January 3, 2022
You can get a lot of thinking done when it’s quiet.
Our power was out for nearly five days last week, the result of a heavy, wet snow that blanketed a big chunk of Virginia and knocked out nearly everyone’s power.
Our not-quite-but-nearly-five-day power outage is not the reason I have been quiet on here for two months now. I have no good reason for that to be honest. Things.
Yeh, it’s pretty … until the power goes out.
But, those powerless days last week were, in their way, quiet.
Although, to be honest, they weren’t completely powerless and they weren’t exactly quiet.
We are extraordinarily lucky to have a generator that feeds the house in times of power outages. But, we felt it necessary to conserve its slowly dwindling tank of fuel, as we worried that it wouldn’t last as long as the outage would, which meant turning the thermostat extremely low – (extremely low by my standards, as I am hothouse orchid) – using lights sparingly, hot water even less, and the oven not at all.
(The fuel ultimately outlasted the outage.)
Despite the constant noise of the generator – which falls somewhere between the hum of a lawnmower and a DC-10 – it still seemed quiet.
Which is sort of how baseball has felt, what with it being the off season or, to be more precise the off-off season – an off season layered with an MLB lockout where the warring parties … owners and players … have also been eerily quiet of late in their disagreement and unhappiness.
All this quiet, has made me think, not of baseball games from long ago, but of potatoes.
Let me preface this by saying that potatoes should be their own food group. They get a bad rap for their starchiness and the crazy things they can do to a person’s insulin levels. But, dear readers, one unskinned potato can also provide nearly half of your vitamin C and B6 for the day and has more potassium than a banana. Also calcium, magnesium, and folate. Can your broccoli do that? No. No it cannot.
Oh. My. God.
So anyway, the quiet has made me think of potatoes.
And, here’s why.
When I was young our family moved from California to a farm in North Dakota, where my parents sought to be admirably self-sufficient.
Part of that self-sufficiency was not only growing enough potatoes for the season, but enough potatoes to get our family through until the next crop of potatoes came the following summer. While we were just a family of three – mom, dad, me – we did live a fairly rigorous meat-and-potatoes lifestyle, so we’re talking quite a few potatoes that I helped my father dig up in late summer and that we then packed neatly in barrels that we stored in a cold storeroom in our basement appropriately called “the potato bin.”
Once or twice a winter, my father would say, “It’s time to do the potatoes,” and I would join him in the very chilly potato bin, lit only by a single light bulb hanging from a swinging cord that may have been Depression-era wiring, and we would sit on very cold metal stools, and one-by-one, pick the potatoes out of the barrel, toss out the ones that had gone soft and wrinkly, snap the white viney sprouts off of the eyes of the good ones, and carefully repack them, now de-sprouted, back into the barrels.
It took a while.
It was cold and quiet work.
And, I was trying to remember what my dad and I talked about while we sprouted (or was it de-sprouting?) each potato. I don’t think we talked about anything. We just sat in quiet and sprouted potatoes.
Snap. Snap. Snap.
And, just to be clear, snapping a sprout off of a potato, makes no snapping sound at all.
There was, back in the day … a Cuban pitcher, Camilo Pascual, who had some pretty good years with the Washington Senators in the 1950s and some even better years when the Senators became the Minnesota Twins in the 1960s, leading the American League in strikeouts in 1961, ’62, and ’63, and leading the league in shutouts and complete games three times. He was a five-time All-Star.
They called him “Little Potato,” so as not to confuse him with his older brother Carlos Pascual who pitched two games for the Washington Senators in 1950 and who people called “Big Potato.” (Potato being a mondegreen of “patato,” a Cuban slang term meaning “shorty,” which Carlos at 5’6” was, but Camilo, at 5’11” really wasn’t.)
Anyway, potato-related simply due to mishearing.
There was, back in an even longer-ago day … anywhere from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s … something called the “Little Potato Baseball League” which was a baseball league for boys that pre-dated Little League and T-Ball.
19th century sportswriters weren’t afraid of a good potato pun.
While Little Potato Baseball pretty much disappeared everywhere else by the mid-1930s, Cincinnati kept their Potato League going until the 1970s.
Cincinnati’s Holy Cross team was the Little Potato powerhouse of the late 1950s.
I wish Little Potato League Baseball was still a thing.
It sure is quiet around here.