The Dart: Vidalia woman reflects on softball coaching days
(The Dart is a weekly feature in which a staff member throws a dart at a map of the Miss-Lou and finds a story where it lands)
VIDALIA — If you ask Judy Bolyer to write down her recipe for boiled shrimp, you’ll get a blank piece of paper.
“Because it’s all up here,” said the Vidalia native, pointing to her forehead.
When The Dart landed on Bolyer’s Peach Street home Friday, shrimp was being prepped in the kitchen and Bolyer’s granddaughter was mopping the living room floor.
“At 68 years old, you start to run out of steam,” Bolyer joked. “It’s nice to have some help around the house.”
Bolyer’s days weren’t always this slow, though. Rewind several decades and you would probably find her at any softball field in Vidalia coaching youth sports. After moving to the area in 1964 with her grandfather, graduating from Cathedral High School, then starting a family, Bolyer became heavily involved in the Miss-Lou softball scene. Hosting invitational games and raising funds for traveling tournaments filled her schedule.
“My life was go to work, go to the ball park, come home and get the kids to bed—then wake up and do it all over again the next day,” said Bolyer, adding that her youngest son was a batboy from the time he was in diapers. “Poor kid got hauled to the ball park every day and night.”
Although sports consumed most of her time, Bolyer said it was worth it because of the camaraderie it brought her family. After-school barbecues and weekend garage sales served as piggy banks for the family’s softball passion.
“We didn’t have business sponsors for travel teams like they do today,” Bolyer said. “My kids had to raise the money—but it was fun. They did it for the purpose of playing ball, and they worked hard for it.”
Any outdoor activity was ideal for the Bolyer family back then. When they weren’t on the field, they were on the riverbank camping, or packed in a camper traveling to Florida’s sunny beaches. Bolyer recalls getting a group of 22 family members together and driving down to the beach for a family vacation.
Those trips, Bolyer says with a glow in her eye, hold some of her fondest family memories.
“I really miss those times—just all of us cooking out by the river or vacationing by the beach,” she said. “There is nothing quite like catfish fried on an open fire.”
Today, Bolyer can barely count how many grandchildren and great grandchildren she has. “About 17 in all,” she guesses. With most family members still in the Mississippi and Louisiana area, it’s easy to get everyone together for an old-fashioned cookout on her Peach Tree lawn, though.
“The kids come over here often for the Fourth of July or Memorial Day,” she said. “But today, today is just a regular day.”
As for that aforementioned boiled shrimp, Bolyer describes the recipe as simple as throwing a good pitch.
“I just throw it together,” she says. “With some garlic and onions, and maybe some lemon juice to sauté.”