On a bowling Saturday morning, as all Saturday mornings are for kids at Rock Hill's Strikers Family Sportscenter, all 36 lanes are filled with more than a hundred young bowlers. There are kids as small as age 3, their tiny fingers barely able to hold a ball. There are teenagers that shoot balls like bazookas; they fire strikes and pick up spares and throw up their hands when they leave the dreaded 7-10 split.
Except one kid from Clover.
A kid whose average is 73 pins a game.
A kid who a year ago complained of a headache and a few days later was on an operating room table with the right side of his head swung open like a basement trap-door.
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Christian Folks, a 9-year-old with a gelled, spiked, Mohawk-style haircut, laughs and smiles if he throws a gutter ball.
He laughs and smiles when he knocks down a bunch of pins.
Christian high-fives his buddies. With the hair on the sides of that Mohawk growing back now, it is almost impossible to see a C-shaped scar that covers the side of his head like a cattle brand.
Almost every time he slides up the foul line to roll that Jimmie Johnson "48" ball, Christian sticks out his tongue like Michael Jordan did when hitting a game-winner.
"Steve Nash," said Christian. "I like Steve Nash the basketball player. I play basketball, too."
Steve Nash is the Phoenix Suns player who always leads the NBA in assists. Assists mean helping out teammates.
Christian never stops laughing and having a blast and sticking out that tongue in bowling and basketball because of that scar. Surgeons just months ago pulled out a horrible sounding brain tumor called a pleomorphic xarthoastrocytoma. The tumor turned out to be benign, not cancerous, and kids with that condition have a 90 percent recovery rate, said Christian's mother, Rhonda.
In the recovery room, Christian wasn't thinking about his brain. Christian had received a bowling pin signed by the kids from Strikers, and he was worried about not being able to bowl anymore.
"He was worried that he would lose his spot on the church league basketball team, and the bowling team," said Rhonda Folks. "The recovery plan he is on lasts for 10 years, but all he cared about was he didn't want to let his teammates down."
Boyd Comer, youth bowling coach at Strikers, said Christian was anxious that he would not be able to keep up his commitment to his teammates on Saturdays and go to the state tournament in Myrtle Beach in May.
"We are out here to have fun - bowling is all about these kids having fun - but he still wanted to do his share and be a team player," Comer said. "What a kid."
After the surgery, after teachers from Crowders Creek Elementary School in Clover came to Jeff and Rhonda Folks' house four days a week to make sure Christian kept his "A" grades, Christian returned to his bowling team. First, he needed the Mohawk haircut because of the scar and shaved head near the surgery spot.
Older brother Brad, 16, got a Mohawk, too.
"Christian was so tough through all of this, I thought it was the least I could do to support him," said Brad. "He's a fighter."
So every Saturday, there is Christian with the Mohawk and his 73 average, rushing around the place like a dynamo.
"No problem," Christian says about his illness, and his scar, and his brain. "Watch this."
Christian rushed up to the foul line in his team's first game Saturday, the Mohawk sticking straight up, the tongue sticking out too, and fired away. The Jimmie Johnson "48" ball rolled, curved toward the pocket, and the pins scattered like teenagers do when asked to wash a sink full of dirty dishes.
"Strike!" howled Christian, as he hopped on one foot, then the other, and accepted high fives, because that is what you do when you are part of a bowling team.