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Tony Overbay enjoys being a Watch Dog

Humor Column
By: Tony Overbay Special to The News Messenger
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I remember watching Jimmy Faulkner kick a ball back when I was in third grade. Jimmy was in fifth grade, but as I remember it, he had a full beard and stood about 6 feet tall. Jimmy boomed the red rubber ball high into the air. As I ran underneath the ball in hopes of making a graceful catch with the sole intent of impressing Gwen Rodgers, I tripped on my untied shoelace (this was pre-Velcro) and landed flat on my face, taking the knees out of my toughskins as I slid across the pavement. To make the situation worse, as I started to gather myself, I felt Jimmy’s moon-scraping ball land squarely on the top of my head, causing me to bite right through my lower lip. As Miss Locklear ran over to take me to the nurse, all I could think about was how high Jimmy must have kicked that ball for me to have had time to see Gwen, run, trip and get back up before it bonked my head. Well, just a few days ago, I was Jimmy Faulkner as I stood in the Foskett Ranch playground launching red rubber balls to the screams of the dozens of boys and girls playing at recess. And, sure enough, the role of the 9-year-old Tony was played by a young man who took a tumble, along with a ball to the head. For that day, I was a Watch Dog, a title that I now wear with pride each time I’m called to the school to help out in a classroom or to pick up my kids. The DOG is short for “Dads of Great Students” and when Mr. Gregg Law called a Watch Dog pizza party back at the beginning of the school year to recruit fathers to take off of work and spend an entire day helping out in the classrooms, manning the halls, eating lunch with the kids and launching skyscraping balls at recess, I was in! I had the day marked on my calendar for months. For fathers who may have been picked last during their grade school years, being a Watch Dog offers a little resolution. As I stood on the basketball court during fifth-grade recess, I heard the words that I had always longed to hear, “I’ll take the Watch Dog.” OK so I wasn’t first but I wasn’t last, either! For the most part, it was easy. I had a brief moment of immediate forehead sweat when Ms. Carol Anderson asked me how I was with geometry. Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of a class of second-graders, I confidently said, “Circle, square, trapezoid, I’m good!” while quickly trying to remember if a trapezoid was indeed a geometric shape, a muscle group I’m supposed to work at the gym or a piece of gym equipment. Apparently, I passed the test and I was quickly ushered into a back room with a group of kids who, I quickly learned, knew far more about geometry than I knew. But I was better with an adult pair of scissors so I was suddenly elevated to rock-star status as I cut shapes and barely went outside the lines. And speaking of rock star, lunchtime was indeed a highlight. Miss Stephanie took one side of the cafeteria, I took the other as we made our way opening pudding lids and inserting straws in juice boxes. I was offered several chips by various students for my efforts and these weren’t those cardboard-like baked chips my wife brings in the house. Oh no, these were the real deal. On another occasion, while listening to kids read individually in Mrs. Tiffany Butler’s class, I was able to teach a young man a valuable life lesson. Halfway through a book, he let out a man-size sneeze. It’s allergy season so I was worried that this one wasn’t simply for show and indeed it wasn’t. A projectile from the sneeze had landed squarely on his arm. He was embarrassed. I shared with him the technique of keeping the teeth closed to keep everything in. Two sneezes later, he was a pro and no longer afraid to let one loose in front of the ladies. The day flew by, and before I knew it, I was back in the office hanging up my official Watch Dog T-shirt. As I made my way out to the parking lot with my own son, I suddenly felt like a big part of the school, getting high fives from boys and girls left and right and answering to every “hey, Watch Dog!” thrown my way. As we neared my car, I caught sight of the boy who caught my ball with the top of his head. I double checked with him to make sure he was OK, and told him that one day, he too, could be a Watch Dog and rain balls upon another eager playground pal. Take that Jimmy Faulkner! Tony Overbay is an 18-year Lincoln resident and father of four. You can read more of his writing at tonyoverbay.com.