By Joseph Walker
I’d seen The Look before. Heck, I’d given The Look before.
You know the one: frustration, anguish, resignation and defeat all mixed together in one tortured expression. The Look is seen regularly on golf courses around the world. But when my youngest son, Jon, gave it the other day, it really wasn’t about golf, even though he had just sliced his tee shot into the middle of another hole’s fairway. Jon is, after all, more of a basketball guy. He doesn’t really care about golf. At least, he didn’t until he was playing against his big brother, Joe. And now this tee shot, coupled with Joe’s strong, straight drive off the tee, probably meant Joe was going to beat Jon by at least 10 strokes.
Hence, The Look.
For all of his almost-22 years on this planet, Jon has idolized Joe. His big brother has always been his greatest hero, his biggest supporter and С oh yeah Сhis greatest rival despite the 12-year difference in their respective ages. Joe has always been the standard against which Jon has measured himself. There was no greater day in Jon’s life than the day he finally beat Joe one-on-one in basketball. And now that sibling rivalry has moved to the golf course.
Only so far, it isn’t much of a rivalry.
Which is to be expected. Joe actually plays golf occasionally. Jon has played maybe five times in his entire life. But that doesn’t matter to Jon. All he can see is Joe’s towering drives and compare them with his hooks and slices, and he understands what pro golfer Ray Floyd meant when he said, “They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken.”
I get that С the little brother thing, not the “four-letter word” thing. My big brother Bud was for me what Joe is for Jon. I loved all seven of my brothers and sisters, but my relationship with Bud was special, despite the 15 years that separated us in age. Not only did I love Bud, but I wanted to be Bud. He drank Dr. Pepper, so I drank Dr. Pepper. The sports teams he cheered for became my sports teams, too. He loved horses so I loved horses С with all my heart and soul.
When I was about the same age that Jon is now, I went to visit my big brother Bud in Arizona. He had several horses at that time, including a beautiful black Arabian named Crazy.
“I think Crazy is a little too much horse for you,” Bud said as we saddled up for a ride.
I don’t know if Bud intended that as a challenge or not, but there was no way I was not going to ride Crazy after he said that. It wasn’t just about riding the horse of my dreams. It was about proving my worthiness to my big brother/hero. I couldn’t not do it.
So I mounted Crazy, and for two hours the aptly named horse and I waged a war of wills. I thought I was in charge; Crazy had other ideas. Bud seemed to enjoy watching us battle and never stepped in until right toward the end of the ride, when Crazy suddenly remembered that he had me by a good 800 pounds and he bolted. It was all I could do to hang on. He raced toward a six-foot wall as if he was going to try to jump it, but at the last minute he pulled up fast and bucked me against the wall, where I lay in a crumpled heap until Bud caught up with us.
Bud got off his horse and ran to my side. Instead of offering words of concern or comfort, however, he barked at me: “Get back up on that horse. Now! Let him know who is boss.”
“I think he already knows,” I said, checking myself for broken bones and a shattered ego.
Bud looked at me and rolled his eyes. In one motion he leaped onto Crazy’s saddle. He dug his heels into the horse’s ribs, urging him into a swift, certain gallop for about 50 yards, and then back. I watched as Bud and Crazy moved as one, with no fighting and no bucking.
“This horse,” he said, fixing me with a humbling glare, “just needs to know who is boss.”
As they trotted off together, he called back over his shoulder: “And so do you!”
It was at that precise moment, I’m sure, that I gave him The Look. And now, having seen that same look on my youngest son’s face, I think I understand a little more about brothers and the loving rivalries that bind.
On the golf course, or up against the wall.