In June 1965, I married Judy Laverne Stutts, and we moved to Denton, Texas, where I worked on my M.A. at North Texas State University. I gave up on getting in shape for a while.
In August 1966, we moved to Austin. I planned to get a Ph.D. in English at The University of Texas. I had a couple of friends in grad school there. Bob Vaughn was a journalism major, and Fred Williams was in the business school. They figured I needed some exercise, so they taught me to play handball in the school's new gym, where there were some pretty swanky handball courts. One of them even had plexiglass walls on three sides.
I'm not coordinated enough to play handball. I look like a spastic goose on the court. I can't use my left hand very well, I'm half blind in my left eye, and I have the reflexes of a brick. But I make up for it with enthusiasm.
Handball in a four-sided court's not a game for sissies. The ball's hard as a rock, and it bounces off the walls, floor, and ceiling at rifle-bullet velocity. You hit it with your hands, and you're wearing only a thin leather glove.
I've heard that in the big city, the game's even tougher. Sometimes there's only one wall, sometimes three. Guys play with cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouths. They sip beers between points.
We weren't quite that tough, but we had fun. After Fred and Bob got their degrees and left, I played with John Henry Irsfeld and Richard Freed, both of whom beat me like a drum. Didn't matter. I loved the game. I think I still have a pair of those gloves somewhere. I may even have a handball. I planned to play forever.
Then I finished my degree and moved to Brownwood, Texas, to teach English at Howard Payne University. One of the first things I did was check out the handball courts. There were a couple of them, I think. They were about the size of a bathroom, dark, with low ceilings. Like something Torquemada might have designed when he was in a bad mood. I was told that I'd have to use a squishy, air-filled ball. I never set foot on one of those courts or any other handball court again.