[dropcap]H[/dropcap]umboldt. It’s a nothing town. Tiny. Less than two-thousand people, and more farmland than you can shake a sickle at. The city’s population drops by twenty families every year. Folks keep moving away. Maybe because there’s nothing to do in Humboldt but bale hay or drink.
The farmhouse where my daddy was born is a clapboard shack. It sits on eight miles of table-flat prairie. The inside of the house smells like dust and old sweat, and I suspect it always has.
In Humboldt, baseball is still a religion. At Humboldt High School, you can watch skinny rural boys play the game their great great grandaddies invented. They play on the same dirt that Sharky Sweatt and Big-Train Johnson once played on.
The same field where my daddy played catcher.
On the west side of town is the Neosho River, where I first learned to gut a fish. There, I discovered fillet knives slice ten-year-old hands the same way they do trout. Down the road from there, is the Neosho Memorial Hospital. That’s where they stitch up ten-year-old fishermen.
My daddy liked to visit Humboldt, any chance he got. Summers, we practically lived there.
I couldn’t understand why he loved it, but he did. The closer we’d get to town the easier he breathed. As soon as we’d hit Highway 54, he’d drop thirty years. By Highway 169, he’d have a beer popped open, with his left arm hanging out the window. The miles of open pasture did that to him. Why the hell not, it’s where he was born.
And it’s only a stone’s throw from where he died.