Tuesday, September 04, 2007

False Starts: 1963

In the winter of 1963, I was living in Corsicana, Texas, where I taught junior English in Corsicana High. I shared a "manufactured home" with Spencer Olesen, who taught English at Drane Junior High.

In those long-ago days, guys believed in "getting in shape." Or, if they thought they were already fit, they wanted to "stay in shape." So they exercised. In theory, that is. Mostly they just talked about staying in shape or getting in shape and never did anything to achieve "shape."

I, however, was determined to do something. I was going to run.

One winter evening, I put on a pair of tennis shoes, bluejeans, and an orange sweatshirt with a big white logo of The University of Texas at Austin on the front. I pulled a stocking cap down over my years, stepped out the front door of the manufactured home, and took off.

The conditions were not ideal. It was dark. It was cold. There was no moon, and a strong, gusty wind drove thick black clouds overhead. The narrow road had no shoulder, and there were drainage ditches on either side.

I hadn't gone far before I'd had a couple of close calls with passing cars. Those weren't as bad as the close encounters with dogs that came running out at me from yards and bushes. The dogs didn't maul me or anything, but it's pretty scary to have an animal the size of a dump truck come charging at you out of nowhere, barking like crazy, whether he attacks you or not. Gets the old heart rate up, though, I must say.

After a short time (I have no idea how short), I turned back. I'd had enough for one night.

I tried again the next evening. The wind was even gustier than it had been the previous night. They sky was darker. The dogs were more frightening. When I turned back, I decided that I didn't need to get in shape after all, at least not for a while.

One might reasonably ask, why not go during the daylight hours? I didn't want anybody to see me, that's why. I especially didn't want any of my students to see me. That would have been disastrous, or so I thought. I was right, too.

I still have the sweatshirt with my alma mater's logo on the front. I'm nothing if not loyal. The shirt's a little the worse for wear after all these years, but then so am I.

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