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Thursday, October 27, 2011

No. 79 Cliff's mama at the fence

(As related by Cliff, himself, to my older brother, Ralph, when the latter was a young boy)

Cliff Guthrie was a mama's boy. Born on Shackleford Banks in 1886 and the youngest of Eugene & Mary Guthrie's eight children, he was his mama's favorite. Like almost all children of his era, he was nurtured as a child on genuine mother's milk. And like at least some of his contemporaries, his diet continued to be supplemented by maternal nourishment even beyond his years as an infant and toddler.

In fact, when he was already old enough to be playing shortstop on his neighborhood ball team, his mother would sometimes respond to her own biological signals by going to where the boys were playing and calling her little boy over for an afternoon snack. Positioning herself beyond a tall latticed fence, Cliff would stand erect on one side, and she on the other, and within a few minutes, both he and she were content and ready to go on.

Eventually, however, even her “Cliffie Boy” had to be weaned and assume full responsibility for his own sustenance. But because he had been nursing for so long, he was forced to break not just a routine, but also a habit. As with other long-term habits, there were times when it was harder than at others, and certain activities served to trigger an intense longing for the old routine. In Cliff's case it was playing baseball that caused him to remember and miss his mother's affection and attention.

So it was that one afternoon, well into a baseball game with his friends, that one of them noticed that as Cliff leaned over in his fielder's position, ready for the next ball hit in his direction, large tears flowed down his cheeks. His face evidenced a deep sadness and sorrow so much that his playmates were concerned.

Running over to see what was wrong, one of his friends put his arm around his shoulder and asked, “Cliffie, what is it? What's the matter?”

“Just leave me alone,” he responded, “I'll be alright. I just wish I could see my mama standing at that fence waiting for me just one more time!”

(This story has been edited from the original as told to and by my brother, but only a little. Remind me sometime to share the original.)

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