Every so often in each of our lives something comes along only to leave us with an unexpected sense of awe. It may provide a peek into the next life or maybe just serve to underscore how little we really know about the world in which we live or the world to come. On a recent Saturday afternoon in a cemetery in a small town in central Texas such a moment amazed all of those present.
It was a small group of mostly family and a few friends who came together to share final wishes for retired Naval Commander Fredrik Blackmar (nicknamed Fud) who passed away earlier this year at the age of 81. Many had joined together at that time during a moving memorial service in honor of Fred to share stories, laughs and tears. However, there was no burial to follow as Fred was cremated and the family waited for the right time to bury his ashes in his and wife Carolyn’s childhood town of Luling. It was now the Saturday following Thanksgiving of the same year and the time had come to place his ashes in his final resting place in the small town’s cemetery. As the extended family and a few friends totaling about 25 gathered in preparation for the service, the faint meows of a small kitten could be heard coming from a nearby fence line which opened on the southeast side of the cemetery into a large field.
Fred, along with Carolyn, had always loved cats. The number of inside cats varied from at least one to as many as three, but outdoor numbers often swelled despite fervent efforts to neuter potential momma cats. Among this outdoor troop were Fred’s “shop” cats usually numbering just one or two at a time. Colorful names befitting Fred’s personality were appropriately assigned by the shop Master which included the likes of Balls, Booger, Snookems etc. The dance of fondness between the shop Master and his fold was equally entertaining as Fred liked to appear disinterested at times; a mating dance of sorts also employed by the cats. However, with no one around, Fred could usually be found sitting in the shop with one of his misfits happily occupying his lap.
Back at the cemetery, a few of the family members had gone to the fence line in an unsuccessful effort to entice the small kitten out for some “lovin”. The kitten simply refused to come out. Meanwhile, a half hour passed as the family visited and shared stories waiting for the appointed time’s arrival. Shortly after 11:30 and with Father Sean’s help, everyone gathered in a semi-circle around the gravesite. Carolyn sat in the middle of the semi-circle in her wheel chair and the others spread in each direction leaving an open space of about 20 feet between them and Father Sean and myself. I was tasked with holding the urn, assisting in the service and placing the urn into the ground. It should also be noted the service itself was very short, only 8-10 minutes in total once it commenced.
Father Sean had barely begun the service when the small kitten appeared out of nowhere and went directly underneath Carolyn’s wheelchair. We all watched in amazement, awe and a sense of wonder as Father Sean continued with his carefully chosen words and the kitten chimed in with his own soliloquy from underneath Carolyn. After a few laps under the wheel chair, and as the service continued, the kitten then strode confidently to the middle of the area between the semi-circle and the grave site. As if in tandem with the service, he added some meow comments of his own taking his time to look around at everyone being sure he was the center of attention. He then turned and calmly walked off back towards the fence line from which he had come. When the service concluded, we all looked at each other, and in near unison asked “did you see that”.
There is so much we don’t know about our presence in this vast universe. Our faith provides hope, optimism and a roadmap to the life to come; yet, as we traverse life’s journey, we often look for hints and clues of what to expect or even confirmation of its existence. While I can’t speak to your beliefs, one thing is for sure; on this wonderful Saturday where warm southerly breezes stirred the trees and wrestled loose memories from so long ago, a kitten now named Forest Fud Blackmar who has a new home with Ashley and Philip Blackmar in Corpus Christi moved our hearts and souls, intensified our faith, and allowed us to share another big smile and conversation with Fred.
If you are a lost dog or cat, our home is your nirvana. Over the years, my wife…..and I have rescued and kept somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 cats and 4 dogs of all varieties, colors and dispositions. These furry little critters have become essential parts of our large family. Names for these siblings have included the likes of KD for kid’s dog, Riley for life of Riley, Dingo from a “Friends” reference, Bazinga from “Big Bang Theory” jollies and the latest addition, Axel. While there are obviously several funny and interesting tales which accompany these little guys, the latest has to be the best to date.
Carol and I were returning home from College Station on a recent Sunday morning having spent a few days with our daughter, son in law and grandson. We had not gone far when we innocently decided to stop in Caldwell,Texas for a quick bite of breakfast to go. With food in hand, we rejoined the trip with your’s truly at the wheel of the Chevy Avalanche. Upon entering the right hand turn lane at the junction of two state highways in town, a small kitten came darting across the road and I slammed on the brakes barely avoiding the little cat. Carol then jumped out of the car to the rescue. Two other cars stopped behind to provide assistance with one gentleman routing traffic around the “rescue” scene as Carol tried to capture the kitten and I guarded the active road side of the truck in case he bolted hitherto. In a flash, the kitten jumped and climbed on top of the spare tire locked onto the underside of the truck. Now what to do?
I gave Carol a golf club to see if she could scare the kitten off the top of the spare tire while we remained in the active traffic area. “Oh no” she shouted as the kitten decided to climb further up into the underside of car; now well out of reach and out of sight . It looked as if it was on top of the gas tank and my mind was starting to wonder about future outcomes. Disassembling the truck in Caldwell in search of this kitten wafted merrily about my random thoughts as we obviously could not just drive on with him “trapped” underneath.
By now our assisting crew grew tired of the task and decided to leave us in the middle of the road without protection. This was obviously a dangerous place to be so I gingerly backed the truck into the parking lot of a local car dealership. Once off the road, it was safe to drop the spare tire and take a look. The picture below tells the story.
This next picture shows Carol covered in water and grease with the culprit appropriately named AXEL.
With no momma or family in sight, we couldn’t just leave the kitten on the side of the road, rationalized my wife, so on to Corpus for all of us was the order. However, before we could resume the trip, Carol asked that I stop a the convenience store across the street so she could get cleaned up. The next picture shows the front, and name, of the small local store. You just can’t make this stuff up!!!!!!
Axel slept the entire way to Corpus on Carol’s shoulder……
Once back in Corpus the vet informed us the new family member has ring worm.
Quarantine ends today and the newest, and most rambunctious, member of our family will be set free to roam the confines of the house.
Perception is unique to the individual. It is born from a person’s genes, molded through life’s personal experiences and a function of all that is a person’s identity. That perception is seen through the viewfinder of the individual’s exclusive metabolism becomes very apparent when two opposing impressions of a set of events are discussed. Welcome to Phil, Carol and the remainder of the Blackmar fold.
Carol is 5’4″ and grew up quite the tomboy. A collegiate golfer, Carol embraces, still to this day, such activities as jumping off 10 meter boards, tops of trees, bridges, out of airplanes, riding jet ski’s in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, and any other venture that can get her heart started. As an example, the picture below is of her after jumping down on Kjeragbolten, the famous rock at Kjerag Norway. There are no handholds of any kind on the rock and the drop to the bottom of the fjord is 3,328 ft. The fact that our four children were present for this “feat” is important given the metamorphosis of perception in our youngster’s formative years.
Suffice to say Carol and our four kids enjoy living life on the edge.
On the other hand, I grew up jumping off nothing. At 6’7″ that always seemed kind of silly….and dangerous of course. I like to think that my genetics combined with my life’s experiences growing up to form a healthy appreciation for self preservation. My disdain for pain inducing activities, however, makes me the obvious target of ridicule in my macho family.
Over the years it has become all too apparent that my wife, at 5’4″, has no appreciation for the challenges associated with hoisting around a “full grown” 6’7″ frame. Examples of this are numerous. Having never partaken in skiing, she decided that at the age of 45 I should start. While I could, and have written about some of these experiences, if you use your imagination intuitively, a “yard-sale” of sorts should accurately come to mind. Another time involved an entire vacation where I still believe she was trying to kill me. It started with renting bicycles for a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and then on to Sausalito. As if trying to avoid cars and the professional bikers who were none to happy with my methodic pace wasn’t enough; I also learned a lesson in the inadequacies in bicycle seat design. Magnifying the scope of the issue impacting my rear end and inner thighs was, and continues to be, my ever present formidable size. Next it was on to Yosemite National Park. The first day we went on a leisurely walk up a mountain with about a 3000 foot elevation change. This wasn’t too bad except when nearing the bottom of the return the knees and thighs began to bark. It wasn’t until the next day when I found out Carol had hired a rock climbing instructor that I realized this had been part of the plan. After all, what possible reason could she have for making a big old burly guy try to climb up a granite rock. She was trying to “X” me off the list, obviously.
Similar instances are too numerous to name and not the subject of this ramble. No, this ramble is about the most recent attempt on my life by my beautiful bride of nearly 35 years. It took place in Stanley Idaho on the Salmon River. Deciding river rafting wasn’t challenging enough, she took great pleasure in renting us each a “duckie”. Yep, a “duckie”. For those who don’t know, a “duckie” is an inflatable small river kayak. Now, close your eyes and picture this same big old burley dude floating in a “DUCKIE”. Well, the fun was only beginning. Just for grins, the river and the rafting company had conspired to place the most challenging rapid 100 yards into the trip. They did this to insure the big, burley, old, novice kayaker had minimal time to get checked out in all the safety features of the “Duckie model 3n-b”. One other note before sharing pictures of the near tragedy on the Salmon River dated July 15, 20014 has to do with floatation design. Namely, when the straps on the floatation device have to be let out nearly all the way in order for the svelte, potentially soon to drown, kayaker to slither into the device, a good question might be to ask if the designer of the aforementioned life saving equipment considered the need for more buoyancy if the individual in question must let out the straps. Just wondering……..and now you’ll see why.
“I’m gonna kill her”
In conclusion all I can say is I have defied the odds again!!!!
The price of greatness, as has been pointed out by my friend Paul Azinger, is a ticket most aren’t willing to pay. Not only does it require hard work and tremendous sacrifice on a personal and family level, it subjects the willing participant to a waterfall of public scrutiny. In this age of instant gratification, quick are the media pundits to seize the opportunity for a critical byline or the chance to turn heads. Great champion’s need to have thick skin, but even alligator skin struggles to protect from the poisoned tipped darts taking dead aim shot from the double barrels of the typewriter or teleprompter.
Now that Rory’s dazzling major victories are in the distant past (PGA Championship 20 months ago) and he has advanced to an elderly 25; Jordan Spieth has stepped into the arena to challenge as the next force with which to be reckoned. Mind you, not that he has made any such verbal or written pronouncements himself; his communication has simply been to play his ass off. Such pronouncements have been made by the same crew that now sees it more probable that his future will fall into the mire of the “can’t quite get out of their own way”. He’s 20.
Take note that winning is no easy task. Ask Tiger as he closes in on Jack’s record for major wins. Oh, by the way, Jack is the greatest player of all time and he finished 2nd-4th 33 times in major championships. How about Tom Watson who was 25 when he won his first major and 27 before he got the second; he finished 2nd-4th in 13 majors. Phil Mickelson was 33 when he won his first of 5 majors but he has also finished 2nd-4th 16 times. Winning is not easy.
There is no replacing experience when it comes to winning on one of golf’s biggest stages. Hogan, proclaimed by nearly everyone as the most consistent ball striker of all time, spoke with John Mahaffey of needing a “go to shot”. Dwell on that just for a few seconds. Once you develop that shot, how do you know when to resort to it rather than stick with what got you there? Experience. Jack spoke of one of the most important aspects to competing as having the ability to make adjustments. Swing keys, go to shots, course management, swing or putting tendencies under pressure, mental keys can all be adjusted. How do you know how much or when to adjust?? Experience. Great players know themselves, how they compete, how they react to situations and they either intuitively or consciously have a plan to deal with the land mines awaiting. If the game plan is to treat every shot and every situation the same and play the game with disregard for these factors then that player will never be great. Great players want the ball with the game on the line because it does mean more. They WANT it to mean more. They are not defined by their failures, but rather by their successes because they accept failure as part of winning and ultimately part of being great. Win or lose, they want the ball again and again with the game on the line just for the opportunity to succeed.
The nuances of this mental dance don’t happen over night. Jordan Spieth was born with an uncanny natural capacity to develop the skills required to challenge greatness; the degree to which he succeeds remains to be seen. However, there are a couple things for sure: 1. He has a wonderful short game, something missing from some others to whom he has been recently compared. 2. He is very young and 3. A fella named Tom Watson once went through a similar journey before finally reaching “greatness”. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that he is Spieth’s Ryder Cup Captain this year?
Teddy Roosevelt’s words never rang more true than in this case ” It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;……….so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Rock on Jordan…….
Fredrik Seward Blackmar III was born on October 6, 1932 in Taylor, Texas to Kenneth and Bettina Blackmar. However, it was in Luling, along with brothers Jim and Guy that Fred spent his formative years ensuring the Blackmar boys would stamp an indelible memory on the town. It was also in Luling that he somehow found time between hunting, fishing and playing golf to court and marry his wife of 59 years, Carolyn Krauskopf. Fred graduated from the University of Texas in 1955 as a member of Beta Theta Pi, the Naval ROTC and the Texas Cowboys. Upon graduation he accepted his commission in the Navy and entered flight school, ultimately piloting the AD, S-2 and E-2C. While Fred, or Fud as he was commonly referred to, loved to fly, he also proved an esteemed leader. His distinguished career included stints as a flight instructor, CAG LSO, CO VAW-115 and Air Ops Officer aboard aircraft carriers USS Yorktown, USS Midway, USS Ranger and the USS Constellation. He also graduated with a BS in Meteorology from the Naval Postgraduate School and earned the following medals during his career: Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Viet Nam Campaign Medal and the Viet Nam Service Medal. After 22 years in the Navy, he retired in Corpus Christi from the CNATRA Staff at the rank of Commander in favor of pursuing his passions of golf and fishing. He had already enjoyed success on the links as demonstrated by winning the 1965 National Left-Hander Championship and the Texas State Left-hander Championship six times. Out of economic necessity arising from his passionate demeanor on the links, he started his own golf club repair shop, CA (Crooked Arm) Enterprises. Utilizing his artistic abilities aided him in becoming especially well known for classic persimmon wood restoration. However, it was as a talented golf instructor that Fred formed so many lasting friendships and positively influenced so many junior players. Some of Fred’s most cherished memories came from the PGA tour where he served as a part-time caddy for Phil, including at such tournaments as the Master’s, the US Open and the PGA Championship. Fishing occupied much of his time when not on the course. He spent countless hours exploring the local bays in search of large trout and sight casting for redfish. Rather than buy fishing rods, Fred learned to make his own complete with beautiful thread whippings. He also had a love for rocks, especially various types of agates and crystals. Equipped with a rock saw, sanders, and polishing belts, he built up a beautiful collection. As a long time member of the local Gem and Mineral Association, he regularly displayed many of his favorite pieces at the annual Gem and Mineral show. Fred also displayed a soft side through his affection of cats. Never a shortage of the furry critters around the house, he also managed several unique names such as Balls, Target, Booger, Grey Beard and Dew, just to name a few. Fred was preceded in death by his son Donald, and survived by his wife Carolyn, daughter Allison Hunt, husband Bill and children Tom and Maley, son Phil and wife Carol with children Kristin, Kelli, husband Pete and son Peter, Philip and wife Ashley and Mark and his fiancé Savannah Lester. Whether it’s his golf buddies, students, men and women of the Navy he worked with, fellow fisherman or other rockhounds; Fred’s pursuit of doing things the right way earned the respect of others. Now his ship has sailed to the calm waters in heaven, but those of us touched by his ship’s wake find our lives a better place. He will be sorely missed.
Quick Sand Disease
Nearly all professional sports have been associated with their own unique psychosis resulting from performing at the highest level offered by their game. For example, football leads all groups with body part replacement surgery which certainly creates a unique set of mental challenges, and basketball players seem more and more likely to fall victim to DRod’s disease(named after Dennis Rodman) which is the unbridled desire to cover one’s entire body with permanent art. Thought to be one of the few sports with no associated maladies; the gentleman’s game of golf has now been inexorably linked with a degenerative form of dementia capable of rendering the unsuspecting a babbling fool. Physical contact inherent in most sports has been deemed the most likely causation in most instances, but golf offers no such link. In fact, it is the lack of a physical component which has camouflaged any cause and effect between golf and this disease. In order to adequately explain the vicious mental meltdown cycle which has been identified, the following terms need to be introduced:
1. TDSM-Top Dog Servo Mechanism. This is a necessary ingredient for performance at the highest level. Basically, it is a measure of the player’s self esteem and associated desire to beat the crap out of his opponents. Unfortunately for the player in question, the other guys feel the same way.
2. Omnipotence-The belief of the individual that he is more important than anyone else. However, everyone cannot be the most important. See 1 above.
3. Entropy-the second law of thermodynamics which is the desire of all things to reach their most random, disorderly, and lowest energy state. Golfers love to organize things, like thoughts, course management and stats etc.
4. HBCE-Happy Bead Cascade Effect-All people are comprised of a respective percentage of happy and sad beads unique to their own disposition. Extreme mental anguish can result in a cascade effect where all happy beads fall to the sad side in one ominous event.
5. Tourchosis-The realization that potential earnings for playing golf on a Tour level dwarf the player’s earning potential in the real world. It can be quantified by averaging a player’s annual earnings on tour divided by maximum potential in the outside world. A recent study by the (IEU) Institute of the Extremely Unfair, a democratic think tank, found the regular Tour’s average in 2009 to be a significant 20-1.
6. NPD-Not Perfect Disorder. As coined by sports psychologist guru Bob Rotella, golf is not a game of perfect. However, performance requires an expectation of perfect performance. This is an obvious paradox.
7. Conduct Unbecoming-the Tour’s catch all regulation requiring its players to conduct themselves in a manner deemed appropriate by the Tour staff. Failure to comply can result in fines, probation and suspensions. Throwing and breaking clubs, breaking tee markers, yelling at marshals or the gallery, yelling obscenities, and taking divots out of the green have been deemed conduct unbecoming by the conduct umpires.
8. OFV- O’Grady Frustration Vent. Golfer Mac O’Grady, always “out there” and way ahead of his time, first touched on the potential problems outlined in this dissertation in his 1990 bestselling book “Entropy + Golf=Brain Meltdown” . O’Grady’s premise stated professional golfers have no frustration outlet or vent allowing them to blow off steam (see conduct unbecoming) resulting from the agony of defeat or imperfection.
9. RF-Responsibility Factor which follows the player’s responsibility to his family which usually increases with age due to having children, children growing older, college, and of course the CWF(comfortable wife factor) where the wife becomes more and more expecting of the creature comforts of high finishes.
10. CPF-Comfortable Player Factor-as per above, some players become increasingly expecting of hefty earnings which can be exemplified by such things as wine cellars, fast cars, boats, bigger boats, biggest boats, big homes, bigger homes, more homes, .…………etc.
11. PERF-Potential Earnings Relevance Factor which follows the declining relevance of the player’s college degree, if he earned one. Players who did earn degrees usually majored in such areas as: underwater basket weaving, physical education specializing in playground classics like dodge ball, tug of war and tether ball, and the catch all of communications.
12. ST-which is a measure of self talk by the player before the year, week, round, nine, hole and shot in an attempt to convince himself of his high TDSM and O in order that his outlook remains positive and focused.
With these terms and ideas in mind, you can probably see where this notion is taking us. Those who lack the talent to compete at the highest level quickly are weeded out and are crushed mentally. However, their pain is fleeting and they go on with life unknowingly free of QSD. Those fortunate enough to posses the talent and mental fortitude to pursue a career in professional golf and reap the monetary rewards unknowingly subject their minds to the potential devastating effects of QSD. The cycle works something like this:
Player[A] qualifies for the Tour and life is good. The first year is great; he is patient, persevering and has few expectations. The second year changes a bit as he now expects to play like he did the first year. A’s TDSM and O are off the chart, his focus is precise and he talks positively to himself most of the time. He also buys a new car and house. He starts to date this great looking lady. He gets warned late in the year for tossing a club while seen on television.
With the advent of the 6th year, A’s expectations are high, as he has been playing very well. However, he needs to play well to pay for the new house he and his fiancé picked out in a ritzy Orlando neighborhood. He also bought a ski boat, a Lexus for his fiancé, a loaded Tahoe for cruising to the course, a 128 inch big screen for his game room which comes complete with ping pong table, pool table, video games, leather furniture and a refrigerator to keep his beer cold. It has never occurred to him what would happen should he get hurt or lose his status on the Tour. He has also hired a sports psychologist to help with the increasingly frequent tantrums for which he has been fined 6 times. At the behest of the psychologist, he keeps a small notebook handy while playing to remind himself of the 27 positive images he must create before each shot as well as constantly noting “no one shot is more important than any other”.
As A enters his 10th year, he is toiling to recover from the slump which began in earnest early in the previous year. Towards the end of the year, he enlisted the help of swing guru Rich Ikanfixutue. Ikanfixutue is a junior college drop-out who has single handedly invented the newest and most advanced swing philosophy to date. Loaded with swing aides, a laptop complete with the latest video system and 12 cameras to study his swing from each and every imaginable angle, A is on his way back. He has also hired a nutritionist from San Francisco, an ex football lineman workout associate, a second sports psychologist, a short game instructor who is a self professed god and a new agent. At the majors he hast to buy 10 plane tickets and two houses to accommodate his entourage, wife and 3 children. He and his sports psychologists have been spending a lot of time lately discussing; his realization that his tenure on tour is precious and not a given, his growing insecurities, his rising blood pressure and his love for wine.
A almost loses his card in year 12. The disease is now in full swing. Rather than feeling he is the best, he tries constantly to convince himself he is the best. He is unable to organize his thoughts over the ball, he has had two happy bead events, and he enjoys breaking clubs when alone, while drinking wine. The good news is, with the help of a few close friends who understand that which is demonizing him, he has a new plan. He wants to be a television golf analyst.