Happy 6th Birthday, Zach!

Happy Birthday, Zach! You are a treasure beyond our greatest hopes. We love you.

Happy 17th Anniversary

On August 7, 1999, at the Temple Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, Colleen and I promised to take one another as partners in life, for the rest of our lives. Colleen’s brother Shannon walked her down the aisle and gave her away. She’s been mine ever sense, and I’m the better for it.

Craig and Colleen Dunning leaving their wedding reception on August 7, 1999.

Craig and Colleen Dunning leaving their wedding reception on August 7, 1999.

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, TX

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April, 2016)

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

I learned to play golf at Sunset Golf Course, which sits just inside Grand Prairie’s eastern city limits. It was really convenient for me as a child, as it was (according to mapquest) less than 5 minutes from our mobile home park in west Dallas. I started playing there when I was about 9; my mom would drop me and a friend off for the day and then came back to get us when we were through.

Sunset was (and apparently remains) a simple course. And by simple, I mean “not flashy.” It has been billed as “a poor man’s golf club” or as a place for the “tennis shoe” crowd to play golf. This simplicity, I think, is what gave a kid like me the chance to learn the game. After paying the minimal green fee, I could play all day, repeating the 9-hole course as many times as I desired. It was not uncommon for us to play 36 holes before calling it quits. Interestingly, regardless of how many times we played the course, I never grew bored of it.

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

My favorite hole was #9, a par 3 over water to an elevated green. My least favorite hole was number 6, which was long and uninteresting. Number 7 was probably next on my least favorite list because the left side was woods into which I hit a lot of balls. I also found a lot of balls there because the casual nature of Sunset allowed me the opportunity to ball hawk. In those days, there was no course marshal to keep golfers moving along, so it wasn’t unusual for me to spend 20-30 minutes looking for balls in the woods, or in the water on numbers 8 and 9. I had no problem letting others play through, particularly if my ball bag was getting filled. On several occasions – long before recycling golf balls became big business – I spent a half hour or longer in the water feeling around for balls in the muck. The delay didn’t do anything for my golf rhythm, but it was fun and kept me from buying golf balls.

Holes 1, 5, and 9 surround the driving range, and I have to admit to grabbing a range ball here and there. I seem to remember actually going into the range to gather balls, too. Playing #3 on Saturdays and Sundays was always interesting because it was side-by-side with Yellow Belly Drag Strip. No amount of “quiet please” signs could mute the blaring music and roaring engines. You simply had to deal with the noise.

When I was about 11, a friend and I played 18 holes during the Thanksgiving holiday; it was 25 degrees. When I was in high school, my dad started to play golf and this is the course we most often played.

It’s been decades since I played at Sunset, but it remains embedded in my happy memories.

Here’s a blurb on the history Sunset Golf Course from the Golf 18 Network:

The original Sunset Golf Club was established in the 1930s. It was a Grand Prairie golf course at the corner of Cockrell Hill and Davis, and it was instantly a popular tee time for nearby Dallas golf lovers. The club moved to its current, picturesque setting in 1953, and it has been owned and operated by three generations of the Mims family, who have a long, rich history with the classic sport of golf. C.B. Mims was the architect and PGA professional at Sunset until he died in 1992 at age 75. C.B. played on the tour in the ‘40s and ‘50s, including in the 1941 U.S. Open and several times in the Dallas Open. His family’s continued dedication to the sport they love shows in the excellent quality of Sunset Golf Club.

Happy Birthday, Zach!

Zach at the playground (3/26/2016).

Zach at the playground (3/26/16).

Five years ago today, you burst into our lives. Wow! I could not have imagined how much energy you would have. I can’t keep up with you.

What a blessing you have been and are. I’m so happy that God gave you to us. Wit, creativity, and compassion are so apparent in your life. I pray that God will continue to develop those things in you. Your interest in and knowledge of the human body is simply amazing!

I love reading to you each night. And more special than that is when you ask me to pray that you will not have a bad dream. I love your heart for Jesus. Please keep pursuing him.

You are one special kid. Happy Birthday, Bubby. I love you!

-Abba

Arlington Stadium, The Texas Rangers, and Me

Arlington Stadium was the original home of the Texas Rangers. Although it was never shrouded in baseball lore like Yankee Stadium, it is where stadium nachos were invented and it was the professional ballpark of my childhood.

Arlington-Stadium-500We weren’t season ticket holders but we went fairly regularly, particularly on promotion events. My most vivid memory of a promotion night was bat night. Most of the flooring in the stadium (at least in the outfield) was steel plating, so you might imagine how loud it got when thousands of kids pounded their bats on the floor during a rally. Presumably for safety reasons, bat night was discontinued.

One season, we went frequently enough that I was able to get a pennant for every MLB team, buying one per visit. The walls in my room were covered with team pennants. I also liked to get the miniature bats, which were great for cup ball games in the parking lot while we waited for the traffic to clear after the game.

Craig Dunning and Lenny Randle, Father's Day 1975, Arlington Stadium

Craig Dunning and Lenny Randle, Father’s Day 1975, Arlington Stadium

I loved going to the park, especially when we got there early enough to get autographs and see pre-game batting practice. The sights, sounds, and smells continue to be a thrill for me though I rarely go to games anymore. I’ve been priced out of Major League games.

A few visits to Arlington Stadium from my childhood are seared into my memory. When I was about 10, for some reason I placed my brand new baseball glove on the back bumper of our car before getting into the car. I also forgot that it was there. We drove out the Turnpike (I-30) and just before the 360 exit, the traffic backed up to a crawl and a passenger in another car noticed my glove … still on the bumper almost 10 miles later! As they passed us, he pointed to the back of our car and incredulously said, “There’s a glove on your bumper.” It took a second, but I realized what he meant, and shouted,”My glove! I left it on the bumper!” My dad immediately pulled on to the shoulder and I jumped out and retrieved my glove. My dad was so amazed the glove was still on the bumper, I didn’t even get in trouble for leaving it there.

Craig-Jeff-Burroughs-19740616-500pxa

Craig Dunning and Jeff Burroughs, Father’s Day 1974, Arlington Stadium

In the mid to late 70s, the outfield wall in left and right fields didn’t extend all the way to the bleachers, which left an open area just beyond the railing. Home run balls frequently landed in that area about 8 feet below the front row seats, and fans always went over the rail and jumped down to retrieve those balls. Frequently, several fans went for a ball and sometimes they would even end up wrestling for it, which was always exciting.

Whenever we sat in the outfield, we usually sat in the right field bleachers because the setting sun would not be directly in our eyes. Once, though, when I was 11 or 12, we were sitting in the first few rows of the left field bleachers when a ball fell short of the stands. I immediately scaled the fence and dropped to the ground below. Several others did the same, but I was the first to pounce on the ball. It. Was. Mine. At least for the moment. By the time we all climbed back up into the stands, a few ushers were waiting for me. They demanded the ball because I was not supposed to leave the stands. Of course, they were right, … but everybody jumped down there. I wasn’t even the first that night, and they hadn’t bothered anyone else. Nevertheless, with great disappointment, I surrendered the ball, and the ushers left to a great chorus of boos.

When I was in high school, I and a couple friends had a very unusual experience at Arlington Stadium. The father of one of the kids from my high school made arrangements for the visiting teams, which included seating for the wives/girlfriends, hotel accommodations, and transportation to and from the stadium. One night, the Detroit Tiger’s team bus was slow in leaving the stadium, and a handful of the players were anxious to get out of there. I’m not sure how word got to three high school kids (I was 16, at the time), but we were told that some players were looking for rides to the hotel. We immediately said that we would take them, and as quickly as possible drove our cars around to the visiting team exit. To my absolute surprise, three Detroit Tigers piled into my two-door, 1973 Camaro for the short ride to the hotel. That was in 1982, and now 34 years later, I can’t remember the names of those players. Five minutes after they got into my car, we were at the hotel. I didn’t ask for autographs or tickets or anything else; I barely even talked to them because I didn’t know what to say. I can’t imagine the same scenario happening today, but it did in 1982. I gave three Detroit Tigers a ride from the stadium to their hotel.

I was disappointed when I learned that Arlington Stadium was being replaced by a newer, better stadium. I suppose the Ballpark in Arlington (its original name) is a better and nicer stadium, but it will never replace Arlington Stadium, the park of my youth.

%d bloggers like this: