Clair McFarland: Spring Keeps Spawning Neighbors

Clair McFarland writes, "Winter tests your body but spring tests your soul. Especially if you’re an introvert. The Husband has us scheduled for six barbecues and someone signed me up to keep score at little league games."

Clair McFarland

April 21, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s spring in Wyoming so you’ve got to neighbor up.

You never know when your neighbor is going to leave a Russian thistle patch burning, pop into his house for an iced tea and spark a bonfire in the wind.

Oh wait, that’s my own Russian thistle patch flaring up, while the 10-year-old holding the garden hose spins on one heel and sings “Burninating the countryside!”

Winter tests your body but spring tests your soul. Especially if you’re an introvert.

The Husband has us scheduled for six barbecues and someone signed me up to keep score at little league games.

“Ok but how can I tell if they get a goal -“

“Run,” corrects The Husband. “They get runs, not goals.”

I scrunch the pale orbs around my eyes that my aviator sunglasses won’t let the sun touch.

“Well, this is a bad idea,” I say.

The Husband pats my head. “You’ll do fine.”

With all four of my sons participating in two sports each, I’m sure I’ll be “fine,” by female parlance, for the next few weeks. I haven’t driven this much since I was 15 and the lead mechanic at my dad’s shop agreed to ride shotgun with me so I could get the last few supervised driving hours my driver’s license required.

Yeah, that mechanic kept a Budweiser in hand to numb his terror. But his fear only emboldened me, and now I can Bo-Duke a Honda Accord of all things right down a country road.

Come to think of it, that’s another springtime inclination.

But if I thought baseball season was rough on the introvert, I had no idea what track meets would hold.

“Yeesh, this place is like an all-town reunion,” I squeaked from the top row of some butt-searing bleachers.

“That’s because it is,” said The Husband.

He was right. The whole town’s youth grew up with me, had kids of their own around the same time I did and decided to meet up and discuss that wild ride at the middle school track meet.

We climbed out of early parenthood like cicadas, wondering what the heck we’d just survived.

Some of us didn’t handle it as well as others. For example, I was a nervous wreck watching absolutely everyone’s kid clear the hurdles on the track.

“They’re gonna crash,” I said.

The Husband and three dudes with whom he graduated high school all shook their heads.

Maybe I burst some taboo by talking that way. But I wanted only to jump onto that track and tell those perfect young girls with French braids and those perfect young boys with perms (wait – why are perms popular again?) that no glory could be worth THAT pile-up.

But the less-traumatized parents let the show go on, so I just had to gnaw my plaintive lower lip and try to guess which kid was whose by the shapes of their noses.

The Husband could probably tell, being both extroverted and good at remembering faces.

That means he’s always at ease, whereas I’ll only be fully at ease if we get another pandemic and the UN robo-cops order me to stay inside, reading, alone.

For now, I go to track meets. I watch baseball games. I’m not allowed to bring the Dickens book I’m reading to the boys’ soccer games because apparently halftime is for speaking in full sentences with people who still remember that one time I got in a fistfight in sixth grade, which I still maintain was for mutual recreation.

I love this town and apologize for my foibles. I apologize for being socially awkward. And I apologize for having to shed the whole social experience by hurtling down a corrugated dirt road in my Honda Accord.

Ca-Thunk, said the Honda.

“Oh are YOU gonna have a personality now, too?” I asked it.

Ca-Thunk, it answered.

I had a flat tire. I probably ran something over and dragged it along. Sure hope it wasn’t one of those inbred cats that lives at the inbred cat house.

I texted my dad to bring a portable pump to the rescue with just enough air to get me home.

But gosh dangit, he was on his way to Grand Junction to race autocross in his hot rod.

Going to the races is his spring tradition, though he doesn’t weather chumming with the gathered humans that well either.

“I can’t make it kiddo,” said Dad.

All the joy and folly of spring lands us somewhere between saying hi to the whole town and having to call Dad, but it usually ends well enough.

“Don’t worry,” said Dad. “A mechanic is on his way.”

And that mechanic, who was awe-stricken by my tire, is a high school senior whose grandmother works with The Husband and whose uncle used to make me laugh in high school.

He’s another neighbor, I realized. Which then led to the realization that perhaps I can’t actually get along without all the many, interrelated neighbors that my dad, and spring, and this small town decide to send my way.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter