I worked a summer job briefly at our local country club. It was to become my first and last job as a caddy.
Arriving early the first day, a kind man directed me toward a shed which stood near a putting green. A dozen or so boys, my age and older, stood outside, milling around and talking to each other.
Within minutes a golfer approached us and hired a boy. His partner quickly took a second one from our band. Soon two more were chosen. They in turn hoisted individual bags effortlessly as they followed smartly after their twosome.
Feeling excited, I leapt forward when another man motioned to me. But after covering the first fifty paces down the green, my youthful jubilation changed to painful remorse. The staggering weight of the leather bag caused the strap to cut into my shoulder, while each leg begged me to stop and collapse there on the grass.
Relief came at the end of the ninth hole. There the duffer announced that he was done for the day, and tossed me a quarter before he left. By day’s end, I earned a grand total of one dollar and seventy-five cents.
I endured three more tiring days of wobbly knees and torturous heat while struggling at every turn to identify the confusing array of golf clubs. I suspect that I must have been paid by many due to their sympathetic nature rather than for my poor skills.
Now. Even as a young child, I disliked my given name. It made no solid sound like Bob or Tom or Pete. It lacked the musical qualities afforded by names like Louis or Charlie. The sound of my name offered no personality like Doc or Bud. I really disliked it a lot. But I never could decide what might be a better substitute, until I found employment as a golf caddy.
One cheerful client asked me my name just before he teed off. That was a most unnatural act. Few of the duffers had said much to me beyond, “Hand me a five-iron, boy” or “No, that’s the wrong club, son”.
So with no hesitation, and with little thought beyond “Here comes my chance at last!” I blurted out a fresh, new name.
I regretted the decision instantly.
Henry, after all, sounds no different than Harry.
It has the same amount of letters.
They both begin with aitch and end with why.
What is the matter with you, I wondered?
“Henry, eh? Well, Henry, let’s go play golf.”
The man was a hearty chatter, I discovered. Between shots, he talked constantly, and of course he spiced up his conversations with lots of additional Henrys.
“Henry, did you know that…”
“Henry, have you ever heard of…”
By the third hole, I looked for ways to vanish off of the face of the earth. By the eighth hole, my regrets began to weigh more than the leather bag, with all of its clubs combined, and I wished to throw the entire lot and my new dumb name into a near-by water trap.
I was also fearful that friends of my father or my mother might spot me and mention something embarrassing, like saying aloud my given name.
But mercifully, as he retrieved the ball from the cup on the ninth hole, he handed me his putter to put away before handing me a crisp dollar bill, plus one additional silvery fifty-cent-piece.
“That’s it for today, Henry. You did a good job, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I took that to be my cue, which thus ended a cruel career.