Having two girls in soccer in a league that encompasses most small towns east of the Pacific Ocean and slightly west of the Atlantic has forced me to drive to some unlikely destinations. On a recent road trip, I knew that we'd be in for a real cultural treat when, just past the green sign that heralded our destination I spotted the local drinking hole: The Cat Sass Tavern.
The host town had sprouted up out of the scrubby bush like a bad weed gone wild. The individual in charge of zoning must not have seen the outside of his trailer since 1971, judging from the haphazard layout of yards, swamps, the odd ball diamond, a school set way too close to the main street, and a boarded up church with the plastic off the windows flapping into the Holy Mother's face.
We drove around the windy gravel streets for some time, hoping to locate some soccer fields. There were plenty of mobile homes, windows opaque with dog snot and bug smears, set back towards the bush, to leave plenty of running space for two or three large dogs, a camper laying on its side, and large quantities of trucks and cars in varying stages of disassembly. Auto wrecking and dog breeding appeared to be the main industries of the town.
After several dead end "streets" that ended in either bush, or another abandoned camper, we found what must be the Mayor's home. A large, brick bungalow sprawled across grassy prairie. A large, manicured lawn flanked the front and west side of the dwelling.
But wait- are these soccer nets I see? Ah ha!! The mayor must love watching children run and play- these are not manicured grounds I see, but soccer fields! (could the town planner possibly live in the bungalow, and not the trailer down the dirt road? Imagine his shock, when he emerges from his basement one summer to find it invaded by ten year old girls chasing a soccer ball!) A cluster of lawn chairs stood on each side of the lawn turned soccer field, with parents nervously chewing and spitting sunflower seeds and bellowing encouragements to their jersey clad youngsters.
The coach had a face the colour of month old pea soup, and stumbled up and down the sidelines in his rumpled jeans and dress shoes mumbling things like: "blimey", and taking swigs from a two litre of 7-Up whose contents I had to question. I feared he'd spent too much time inhaling some bad smoke in his basement, while tending to some mysterious leafy plant under a heat lamp. Most of the young players suffered from smoke-induced asthma, but nervously raced up and down the field, sneaking glances at a big, burley fellow on the sidelines waving his arms and flapping his lips (cigarette intact) with "helpful advice" for the athletes.
When our girls won five to one, I felt it prudent to walk quickly and confidently back to the van before the coyote hunting parent pack chased us down and beat us to a bloody pulp in their jealous rage. Walk quickly past the rusty cargo vans and the trucks weighted down with fridges and ranges who had seen better days. Wind back down the road past the windows that held foaming insulation where glass once had been, youth in black hoodies hunched over their nicotine candy sticks, and staight(-ish) north back to the highway -and home.
Next week we will be the host team and have a chance to welcome this town to our fields.
If they find their way.