25 February 2023

[Past Piedmont Chronicles] - Ellis Millsaps: The Lost Boys & The Last Days of Wiffleball: A Love Story

 *ed. note: Da originally wrote this piece on his blog some years back & I posted it here once several years back. Truly a great piece, we both thought it'd be a good one to share again here at TPC. Enjoy! - MBM

By: Ellis Millsaps

     Boys come to my house in the middle of the night. I call them boys. They're in their mid-twenties. They were boys when I met them, and boys they remain.   
      They come in my bedroom at 1:00 A.M. exhorting Da to get up and play with them. Sometimes I do when I don't need to be up early. They consume everything consumable that they don't have to cook. When they leave it's as if a swarm of locusts has passed through. Empty husks are strewn everywhere.

       But to understand about the lost boys and why I call them such, you first need to know about.                                             
The Last Days of Wiffleball: A Love Story
         We played wiffleball at least once a week for three or four years. We started as soon as it was warm enough and continued until it was too cold. It was never too hot and it took a lot of rain to stop us.
        The players were me, my son and from three to twenty boys in their early twenties, occasionally a female or two. 
       Some of them had spent a lot of time at my house; most I had known since they were little; all were and are my friends. I could bore you to tears explaining our game and its elaborate rules-- how to turn a double play, (Base runners were all imaginary. There was diving by the intrepid defense in each game, but no base running.) how the cedar tree in left center (the green monster) came into play, but suffice it to say that we kept meticulous statistics and published them weekly on the interweb. And we lived from one wiffleball day to the next.
         People regularly drove from Athens and Atlanta to play our game. I remember Daniel Lanford saying more than once that wiffleball was the only event he looked forward to. He usually followed by saying how this showed that he had no life, but I knew at the time he meant he loved us and there was no place he'd rather be. We all felt that way.
           Until the very end, almost all the boys who played this game had grown up together, gone to school together, played rec ball together, climbed the water tower together. The last summer of wiffleball, the game had grown by word of mouth to include boys some of us had never met. So many that no one got to play that much.
         We all thought, the original wiffleball "core" that is, that the next year we'd politely rid ourselves of the new kids and reinstate our old game. That was two years ago. There's been no game since. What happened was that most of them got jobs, went off to graduate school, got demanding girlfriends that weren't of our circle, in short, grew up.
          We didn't realize that last summer was the end of childhood for us. That summer was the last time this circle of friends would be together. Oh, a lot of them will still get together at the Christmas holiday but it will never be the same as the summers of wiffleball, more like a class reunion instead.

          They all grew up except the few who were left behind, the lost boys who raid my refrigerator in the night. They roam the Newton County night looking for what has been lost, and although I go to bed on time, I’m not blind to the fact that I’m also one of the lost and left behind.

Contributing Writer to the Piedmont Chronicles

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...