A little more cowbell, please

cow bell

For 51 weeks of the year it sits silent, idle in an honorary spot on a shelf with other Mountville Indians memorabilia. The Norwegian-made cowbell’s distinctive clang has only rung out one glorious week of each of the past 12 years. And even then, its heavy iron casing coated with brass recycled from spent Norwegian military practice range ammunition cartridges, only makes contact with the bell’s hefty metal clapper under certain circumstances.

The official U.S. Olympic ski team bell was a prize I won for getting the most answers correct on a trivia quiz of some sort at a seminar. Though handcrafted, the cowbell is probably pretty ordinary by Norwegian cowbell standards, but I’ve always admired how it looks, how it sounds and how it feels tucked snuggly in the palm of my hand. When I won it, I couldn’t imagine what on earth I would do with such a thing? Shove it in a closet, re-gift it, let the grandkids drive us crazy with it?

I can’t recall for sure, but I think the bell may have come into my possession around the same time the Indians were making their inaugural trek to Cooperstown. It must have been serendipity because the cowbell almost immediately found its purpose in Cooperstown and has been fulfilling that purpose ever since.

The bell is among the first items I check off my Cooperstown packing list each year. And unless silenced by edict of a “grumpire,” it rings out every time an Indian strikes out a batter, makes an amazing diving catch, steals home, turns a double play; or when the team exits the field – win or lose (but longer and harder for a win), and as an Indian rounds the bases on a homerun. But only in Cooperstown.

Over the years, some have asked if I take the cowbell elsewhere; to Hershey hockey games perhaps? Nope. The New Era Tournament? Ditto. I’ve been tempted. But then I’m reminded that even simple things take on great value when they’re intentionally held back, reserved for a special time or place. I want this ordinary bell to be something special – to only ring out during one extraordinary week of the year, in one extraordinary place, for one extraordinary bunch of kids as they accomplish many extraordinary feats. So, that’s why 358 days of the year the bell sits silently on the shelf waiting for its next defining moment.