Stumptown Daze came early this year, and the Stumptown Parade down Guerneville’s main thoroughfare is already blending into old memories of marching bands, hillbilly ensembles on pickups, well turned out horses and riders, kids scrambling for flying candy, and roaring, wailing fire trucks. But Grand Marshal Skip Cassady, smiling and waving from an open car, brought a particularly vivid memory my way.
When I was pastor of the Guerneville Community Church, my office window looked out on the schoolyard next door. I watched an entire generation grow up, framed by my office window. Among others, I watched Donna Hines get skinned knees there, and I watched her kids get skinned knees there too.
I noticed how third graders struggle with their games. I can’t remember a third grade baseball game in which anyone was ever gotten out. Everything that happens, even a strikeout, becomes a home run. That’s because any third grader can circle the bases faster than any other third grader can catch the ball, drop it, chase it, pick it up and throw it, only to have it caught, dropped, chased, picked up and thrown again.
When fourth graders take the field, it’s as if a different species has evolved. These youngsters can catch, throw, hit, slide and execute the double play. Furthermore, they have acquired many of the mannerisms of the big leaguers they watch on television. They hold the bat high and wiggle it with a menacing motion. They assume that hands-on-hips athletic pose of a professional batter in the on deck circle. They even chew (sugarless gum, I hope) and spit.
But in all of this, my greatest thrill in over 20 years of watching kids play sports on the Guerneville School athletic field, was watching Skip Cassady play football. Skip’s legs were sort of crooked and seemed not to respond well to his intentions. And so Skip got to and from the field on those light aluminum crutches that make a person look sort of spidery when they’re in use.
But crutches and all, from the first moment I saw him, I could tell Skip was going to spend a lot of time on the playing field. It was obvious he loved sports, and he wasn’t going to be a mere spectator. He was going to play the game.
By seventh grade, Skip was center for the Guerneville Gators football team. He would hike the ball between his crutches and his legs, and get in some defender’s way, helping out as best he could. No one ever brought a livelier spirit to the game. No one ever tried harder or gave more of himself.
There is no finer example of what a school sports program is for than when Skip Cassady, smiling his big smile, took the field and played football for the Guerneville Gators.
Skip went on to become manager of sports teams at El Molino High, from which he graduated in 1983. He’s been the announcer and scorekeeper at El Molino games, and he continues as a chief El Molino athletics booster. He still has troublesome legs, a wonderful smile and a winning spirit. He was a great choice for grand marshall of this year’s parade.
And because of Skip, I have one of the clearest pictures of courage I have ever seen: Skip Cassady, crutches flying every which way, running onto the football field to take his position over the ball. The Guerneville Gators and El Molino Lions would do well to take as their motto “Let’s win one for the Skipper.”
Bob Jones is the former minister of the Guerneville and Monte Rio Community Church.