It was my friend Charlie Elkins' 29th birthday, which meant that lawn games were in order.
So I Googled around for some sort of gear that would allow us all to play night croquet.
Indulge me for a moment, to explain:
See, I grew up playing the game of balls, mallets, wickets and posts with my family at a lake in north Georgia. And I remembered feeling bummed out as a kid when twilight forced Granddaddy to call off the game and start his "world famous" (but really quite modest) firecracker show.
So you can imagine the big grin that spread in front of my computer screen when I found the Web site www.wonderwicketlight.com. It sells wicket lights that allow for "gloquet" to last all night.
Turns out, the guy who invented these battery-powered plastic and Velcro attachments is a lot like my grandfather. Dave Lang, 69, is a retired NASA rocket scientist.
Granddaddy, 83, is a retired construction contractor. Both lawn-game patriarchs have degrees in engineering.
Both have southern accents.
The big difference, aside from their age, though, is that Lang was not content to focus his engineering talents on water-bound bottle rockets once night fell. He wanted to keep the game going as much as his 11-year-old grandchild.
"One day they were out there and said, 'You know, if we could just see the dang wickets we could play longer,'" Lang said.
He says he went to the hardware store, brought home some "junk" and started playing with it. He rigged nine wickets with red light-emitting diode lights. Each one cast a 6-inch-diameter glow onto the grass beneath it.
"Durned if they didn't work out pretty well," he said.
Lang, who is one of those men who grows bored and antsy when left idle, decided his discovery might make for a fun family business. The Langs applied for a patent, formed a company, built a Web site and went online six months ago.
Bob Alman of the National Croquet Center in Florida was one of the first outside Lang's hometown of Seattle to try the new gadgets. A set of nine lights for your recreational yard set costs $59.85.
"They are just very beautiful," Alman said. "The red lights shining down under the wickets it really makes a beautiful and romantic setting, and people really enjoy it."
Lang mailed me a box of lights, and on the evening of Charlie's birthday party, I Velcroed them to my croquet set. The yard took on an eerie glow, as if ET's spaceship had landed.
Six of us paired off into three teams. It was the beginning of a very successful party.
By the end of the night, bologna slices clung to the ceiling, and Charlie had climbed into the refrigerator.
Contact Chris Barge at (303) 473-1389 or email@example.com.