Wednesday, September 05, 2007

False Starts: 1964

Early in my second year of teaching in Corsicana, Spencer Olesen and I gave up on living in manufactured housing and moved to an new apartment building located just across the highway from Navarro Junior College. The most interesting event of that year was a tornado that came very close to the apartment building.

We hadn't lived there very long before I became interested in "getting in shape" again. There was a good reason for this. Behind the apartment house was a dirt road about a quarter of a mile long. It led to a paved street, but nobody ever traveled on it, as far as I could tell. I figured it would be ideal for jogging. It was far enough from the college campus and the highway that no one would see me if I went out in the daylight, and that was my main consideration.

The weather was still mild, so one afternoon I put on the tennis shoes and an old pair of shorts that I'd worn in my college p.e. class, along with a white t-shirt. I went downstairs, walked around the apartment building, and jogged down the road.

I got all the way to the end without incident. Coming back was equally simple. I don't remember how fast I ran or if I was winded. I really have no idea if the road was really a quarter of a mile long. Whatever distance it was, and however I felt, I know I was pleased with the effort. I'd found the perfect place to jog. I was going to get in shape.

Or so I thought. We all know what Robert Burns said about the best-laid plans.

What happened was this: there was a spy in the apartment house.

It never occurred to me that a high-school student would be living in an apartment with her parents. I thought parents were supposed to have houses. Which shows how naive I am.

Anyway, the student spotted me that first day, but I didn't have a clue. I went out the next afternoon, feeling self-righteous about getting in shape while all the rest of the slugs in town watched TV and ate Cheetos.

I just made my turn to go back when the carload of my students showed up. I'm sure the one who lived in the apartment called them to let them know. They pursued me all the way back, hooting, hollering, honking the car horn, and laughing. Mostly laughing. The road that I'd guessed might be a quarter of a mile long suddenly seemed to stretch all the way to infinity. And beyond.

Somehow I got to the end of it and back to my apartment. I ran upstairs and looked out my bedroom window. I saw that the car still sat there, and the students were still having a good laugh at my expense.

That was the last time I went jogging in Corsicana, Texas.

It was the last time I went jogging anywhere for a long, long time.

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