There were some years when we disagreed often. That is not unusual between a coach and umpire. Those were the early years when I ran an adult softball park. Bob Chambers coached a team, and I was often the umpire for his games.
But the disagreements were never ugly, Bob would usually just walk away slightly shaking his head, and when the games were over, the disagreements were left on the field.
Bob passed away Oct. 24. He was 83.
I never knew Bob really well, but our paths crossed often enough — more often that not at some ball game where his kids, grandkids or great-grandkids were playing — that I feel comfortable in calling him a friend.
As the years passed, one of his daughters and sons-in-law played lots of volleyball with me and my brothers and their wives. His other daughter has cut my mother’s hair for years. In recent years, his great-grandkids have spent a good bit of time at our home with one of my grandsons. There have been many other connections between our families over the years, but you get the drift.
It’s hard to mention Bob without mentioning his sweet wife Amy. One of the last times I saw her, she held my hand as we walked down a hallway toward a Grandparents Day event at the Hillsboro schools. I sometimes thought maybe she was trying to say something without actually saying it when she grabbed my hand, but whatever the reason, it left a lasting impression.
For a few years Bob was my mailman. That was quite a while back, but it provided probably my favorite memory of Bob.
One day I went to retrieve something from the garage at the end of my driveway. When I opened the garage door, there was a opossum sitting directly in front of the tool I wanted to retrieve. Because I didn’t notice him until we were pretty close, he gave me a bit of a scare (OK, more than bit). So I backed (probably more liked jumped) away to consider my options.
At first I tried to shoo him away, but he didn’t even flinch. Then I thought about trying to reach over him, but when I got close, he snarled and bared his teeth, so that was not an option. Next I tried using a rake or something with a long handle, hoping maybe I could push him away and he’d run outside. But that just made him snarl more and point his claws in my direction. It was about then that I remembered people telling me opossums were not creatures to be messed with.
So, I backed away to consider my options again, thinking there was no way I was going to let the opossum win this standoff. Then a “bright” idea came to me. There was a BB gun in my house. It was one of those old Daisy ones that couldn’t hurt the thing much, but I figured a couple stings might convince him to see things my way.
I went and found the BB gun. Then I positioned myself on a couple steps next to a landing by our side door where I could get a good shot at the opossum from 10 or so yards away. I stung him a couple times, but he didn’t budge. I was getting frustrated, and I must have looked pretty ridiculous, nestled by the steps shooting a BB gun into my garage.
I was in a prone position, aiming for my third our fourth shot, when someone called from behind me: “Jeff, what in the world are you trying to do?”
It was Bob, delivering our mail.
More than a little embarrassed and probably with a face about as red as it can get, I said, “Well, Bob, there’s a opossum in my garage and I can’t get him out.”
Bob gave me a quizzical look and said with a laugh, “Have you ever heard of a opossum playing dead? Just leave him alone and he’ll be gone in a little bit.” Then he went on his way, slightly shaking his head, and no doubt having a good laugh at my expense.
Like he probably was during many of those ballpark disagreements, Bob was right. I came back a while later and the opossum was gone.
I guess it’s things like all those experiences with Bob and his family that make living in a small community special. There are family connections that run on and on, and even though we may not have known each other all that well, we knew each other well enough, and it was good.
So, Bob, thanks for the advice with the opossum, and for all the family connections. If I ever run into another stubborn creature and start to do something goofy, I’ll look skyward, figuring you’re smiling down and shaking your head at me again.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.