A friend last night shared on social media the link to a story about the death of Meadowlark Lemon, who many of older generations remember as a star of the Harlem Globetrotters’ novelty professional basketball team.
It turns out, of course, that Meadolark had passed back in 2015; the link to that four-year-old story another of those odd twists that too often occur in the social media realm.
Though dated, the posting ear-wormed the whistled “Sweet Georgia Brown” into my day, along with memories of decades of Harlem Globetrotters’ tricks and antics on basketball courts. There also, of course, was the obligatory feigned sadness in my spirit for the poor Washington Generals — them with their hapless 3-16,000 record against the ‘Trotters.
Some might wonder what any of that has to do with farming, but any youngster of age who ever bounced a basketball on a haymow’s uneven boards knows exactly what it means. Even on winter nights — fingers numbed and basketball somewhat deflated by the cold — generations of farm kids spent hours honing skills that would be sure to make them the next Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal or Geese Ausbie.
Every move ever seen during a Globetrotters’ magical performance was mimicked and practiced.
The basketball stars who were known in those haymows far outnumbered those who ever went on to stardom with real high school, college or professional courts. But that didn’t matter years ago, and it doesn’t matter today.
Barnball basketball forever will live in the spirits of farm kids.
It was fun to learn a few weeks ago that the barnball spirit lives on. During a recent interview with FFA members in Arcadia, Wisconsin, one of the members spoke with passion about the FFA barnball tournaments in which his chapter competes. His eyes glowed with Meadowlark Lemon excitement about how, this year, he was certain his Arcadia crew would drop that Marshfield FFA team like an old bale of hay; a notion doubly exciting to him because the tournament is in Marshfield.
That FFA member also spurred nodding heads from other in his chapter when he answered the age-old question about whether his FFA barnball team could compete with his high school’s varsity team. As any good barnballer would answer, he said, “We’d beat ’em.”
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get to the haymow for some between-the-legs-and-around-the-back dribbling, and to can a few half-court shots while “Sweet Georgia Brown” whistles on in my mind.