Until the End of the Ninth

Beth Mary Bollinger


Fourteen hours.  It takes fourteen hours on Monday to drive from Spokane to my friends’ ranch in Wyoming. I listen to the radio most of the time.  It’s a game for a long drive – see if you can find a radio station with good music.  Not talk radio – that drives me nuts.  But I like the music.  It puts me in a pensive mood, driving like that.  I come up with ideas along the way.  It’s very soothing.  I could have been a truck driver. 

When there’s no accessible station, I put in my tape of The Doors.  (hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?).  But usually there’s decent music, even if it’s a throwback to earlier times.  (every little thing she does is magic…..).  

I get to the ranch.  So beautiful. They say you can see for six miles – seven, on a clear day.  Maybe 10.  Just on and on.  Antelope jump across the roads as I drive.  It truly is where the deer and the antelope play. 

I get lost on the dirt roads before I arrive at the ranch itself.  How can I get lost?  There’s maybe four roads out this way.  It’s because there is nothing but space.  Not so many landmarks.  In a way, it is easy to get lost when there is nothing in the way.  I have to back track a couple of times before finding the road to the ranch. 

I am excited to see my friends.  They show me pictures of new grandchildren, and we plot out the next day in Cheyenne, which includes a radio appearance for me on the local sports talk radio station.  We stay up talking way too late into the night. 

At one point, my friend asks me why Joan of Arc is in the novel.  The question no longer surprises me.  And yet, for me, there is no other place for Joan to be but in this novel, next to these men.  She was full of vitality and youth, like these men were.  Like them, she died far too young, by fire, as a warrior, believing in one destiny and having another arrive.  When I researched this story, I wasn’t learning about some random group of men.  I was learning about these men in particular.  As I researched, I wondered – how did life bring them here?  Where would the comfort have been?  At least they died while playing the game that they loved.  How many people go through life never honoring the passion of their hearts?  Within all that, Joan appeared.  It is what I saw.  So it is what I wrote. 

There is a seminar at Indiana State University called Baseball in Literature and Culture. Baseball can form literature if we let it.  Life is about the mundane, but it is also about the complex, symphonic beauty of each moment.  So is baseball.