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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof

Western names live on

Saturday, March 12th, 2011 by

I had named Cory’s three brothers Rollin, Travis, and Brant, though with some misgivings; was I overdoing the western touch? Laying it on too thickly?

Then we went to a class C basketball game this morning, and I realized I could go a lot farther before those accusations would stick.

We went with our house guests of the past few days, who are in town for the state championships. Our friend Heather (who blogs as the feedstoregirl) got married last fall to a game warden, so the two of them came to cheer on Rod’s son Trent and his team the Dutton-Brady Diamondbacks. The school, drawn from two towns (hence the hyphenated name) has on the order of 41 students, according to the public school website.

Rod’s younger son Jake came along for the trip, but he isn’t missing any school: the school is closed. After all, a quarter of its students are on the basketball team and gone already. Once you take into account the brothers, sisters, cousins, and best friends who also attend, the school population can be cut in half. So it closes for the state championships.

During the game, I was trying to learn the team-member’s names, and Heather was trying to get me up to speed. It was a conversation punctuated by cheers and groans and the silence of sudden suspense. I will give fair warning now that I don’t know basketball terminology, so if that will cause you active pain, read something else.

Logan was the shorter, stockier guy who usually brought the ball up the court, passing it off to teammates with a variety of smooth moves. (My brother-in-law informs me that he must be the point guard. I’ll take his word for it.)

“You can tell where we are in the game by looking at Logan’s hair,” Heather informed me. “It gets wilder and wilder as the game goes on.”

One of the guys who kept materializing at the perfect moment to receive the ball, rising up from almost directly under the basket to score, was 6’6″ Bridger, who with his dark hair was fairly easy to identify.

I was squinting at the numbers, outlined in white on the burgundy shirts. We were high enough in the stands so that I couldn’t really see faces.

“So who’s number 40?” He was the other really tall guy, who did his own share of scoring.

“Clint.”

Clint, I said to myself, Clint, trying to keep focused on him, but almost instantly distracted by the action around the ball. “Okay. And that blonder one? Man, look at him–whoa! Yes!”

We cheered. The team had lost its first game and was therefore out of the running for first or second place, but so far was holding its own in the consolation bracket. On the court Logan was dribbling the ball up court at a walk. At the half-court line he start trotting towards the players scattered before him.

“He doesn’t hurry, does he?”

“Never. Even when there are thirty seconds left, and we’re sitting here going, ‘Get a move on there, Logan,’ he still takes his time.”

Well past half-court, Logan’s leisurely pace picked up. He evaded one opponent, barreled past another who had eight inches and fifty pounds on him, and in a sudden rush and flurry drove to the basket, spun and leapt. Swish.

The ball and players moved swiftly towards the other end of the court. I was still trying to get names. The slighter blond fellow tore in from the side and suddenly the ball was his and he was driving down court.

“Oh, nicely done.”

“That’s Kyler. And number 20 is his brother Tiegan.”

I looked at her. “Kyler? Tiegan? Bridger? Sounds like some easterner’s parody of the west.”

She was laughing. “I know. No Sams here.  Way to shoot, Tiegan!”

“Not one John? Pete? Will? Bob?”

“Nope. Here’s the test: list all these names and see if you can figure out where they’re from.”

“Yeah, that’ll be hard.”

There was a substitution for the Diamondbacks. When Heather said the new player was Clinton, I thought I’d misheard. But no. “Clint and Clinton?”

She nodded.

“And Logan and Bridger–are you serious?”

“And Trent, of course.”

“Of course. Oh, look at that, look at that! Oh no–”

The Diamondbacks had stolen the ball, lost it again. The Jayhawks scored.

“Okay, time to rally,” said Heather.

I was still reciting names and numbers in the third quarter when a sudden trip and collision landed two guys on their backs, one from each team. The Diamondback, up first, offered a hand to the Jayhawk.

“Was that Clint?”

“Clinton.”

“How am I going to keep them straight? Wait–the shorter one has the longer name.”

The Jayhawks had scored again, and a Diamondback stood ready to make the inbound throw.

“Is that Tyler?”

“Kyler.”

“Sheesh. I keep wanting to say Tyler and Kiegan, not Kyler and Tiegan.”

“Well, that would be more normal,” Heather conceded generously.

Kyler had by now tossed the ball to someone else, who handed it off to, of course, Logan, who stood there before starting to walk, then trot, down court.

“Wow, his hair really is wild.” It’s thick hair, worn a little longer than that of most of his teammates, so when he goes at it with a towel, it more and more resembles a lion’s mane. In the thick of the press, Logan stopped. Clinton flashed by him, hands out for the ball, and Logan drove forwards into the space he’d opened, the ball still his, and scored.

“Oh, very pretty!” I cried, clapping wildly.

Rod, who was sitting beyond Heather, leaned around her and said something about how noisy we were.

“Maybe we should go sit somewhere else,” I said.

Rod leaned over again, and Heather whooped.

“What was that?”

“He said that would be a good idea.”

We were hoping that the Diamondbacks would keep or expand their twelve-point lead into the last quarter, so that perhaps Trent (a sophomore) would have a chance to play, but the Jayhawks started chipping away at that lead, and the starters stayed on. In the end the Jayhawks couldn’t pull ahead–the final score was something like 50-45–but it was close enough to be exciting, which was nice, and to keep the newer members of the team on the bench, which was disappointing.

I was still thinking about names. It was several hours before I gathered the courage to ask what the last three members of the team were named.

“Well,” said Heather, “one is Wyatt–”

I shook my head.

“And then there’s Brodie.”

Truly.

The last, the one non-western name, is Jonas, and he has an excellent excuse: he’s a German exchange student. One of two German students in that tiny school.

So the full line-up looks like this: Bridger, Brody, Clint, Clinton, Jonas, Kyler, Logan, Tiegan, Trent, and Wyatt.

It’s not the names, it’s the sheer density of them that amazes me. Two of the five great guys next door are named Holt and Brandon, names I never heard on either the east coast or the west. But the others are named Pete, Scott, and Adam. Two out of five I can handle, but nine out of ten?

After this morning, I decided I could throw as many Brendons, Carsons, Hanks, and Austins as I wanted into my book. And if people don’t believe me, I’ll just point them to the 2010-2011 Dutton-Brady Diamondbacks.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about basketball itself in Montana–and in Landscapes.