My brother Neil Watson graduated in 1961 from Dora High School. He passed away on February 13th 1994. Neil wasn’t a class officer, nor did he play much high school sports. He struggled with his studies and was glad to be out of school. He was eight years older than me…old enough to keep me straight as a youngster. Unlike some brothers, we never really fought; mainly because he was a lot bigger than me and it would have been easy for him to dispatch me without breaking a sweat.
He was the first of five children born to Charles and Elwanda Watson and I think my mother wanted to make sure he was raised right so he didn’t get a lot of slack.
He was quite and kept to himself a lot. He loved hunting and fishing and working on cars. I got my first car, a 1947 Plymouth Coupe from him.
As soon as he could, he left home and moved to Hammond, Indiana to live with my grandmother and grandfather. He lived up north for a few years. Like most kids fresh out of high school, he was trying to find himself so he decided to look up there for a while. When my grandparents had enough of the cold and snow, they moved back home and he soon came back home to Dora too.
He loved to play baseball and played on one of the old Dora Community teams. He was a left handed pitcher and had a wicked knuckle ball. He struggled with control and was prone to beaning a batter or two each time he pitched. So most batters that faced him always had that in the back of their minds.
I went to see him play once in Cordova. His bio rhythms must have been perfect that day because he couldn’t miss. He threw those knuckle balls and they danced the entire 90 feed from the pitcher’s mound to the plate. Those batters could not have hit the ball with a bass fiddle.
Later on in the late 60s he joined the National Guard. He was not a particularly dedicated soldier… in fact they probably would not have let him extend his stay in the guard if the Russians were attacking Red Star Hill (this phrase was borrowed from my friend John Elliott).
Neil failed to attend a few meetings and found himself on active duty in the Army and went to Germany. He was in Germany while I was serving in Panama.
After he returned, he married a woman with two small children and they came to call him daddy. He also had a son of his own whose name is Shane. Michael, Julie and Shane have all grown up to be fine adults.
I’ve lost both my brothers, my youngest brother Darrin Watson whose birthday is February 15th died a few years ago in November. He was 34. I had already left home by the time Darrin came along, so I did not spend the time with him that I spent with Neil. I miss them both, especially this time of year. But every spring when baseball season starts I think of Neil. And when I see a knuckle ball come dancin’ towards the plate, it always puts a smile on my face.