I liked to read a lot as a child, my specialty being books about animals, who of course died on the way to a tear-filled ending. I also liked to climb trees, in particular a small but sturdy maple on the side of my grandmother’s porch on Pennacook avenue in Oak Bluffs. There was a forked branch about 15 feet in the air, a perfect seat for an 11 year old, where I would settle in and set fire to a nest of earwigs conveniently located just above the branch.

My grandmother was a chain smoker, so matches were readily available around the house. I would light up a whole bunch at once, yell “Incoming!” and toss it in the nest. Out would come the earwigs, some alive, some barely so.

It was a pastime I never tired of, although I knew even then that there was something disturbing about it.

Perhaps my mother began to wonder about her weepy porch-reading son who also spent an odd amount of time in a tree making war noises, and decided I needed another activity, one that involved other boys my age. So one summer she made my brother Jim and me go out for the Niantic Park summer basketball league, located just a few blocks from my grandparents’ house.

Jim is two years older than I am, and basketball was not our game. We were wrestlers in New Jersey, small boys barely noticeable above our knee-high tube socks. We were also summer dinks, on leave from the suburbs of Jersey who had not yet broken the ranks of the Island boys, especially not the kids who played at Niantic Park. They were not just incredible basketball players, they were majestic, both poetic and muscular in the way they mocked you in the midst of a crossover dribble. The looked good in tank tops, wore their hair in a magnificent mess compared to my neatly feathered coif, and could fly through the air doing impossible twisting layups, all while giving the finger, if necessary, to any hecklers standing courtside.

They were white, black, bi-racial and everything I wanted to be. But I could barely dribble with one hand, let alone two. Jim was no better. And yet there we were, every weekday morning, as Coach Jay Schofield led the camp through drills during the first part of the morning and then games to finish up.

Mostly we tried to remain invisible, scurrying back and forth across the court, feeling the flow of the game but trying to hide by hugging the sidelines and avoiding the basket at all costs. But there was a problem. We were fast, and while running back and forth on the court trying to mind our own business, we would often out-pace our teammates and end up alone and wide open under the basket.

Of course our teammates didn’t pass us the ball, nor did we want them to. But Coach Schofield had other plans. At some point during that summer of 1976 he invented the Hog Call — just for us. Essentially, if a teammate was wide open, no matter how lacking in basketball skills, you had to throw him the ball or forfeit possession. It was a well meaning gesture that haunts me to this day.

While thinking about the Hog Call, I noticed an Island phone book on my desk. I picked it up and turned the pages until I reached the S’s. Sure enough there was Jay Schofield, living in Vineyard Haven. I decided to call him, holding out little hope that he would remember me. It had been nearly 45 years. But a good coach’s memory is a thing of beauty.

“Billy Eville,” he said. “Well there’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile.”

“I’m calling about the Hog Call,” I said, starting right in. “I believe I was the kid you invented it for.”

“Oh no, it wasn’t you” he said. “That was Keith Jackson. He was more interested in dribbling the ball between his legs than looking for an open teammate. So one day, you or someone else was down at the basket waving your arms around like a semaphore, and I blew the whistle and said ‘that’s a violation.’ Keith said, ‘What’s the violation?’ So I thought for a second and said, ‘you’re hogging the ball, it’s a Hog Call.’”

I hadn’t heard the name Keith Jackson in a long time, but his boyhood presence was as sharp as ever. He was an incredible player.

“Okay, so Keith was the good player, the hog,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure I was the open kid you were trying to help, although I don’t remember waving my arms for the ball.”

“And you have a brother, don’t you?” Coach Schofield asked.

“Yes, he was equally as bad.”

“Well, maybe it was you two.”

We talked for awhile longer, about the oddity of inventing a new basketball rule, and being the one it was invented for. We also drifted away from basketball, to kayaks. It turned out Coach Schofield and my grandfather, Bill Harding, were friends, both owners of the classic Erford Burt kayak, which partially explained why he remembered my name so well.

Coach Schofield also told me the Hog Call went on to have a life of its own, even traveling off-Island. A coaching friend of his came over to watch the games at Niantic Park and loved the idea so much he brought it back to the Cape. On the Vineyard, the Hog Call lasted about a decade and then faded into the mist, like my tube socks.

Oddly enough, I did end up learning to love basketball but not until my 20s, when I joined a men’s league in New York. But my basketball days as a child were over after that summer. The next year Jim and I begged our mother to let us do something else.

She said okay and signed us up for Bible camp at the Tabernacle.