Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Run Forrest Run...

   When it comes to sports, and small towns, it usually means that you have to participate so that there are enough kids just to have a team, however, when it comes to track that's not always the case, because track is mostly an individual sport. Except for the relay events of course. Anyway we always had  5 to 10 of us that went out for the track team. We had our field event participants, I threw the shot put, and discus, we had our sprinters, and then  came our long distance runner. Now you may have noticed that the reference to this athlete was singular, not plural! We had 1 long distance runner, not a whole team of them, which brings me to the point of this story, which is track training. Now, like I said, I threw the shot and discus so you would figure that the training for these events would mainly consist of some weight lifting, lots of practice on technique, and maybe a few wind sprints, right. So that day when the coach told us field event guys that we needed to run to the State Line with the distance runner, and  the P.E. boys, we couldn't help but wonder if maybe he had lost his mind or something!

  So, here I was sitting in the locker room putting on my track clothes, and bellyaching about having to run up to the State Line. Now for those of you that don't know where Darrouzett is located, it's not very far South of Oklahoma, as a matter of  fact across country, like the route we were going to run,  is about 2.5 miles up there, and 2.5 miles back A whole lot further than I thinking a shot and discus thrower needed to run. A few of the guys that had been running to the State Line and back since track season began told me to grab my cigarettes, and run with them. While I was wondering why I needed cigarettes to run cross country, one of them tells me that what they do is they run up to the canyons, duck off there, smoke cigarettes until the others come running back by, and then join in with them and run back to the gym. I'm thinking you know, this was my kind of training!

  So after finish dressing, we all meet behind the gym, coach blows his whistle, and off we go North towards Oklahoma. After 100 yards there is a fence that has to be crossed, and then about 50 yards further you drop down into a creek bottom. Somewhere around 400 to 500 yards up a long hill, you come to some washed out canyons where the rain, over thousands, or even tens of thousands of years has eroded the soil down forming a system of canyons that in places is up to 10 - 12 feet deep. I can remember going up there when I was a kid,  pretending that I was a cowboy, and the Indians were up on top getting ready to attack.I would have to maneuver through the canyons to escape from them, I always got away from them and kept from getting scalped! Man I was one good cowboy. Anyway, the canyons are pretty impressive, especially if you know how hard that panhandle caliche is, then you will understand what I'm talking about.

   When we get down in the bottom of the creek bed we figure that we are far enough from the gym that it will be OK to light a our cigarettes. Somebody looks back, no one is at the back watching us. So everybody pulls out their cigarettes and lighters, except for Arnie. That day Arnie doesn't have a lighter, so he pulls out a box of matches, strikes the match, lights his cigarette, and tosses the match away.  Now don't get ahead of me. When everybody gets their cigarettes lit, we start running up the hill.  When we get up out of the creek bottom we can see that the real runners were already at the top of the hill, which was probably only about a half of a mile away, but it sure looked like it was at least 10 miles up to the top to me. After we had run only about 100 yards we start to hear something behind us. When we turn around and look, yep you guessed it, evidently Arnie's match had not gone out, it had instead caught the grass on fire! 

  Well what do we do. Do we go back and try to put the fire out, We could all be hero's battling a wildfire with gym shorts and tennis shoes, but  if we do that then they will also know who started the fire.  So someone hollers, "let's hall butt up to the canyons!" an even better plan in our minds! Everyone ditches their cigarettes and begins running just as fast as they can for the canyons, figuring that we can hide out in them. So, we reach the canyons in what had to be world record time( if they would have kept that sort of thing) and  we duck off into one of the gulleys. "Oh man what are we going to do now" someone asks. "Well we wait here until the guys that run all the way come back by, and then we will follow in behind them and run back to the gym, just like nothing happened!" Except for the fire this plan is sounding better all the time. After a little while we can hear the fire whistle in town going off. We are all peeking around the edge of a gulley  watching down the hill to where the fire is burning. In a few minutes we see the first fire truck arrive and start putting water on the fire.  

  After what seemed like hours some of the guys that had run all the way started coming back by. We knew that we all couldn't just jump in there with those guys, or coach would know that we hadn't ran the entire distance, and if we hadn't run the entire distance we were probably responsible for the fire. So while we stood there waiting we began thinking, what if when we get back to the gym they want to search us to see who might have matches, or a lighter on them. Somebody says, hey lets leave our cigarettes and lighters here. We can always come back later and get them. We all find little hiding places for our stuff, and then one by one we take off back down the hill to the gym.As we are heading back we can see the fire trucks running through the smoke, the emergency lights on the tops of the trucks spinning. We were all wondering just how much trouble we were going to be in. How many days suspension would we get, how many laps of bleachers would we have to run, and would our butts be able to take all of the licks we were going to get before we would get out of this ! 

   By the time we got to the bottom of the hill the Fire Department had finished putting the fire put out, but we  would have to run around the burned out area, we sure didn't want to get our shoes dirty! As we came around the end of the fire line, there was the Fire Chief standing there, and he had this look on his face, you know the one like he knew exactly what had started the fire, and exactly who the guys were that were responsible.I'm pretty sure he didn't really know, but it sure seemed like it. We ran by him trying to act like we didn't have a clue as to what was going on. When we got back to the gym coach was standing there, but we all  had just the right amount of sweat on us, and we are out of breath just enough. Coach never said anything, now I am really starting to think, hey this is gonna work!  None of us bothered with taking a shower that day. We just got our street clothes on, and got the heck out of there! We all figured that the faster we got out of there the better chance we had of not getting into trouble. To this day I don't think anyone ever did get into trouble over that fire, but I do know that I never did have to run to the State line again!


Monday, June 11, 2012

So ya think ya wanna be a bird

     I'm pretty sure that everybody when they were younger, or maybe not so young, has had one of those      "Hey I've got an idea, here hold my beer "! Well, we had had one of those moments one day. Now my memory ain't what it used to be, so I'm not real sure who came up with the idea, but I do remember we all thought it was a good one. All we needed was a pickup, 200 to 300 feet of rope, a parachute, and a bunch of kids thinking parasailing in the Texas Panhandle wind would be a good way to pass the time. What could possibly go wrong, right!

     Well as it turned out, we had access to all of those items. Believe it or not the amount of rope we needed was probably the toughest to find, but being resourceful kids we finally managed to find enough pieces to get to what we thought would be the right length to give us a good ride. So we set about tying ropes together. Anybody get their knot tying Merit Badge in Boy Scouts? I don't think any of us did either, but after awhile we had enough rope spliced together to give us the height we needed. So we all headed off to Frass's pasture, and another adventure. The best way to get the parachute inflated, and keep it inflated was to pull it and the person your pulling into the wind. Now, as anybody knows that has been, or lived in the Panhandle of Texas, there is hardly a day that goes by that the wind isn't blowing, and usually pretty hard. Well this just happened to be such a day. In fact it was blowing so hard that anyone who wasn't riding the parachute had to stand in the back of the pickup, because if we didn't the parachute would pick the back end of the pickup off of the ground.

     I'm not sure who went first, or even how many went before it was my turn, but every time that parachute inflated and they began to rise in the air I knew I just had to try it. Finally my turn, and I began putting on the harness. I think I knew the feelings that the Wright brothers must have had standing there on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk."You ready Moose?" someone yelled. The pickup slowly took the slack out of the rope, when it tightened up it began pulling me forward, slowly at first and then I had to run to keep  up. The parachute behind me had fully inflated, slowing the pickup down a little, but I heard the engine speed up Then suddenly my next step did not touch anything solid, I was off the ground, airborne!

    I felt my stomach drop as I began gaining altitude, Everything on the ground started getting smaller. Now I know that I was only a hundred feet or so off the ground, but it felt like I was a mile up in the air. Up to that point in my life the view from up there  was the coolest thing  that I had ever seen, except for maybe the day the wind blew some of the girls dresses up at recess! It felt like I had just got up there, when I felt the pickup start slowing down, and I started descending, until I was back on the ground.

   Next up was Cecil, we got him all buckled in and ready to go. Up in the air he went, I was actually jealous, maybe I could get another turn somehow, even though there had to be 15 or 20 of us out there that day. After a few minutes the pickup started to slow, and Cecil was beginning to return to earth. Then all of a sudden POW, what was that noise? It sounded like a gun had gone off, except that we didn't have any guns out there, and even if we did they surely wouldn't have been shooting at Cecil! We looked up at Cecil, and then noticed the rope that was supposed to be tight between the bumper of the pickup and Cecil was instead hanging limp towards the ground!

   Instantly a fear shot through all of us that our friend was going to fall from the sky to his death out there in that pasture, maybe we should have spent the 5 extra dollars for the personnel parachute instead of the cargo chute! Then it came to us, wait a minute, he is attached to a parachute, that is what they are designed to do, to keep someone from falling out of the sky. Sure enough Cecil was heading towards the ground, but not at a speed fast enough to hurt him, but slow enough that he shouldn't even hit the ground very hard.. Everything was going to be fine right. Now, if you have ever seen a war movie, when someone in a parachute comes in contact with the ground they hit and fall over onto their side. That's exactly what Cecil did, however, unlike the movies where the parachute deflates and crumples to the ground, and the guy stands up, unbuckles the harness, and then goes off to do whatever he is supposed to do. With the wind blowing as hard as it was that day, Cecil's chute didn't deflate, it stayed full and with it not being tied to the bumper any longer, it actually began pulling Cecil to the North, away from us!

    We all jumped out of the back of the pickup and began chasing Cecil through the pasture. He was easy to see, he was the big orange and green parachute with a cloud of dust following it! After what seemed to be miles we caught up with Cecil. We got the chute deflated, and Cecil unbuckled from the harness. He was a sight, scratches from head to toe, and cactus thorns everywhere. So we set about pulling the thorns out. I remember about the only thing Cecil was saying was, "my mom is gonna kill me!" he just kept repeating it over and over. After we had gotten most all of the thorns out and cleaned him up a bit, someone said " hey you wanna fix the rope and go some more?" I'm pretty sure no one volunteered for a ride! Even my desire to go again had diminished!

    Now what was ironic about this incident was that Cecil's father had fought in WWII with the 101st Airborne Division, (Band of Brothers) and Cecil had shown me a picture that was taken of his father during jump training, and it showed him landing on his head. So I guess it's true that the nut really doesn't fall far from the tree!