It takes more than a few raindrops to stop a good Fourth of July celebration.
A little precipitation wasn’t going to slow down Tapring Goatee or Josh Bedford or the rest of the competitors in the Fast Track Mile. Organized fireworks displays may have had to have been postponed, but the disorganized ones were going on in every neighborhood I visited Saturday night.
And although the Moline Invitational for American Legion baseball was being rained out 25 or 30 miles away from us, nothing was going to stop softball at the 75th annual Jung Reunion — much to the chagrin of the mothers in the family.
Descendants of my great-grandparents on my mother’s mother’s side have been meeting annually for that long now, and it can be an intimidating experience for a newcomer (as Jenny will tell you). Michael and Mary Jung had at least 10 children — I don’t have the family photograph in front of me — and big families are not unusual in the younger generations either.
That means a lot of cousins that Ryan, Darcy and JoJo — or Jenny, for that matter — only see once a year. This year’s attendance of 126 was horrifyingly low to a lot of family members — one of these days everybody is going to decide to show up on a whim, and all 1,000 or so of my cousins will be in the same place at the same time — but it’s still a lot of people with whom to be reacquainted annually.
Now the majority of this year’s 126 people do cook extremely well. Entrees ranged from smoked salmon to barbecued venison, with a lot of fried chicken in between, and it’s a common occurrence to fill your plate completely before you even get to the selection of salads — which, although enticing, are obviously limited in the Jung family to being the third of the three major food groups behind meat/potatoes/pasta and dessert.
Kind of a JoJo philosophy, in other words. There are also unlimited soft drinks, which also suits her.
But there are a lot of hours to fill between the noontime feast and the totally unnecessary but still heartily consumed supper. This is where softball comes in.
I haven’t missed a reunion — ever — and I’ve only missed one softball game (for work-related reasons) since realizing that my own lack of talent didn’t set me all that far apart from a lot of my cousins. Sideline conversations are how I know pretty much all the younger members of the Jung family, which works out great.
The fact that it rained calmly but steadily all Saturday morning deterred us only a little. All of us were clinging to a weather forecast from earlier in the week (much earlier in the week) that said the weather would clear in the afternoon. I made the post-lunch conversational rounds accompanied by all three kids — Darcy and I may as well have been joined at the hip — but with one eye on the outdoors at all times.
Finally we saw my cousin Cody, a tough little left-hander (you may remember him stopping a line drive with his nose a couple of years ago) who will be Ryan’s rival if West Vigo and Kankakee Valley meet on the diamond sometime in the next four years, went out to hit flies with his younger brother and another cousin.
That was all it took. Before long at least 20 family members were out there with him, waiting for somebody to choose up sides. Bases appeared out of nowhere, and we were ready to go — a motley crew ranging in age from maybe 4 to … well, I’ll let you guess who was the oldest, thanks to my 65-year-old cousin Benny wearing white pants, for crying out loud, that kept him off the field … and at all levels of ability.
JoJo and Ryan have played before, but this was Darcy’s debut. She did great, but neither she nor JoJo hit the ball as hard as my 10-year-old cousin Lillie, the hard-headed daughter of my delightfully crazy cousin Brenda. (If you think that gives the Jung family two JoJos, you and I are on the same page.)
Surprisingly, however, drizzle seems to have an accumulative affect. By the time everyone agreed to stop playing — this was one of our shorter games, probably less than three hours — all were a little damp.
Jenny was a pretty good sport about toweling off the girls and wringing out their clothes for the drive home, probably because all three kids had decided their cousins were pretty cool and were ready for another reunion as soon as possible.
Any of that venison left?
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. for comments or news items at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at email@example.com; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.