Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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May 1, 2014

A tribute to 'Buster'

(Continued)

None of the Daltons were by bothered by this - just the opposite; Buster’s great attitude and little jokes brightened our mornings. His being there became so routine that he was given a key and my mother made sure we were well-stocked with his favorite corn and molasses bread.

As Bob and Buster departed for school, without fail Buster would turn to anyone left in the kitchen and say, "a river dirty," which was a joke, a take-off on the word "arrivederci," which means, “good-bye for now.”

Buster especially loved baseball, and he and I had in common that we were catchers. During baseball season, he most always had a catcher's mitt and ball in his hand.

One day stands out in my memory as clear as it happened yesterday. It was a minor experience but one that epitomized the kind of person Buster was and what he represents to me.

Late in college, I was converted from catcher to pitcher. I asked Buster if he'd catch a few from me one summer’s day. Buster jumped at the idea, and we went to the old varsity field at the Playstead, where I pitched off the mound, and he caught for 75 minutes. (Nobody counted pitches back then,) It was a sunny, warm day, bordering on being hot.

As catchers know, pitching practice isn’t exciting and can be a painful, especially with no catcher's equipment, as in Buster’s case that day. Balls were in the dirt, balls bounced up and hit his unprotected body, he had to reach for pitches and occasionally chase one. I thought that Buster was the only person I knew who cheerfully would do what he was doing. Not only that, his quick wit had me laughing every few minutes.

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