of us and we decided to pull over to it. Probably somebody had to go to the bathroom or something, and it didn’t matter, but we ended up pulling over and just sitting out on that gravel bar and just taking it easy. Gravel bars are great places for that. Good places to just sit and hang out and talk about stuff whether it is important or not.
Every now and then, even though I was a pretty easy going guy, I would think about stuff that was a little more serious and complex than just baseball and river stuff. Most of the time it wasn’t anything that was really that big of a deal, but I just kind of liked to hear somebody else’s opinion or perspective about things, particularly if it was something that I could relate to.
Now honestly, I never dwelled on the reality that my dad left me and my mom. I never could figure why he did, but I really never dwelled on it or anything. It was just something that happened to me and my mom. But every now and then, being a normal kid and all, I just couldn’t help but run it through my mind. Sometimes, I would come close to talking to Mom about it, but for whatever reason I always hesitated and then would change my mind and move on about the subject. But Doc, you could bring up just about anything with that guy and he just had that way about him to make you feel pretty good about yourself when you finished. He just had that way. Lenna had a lot in her like that also, when she wasn’t splashing you with pop or something like that. She really did also. I guess I was just floating with two of the best people to talk with in the entire world at that time.
Another thing about Doc and that topic was that about a year or so earlier he had lost his dad to cancer. So in a lot of respect, the two of us could really kind of relate to the subject even though there was a slight possibility that my dad was still around somewhere while there was no way that his was coming back.
As we were lying on that gravel bar just enjoying the sunshine, tranquility and the pops that were left, I turned to Doc and I calmly, genuinely began to speak.
“You know, Doc,” I said, “do you ever think much about your dad not being here and all?”
Doc he just sort of turned to me and answered in his kindly Doc manner.
“Oh,” he said, “pretty much every day.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I don’t think about it a lot, but you know, every now and then, for a while, I just can’t get it out of my head. And you know, I know that there’s really nothing that I can do about it to change things, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I still had a dad. I wonder what things would have been like if he hadn’t left. I guess, at those times, I wonder about what things I would be doing differently. Like would we still be living here, or would we be someplace else? Would I still be playing baseball, or something else, or nothing? Would I still get to go to the river, or another river, or no river? I don’t know, I guess it doesn’t really matter, because nothing can change that he left, but sometimes I just get to thinking about stuff like that. It doesn’t really bother me, because I really like where I am, and all, but I guess sometimes I just kind of think about it.”
Lenna, who was almost always really upbeat about stuff, just kind of sat back quietly and let me and Doc have our conversation.
“Yeah,” answered Doc genuinely to my contemplations, “I think I understand where you’re coming from. It’s kind of an interesting situation for the two of us. We both lost our dads, but we both had different scenarios to get to almost the same result. I had my dad for almost ten years of my life. I got to have him teach me how to throw, and catch, and I got to play games with him and go to games with him, and do all sorts of stuff like that. But, I know that I will never get to do any of those things with him ever again. And that’s for sure. You, though, you never got to play with your dad much, or go to games with him, and stuff like that, but as far as you know there is still a chance that he might come back. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure which one of us got the better deal. I really don’t. But what I do know is that here we both are on this really great gravel bar having a really great time, and that we both have probably the best friends and best life that just about anyone could ever ask for night now. I really believe that. Will it be better, or worse later on, I don’t know and I can’t guess. But right now I think it’s pretty good, and I’m really glad about that.”
Doc then kind of smiled at both me and Lenna, and then we all three just laid back together on that gravel bar and stared up into the bright blue sky. Sometimes that’s the best place to be in the world. Just staring up into the blue sky on a gravel bar.
After a little while we got back into the canoe. Lenna decided that she would like to fish the rest of the way if it was alright. It was fine with me and so I lent her my rod to use while I focused on paddling. We didn’t have too far to go anyway, and I just really kind of wanted to think about stuff for a while anyway without having to worry about getting hung up, or where to cast to or anything like that. I just kind of wanted to think, particularly a lot about what Doc had said.
And while I still wasn’t sure about whether I hoped to see my dad again or not, I did agree with Doc about one thing. Right now I had a pretty good life, and I was really glad about that.