Fill the Basket Before Dinner!

Deal W. Hudson

It was too pretty, and evocative, a late fall day, to watch football or pursue any other indoor pastime. Without thinking much about it, I grabbed an old pillow case full of golf balls, my hickory niblick, a laundry bag and headed for the front yard.

The grass was still green there, sprinkled with only a few dry leaves, which slithered to the side as I dropped the balls on the grass. Placing the laundry bag on its side twenty feet away, I started to chip, hoping to fill the bag with neatly pinched shots, evidence of the reliable stroke taught to me by my father, Jack, who first put a club in my hands at age 11.

I missed and I missed, then I took off my tweed jacket and my scarf, and got down to business: “Move the body ahead of the hands,” “Lead with a flat left wrist,” “Don’t quit on it, and don’t be quick either.” As the shots started to land in and around the bag, I suddenly felt my father watching me from behind. I missed a few shots, stopped for a moment to smile, before getting back into my rhythm. “I’ll show him!” I thought to myself.

No, he showed me — as I stood over the next ball, I saw myself in the backyard of a small brick house in Ft. Worth, TX. My father was chipping into a laundry basket, dropping one after another neatly over the rim, his hands and hips moving like a dancer. His limbs were loose, but It was his eyes that betrayed the fierceness of his intention, to do this one thing well.

He handed me the Hogan wedge and watched me hit a few — those eyes made me very nervous. Balls were going all over the place, somehow I missed the house and the car. Not registering any disappointment, my father simply said, “Once you’ve hit all these balls into the basket without missing one you can come into dinner.” It was already growing dark when he walked inside the house.

In those days, with men of his generation, sons did what they were told, or faced the consequences. In this case, though, I wanted to rise to his challenge, to charge into the dining room, proudly carrying a basket full of golf balls. So I stayed outside well into the evening — at some point the outside lights came on, probably my mother’s intervention.

All I remember about finally pitching all the balls into the basket was that the darkness made it easier. I knew how far away the basket was without looking it at, and I knew where the next ball would lay after I dragged it towards my feet. Without the distraction of the target or the ball, my swing became smooth like my fathers, my feet moved in his rhythm, until there were no more balls to hit, or any to pick from the ground.

I won my father’s smile that night. He was a war-hardened man, who had lost his father early, but his heart was soft with the kind of vulnerability that comes with seeing death up close and believing fervently it is coming for you.

His smile, as I know now, was not for demonstrating my skill, but for persevering, for standing in the dark until all my fears of failure had passed.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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