Crowning glory achieved without mollycoddling …

 An adolescent of the Sixties, and a bookworm at that, tiptoeing diagonally along the dark-colored squares of a checkerboard seemed such a natural progression of events. I distinctly remember hopscotching throughout 1965 at the age of fourteen most Friday evenings. The numbers are firmly etched in my mind because of ‘The Littlest Hobo’ television series which got my undivided attention.

Always a pushover for a dog, this stray German Shepherd wandered from town to town helping folks in need. The Littlest Hobo did not have an owner, despite the attempts of many people he helped to adopt him, seemingly preferring to be on his own, heading off by himself at the end of each episode.

At the end of each episode, my father and I would engage in a game of checkers. We’d clear off the coffee table and set up the board. My dad, the king of his castle, sat on the edge of the sofa in our den; I kneeled on the carpet. A simple game, there is much strategizing along the diagonal to become a good player: forced capture, defense of king’s lane along the back row, and moving behind your own to block.

Now, my father never told me any of this whatsoever. During our initial games, he slaughtered me within minutes, all the while focusing more of his attention on the TV set.

Over the ensuing weekly checker matches, I gradually caught on. I guarded myself against his triple moves. I finally infiltrated his back row and smugly commanded, “King me!”

Okay, the length of time I’d take to make a move increased to the point where my father would snooze on the sofa and I’d shake him awake when it was his turn. Then, the unthinkable—I beat him! The thrill of victory! I never doubted the genuineness of this “crowning” achievement for a fleeting second because my dad never allowed my sister and me to “win our own way” in any event.

My checkered past still haunts me through lessons best learned the hard way. Nothing worth attaining in life is easy, so often achieved by blood, sweat, and tears. If victories were handed to us on a silver platter, there would be no crowning glory. Thanks, dad!

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