Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CC and Me

Recently we've had a rash of dumps at our little church in Carroll County. One Sunday we came out after worship to find a small female cat roaming the parking lot meowing like a kids crying for candy. A little later we discovered two kittens about three weeks old. After standing around a minute or two more, we discovered three more kittens which did not belong to the little mamma and her brood of two. The three were older and larger and obviously not litter mates to the two babies. One of the members made a phone call and a relative came and picked up all the cats. Problem solved.

Two weeks later, however, another little female was there, a friendly but hungry thing that one of the members said she had been feeding for a few days. When Debbie asked my wife if we were taking that one home, Penny said, "It's up to Zane." I grabbed her immediately and placed her in the truck.

We named her CC for Church Cat. She is a tiny female who seemed to instantly brand me as her savior and became like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe. I loved it and still do. The other cats, however, feared the new thing even though she is half Baby Kitty's size and about one fifth of Luvie's. 

The thing about CC is she likes to hang out. I like cats that like to snuggle and be my buddy. Despite the fact that we took her home on a Sunday, I had her at the vet on Tuesday. I hated to do it, especially that soon, but she needed spaying and we got it done and out of the way. When I took Baby Kitty to the vet, he gave me the treatment for two days. I feared she would do the same, but when I got her back home Wednesday afternoon, she picked right up where we left off being my little baby and bullying the other older, bigger cats. I sometimes find that amusing. 

I guess she's an alpha female or at least a good impersonator of one. First she did it out of fear; she was as afraid of them as they of her. Then she started taking over the house and laying down the law. Now I think she does it for fun. I am not sure she isn't attempting to play at times, but Baby Kitty always flees like the wind out front of a thunderstorm when she charges him, his long tail flowing behind him like a vapor trail does a jet.

The other cats are slowly adjusting. Luvie no longer flees. She even tried to drive him off my chest one morning (she is very possessive of me), but he simply stayed put and she flopped down on the other side of my chest and waited him out. When he left, she took his place. Life is good with cats. I pity anyone who lives without them. They know when they have been given a break, and they pay back "full measure pressed down and running over." She is paying me very day. They all are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Good News?

I got some good news today. At least I think I did. I read in the paper a couple of weeks back that Valley just reopened their renovated HPER Center. The Commonwealth had a big write up with pictures and a text that gushed with praise but contained not narry a word about the pool. From what I have been hearing through the grapevine, the pool would not be ready until at least next summer. By then I have Twin Rivers so it would do me not good then. After attempting to get into that pool for the last three years, I felt like Odysseus cursed by Poseidon: "You shall suffer and you shall not be able to swim. Much." I need to swim. Much. The winds, however, have been contrary.

But I don't believe in Poseidon; I believe in God. So I maintained hope, not much but some.

The idea of a renovated pool and one that I may have access to has had me squirming in my sleep. But the wait has been like a child counting down the days until Christmas. Then one of our campus police officers told me that the Valley pool is opening the 28th of this month. What?!?!?!?! Now I have real hope of getting in there some, a hope that is more than a mere wish.

In the past, my Chicot buildups have always been a matter of great stress. Achieving the kind of distance I need has been difficult, frustrating, almost impossible. In January and February, DSU hosts several swim meets that knock the Masters practices out a few nights and also takes up some Fridays. That plus our climate-change springs really puts me to get into a tizzy. Springs around here are a lot colder and cold a lot longer than they used to be, as are our winters. Nowadays, I can just begin to venture out into the ponds with a wetsuit around mid-March for the first time or two. It is April before I can swim over a few minutes at a time in my beloved ponds.

However, if I can just swim Valley's pool one day per week, just once, I should be able to achieve a much higher level of fitness than I have ever attained come June. I will need the added fitness because I plan a longer swim than I have ever done. The goal for Chicot VI is 24 miles. Yeehaaa!!! Why dream small?

To make a short story long, I have several plans to boost my fitness over the winter and the Valley pool is only one of them. Stay tuned for more updates on my old and new training routines. Chicot cometh.

Monday, September 26, 2016

9/19 - 9/25

Another yo-yo week. What else is new. At least I started running again, again. But I did get in some good swimming.

Monday I swam

1,600
10 X 50 @ 1:12
2 X 250 small paddles
150
300
250
total: 3,300 meters.

Maybe you can tell from those numbers and how they are arranged that I was not feeling it. Some days are like that, and some days I start like that and it gets better. But not on this one.

Tuesday I did a straight swim of 5,800 meters in 2:03:04 @ 2:06 per 100. I was feeling it a little bit. We got out of the pool when the kids started getting in.

Wednesday I swam

1,000
8 X 50 @ 1:12
100 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:12
100 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:12
100 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:12
100 easy
1,200
total: 4,200 meters.

Also, I shuffled 2.11 miles from Mom's house that night. I started back. It's deja vu all over again. 

Thursday I swam

1,500 and then did the following on a @2:00 base
400
350
300
250
200
200
150
150
100
100
50
50, then
500 small paddles
total: 4,300 meters.

After dark, I shuffled 2.03 miles.

Friday is distance day at Twin Rivers pool. John and I arrived at 9:00 am and stayed until around 2:30. I swam

3,100 !:04:51
3,300 1:11:20
3,600 1:16:49
2,200 46:30
1,100 22:41
total: 13,300 meters.

If I am not mistaken, that is my all-time pool record for distance. For some reason, swimming that long in a pool becomes a little bit of a chore, but it is great for endurance. Too bad I don't have anything on the calendar because I am getting pretty fit in the water. I could probably swim a 15-miler right now.

I had big plans for Saturday, but CC and college football put an end to my well-laid plans. One plan that fell through was a short trip back to the pool. My right shoulder had a little niggle in it. Better sorry than safe, as they say. I did mow the lawn and go our for a long run (always a relative term) of 3.21 miles.

For the week, I

ran 7.35 and walked 5.59 miles, and
swam 30,900 meters.

For the year, I am now at 689,382 meters. A quick check of my old training logs show that this is not my most prolific year of swimming nor my second most mileage in the water either. Currently I am in 4th place in my own all-time list. I may be able to move up another spot or two before the year ends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

9/12 - 9/18

This is a rewrite. Somehow I deleted this post so I am rewriting it for posterity's sake. 

Monday I was at the pool as early as I could get there and swam

1,800
11 X 200 @ 4:20
1,000 small paddles
100 easy
total: 5,100 meters.

After my night class, I shuffled 2.17 miles, my only run of the week.

Tuesday it was

1,500
6 X 150 @ 3:09
700 small paddles
6 X 100 @ 2:00
700 small paddles
100 easy
total: 4,400 meters.

Wednesday, John had to take his wife, Patsy, to a doctor's appointment in Jackson so I went to the pool alone. I swam

2,500
2 X 250
total: 3,000 meters.

Thursday, John was too tired to train after his trip to Jackson so I swam alone again.

1,500
10 X 50 @ 1:12
500 small paddles
10 X 50 @ 1:12
500 small paddles
10 X 50 @ 1:12
100 easy
total: 4,100 meters.

Friday is distance day. John came in a bit late. I swam

2,600 55:02 (2:06)
3,000 1:04:43 (2:09)
3,200 1:08:36
3,200 1:09:02 (2:09)
total: 12,000 meters.

Saturday was the 300 Oaks road race, but I missed it due to some knee trauma. Too bad. I was a lock to place and maybe win my age group. One of the few advantages of getting this old is hitting new age groups and getting to compete against old men. The competition always thins and the times always slow. I am a perfect example of why. I becomes more and more difficult to simply make it to the starting line. So instead of running, I went to the pool and swam

1,500
10 X 50 @ !:00
500 small paddles
total: 2,500 meters.

For the week, I swam 31,100 meters but did little else. Maybe next year.

Monday, September 12, 2016

9/5 - 9/11

Last week, I felt like I was training for real again. Monday being Labor Day, John and I did not go to the pool. I lounged around the house drinking coffee, petting cats, and reading a bit. Finally, I got up, did some weightlifting, and ran 4.12 miles.

Tuesday, I wore my Garmin to work and walked 1.75 miles. Now that I know that my GPS watch will pick up the signal inside the building, I am going to rack up some big walking numbers. After work, John and I hit the pool. I swam

1,500
26 X 50 @ 1:12
1,500 small paddles
2 X 50 easy
total: 4,400 meters.

I also ran 2.05 miles and lifted some weights.

Wednesday I walked .8 at work then at the pool I swam 5,500 straight but with some pick ups thrown in. After the pool, I ran 5.3 miles in some multi-paced fashion, my longest since the knee injury.

Thursday I only got .3 at work. At the pool, I swam

1,600
28 X 50 @ 1:12
1,000 small paddles
100 for time
11 X 100 @ 2:00 (1st five with medium paddles)
total: 5,200 meters.

Friday is distance day. John and I got in the pool about 10:00 am. I swam

2,500 in 51:53
2,700 in 56:58 (2:06)
2,900 in 1:00:06 (2:04)
3,100 1:04:26 (2:04)
1,000 in 20:30 (2:02)
8 X 100 @ 2:30
total: 13,000 meters.

This was a better 13,000 than the 13,100 I did a few weeks ago. There was a touch of quality and never the survival swimming I did then.

Saturday, I went to the pool alone. I didn't have much in mind, just an easy, short swim to bump me up over 30,000 for the week. I swam

1,200
then worked with Nick Joseph a bit on his swimming
100 easy
200 for time (3:26)
600 small paddles
total: 2,100 meters.

Later in the day, I lifted weights. Then after watching a few ball games, I went out for a 6.71 miles multi-paced run. Now I feel like I am really coming back.

For the week, I

ran 18.48 miles,
lifted weights three times,
walked 6.48 miles, and 
swam 30,200 meters.

Now that I have had a real week of training, I plan to run the 300 Oaks next Saturday. My time won't be too good, but I am going for it anyway.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Haiku 3



Haiku 3

Marcus is a pest,
He feasts upon my soul's pain,
Make him go away.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Claud, Alabama and Pashmahuna

I'm still in a daze, weeks later, after hearing the story, the history Weldon told me during my recent visit to Claud, Alabama. I did have a good time, but I can't get that story out of my mind. More about that later, however. 

It's always nice to see old friends in part because it takes so long to make them. Weldon Greer, his wife, Lydia, kids, and I go back, back to the mid '90s when Weldon and I were classmates at Wesley Biblical Seminary. There we studied under Dr. Gary Cockerill, a brilliant man who had the unusual combination of intelligence coupled with the ability and willingness to make difficult concepts simple for his students. He taught us New Testament Greek as well as Biblical Theology and other classes that continue to inform my preaching a decade and a half later. 

We also met and studied under Dr. Paul Tahsiro, who in his youth was a kamikaze trainee in Japan during World War II. His testimony is a fascinating one as is his knowledge of Hebrew, the Old Testament, and Semitic languages. I studied six languages under him and he too continues to cast a long shadow over my life. He always will.

In the fall of 2000, I followed Weldon to Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary where we both did PhD studies, he in the New Testament and me in the Old Testament. Weldon and I commuted back and forth to Germantown together for a few years. At the time, he lived in Cruger and pastored the Independent Methodist church there. I resided in Greenwood, Mississippi and pastored the Moorhead Church of God in the small but ancient metropolis of Moorhead.

Since those days, Weldon has landed in several new places while I stayed planted in the Mississippi Delta. I preached for him at the Summershade United Methodist Church somewhere in Kentucky a few years back. That was a nice trip, and I was introduced to tobacco farming. I have lots of memories and numerous pictures that I treasure highly. Now as pastor of the Claud Independent Methodist Church, Weldon called me for a Friday night through Sunday night revival during their annual homecoming. Great. Since the little church we pastored for twenty-two years closed in May of 2014, I have not preached often. Recently, however, I preached three times at Centerville Baptist, the little church we now attend. Now with another four straight services, the trip to Weldon's made me feel almost like a preacher again.
Barn Cat is pretty and soft and friendly.

I drove out of Greenwood about 10:00 am on the 12th day of August 2016 headed for Alabama. It took about five and a half hours to reach my destination and when I got there Weldon was sporting a .357 on his right hip. "Is the crime bad around here?" I asked.

Some of the members, the Tew family, fed us Friday night before church. I liked everyone I met that evening, and the food was more than good. They struck me as salt-of-the earth kind of people, my kind of people. They even had a neat feline named Barn Cat that I got to make sweet with and take pictures of.

Church was nice that evening, and I slept well after sitting up the the Greers and talking about guns late into the night. Weldon and Lydia both like guns and Weldon carried his .357 on his hip to church. I suppose that's one way to say there is a new sheriff in town.
The lighthouse on Lake Martin.

The next day, Weldon had planned to give me the tour of that part of Alabama. I found out that Claud is centrally isolated between Wetumpka, Eclectic, and Tallassee in a semi-rural area but one rich in history. We drove first to Eclectic which I learned is the only community in the country with that name. It is a real town, small but real, and a big sign of a giant star graces both the northern and southern entrances into the city limits on Highway 63. Weldon told me that there was a huge meteor shower there in the late 1800s during the town's infancy, and now Eclectic is known as "The Town the Stars Fell on." Despite the fact that my tour guide told me Eclectic has the best schools in the area, it lies in Elmore County, and everyone from Elmore County is called an Elmoron.

North past Eclectic on Highway 63 lies the community of Kawaliga where Hank Williams saw that Indian head and wrote that song. Kawaliga lies on the banks of Lake Martin, the largest lake in Alabama. It looks like a great place to hold an open water swim, and I offered my services if the church could ever use them. Swimming is now part of my ministry and if anyone reading this needs a swimmer, I will swim for food. 

The dark gator infested waters of theCoosa
River in downtown Wetumpka.
Next, we drove to Wetumpka which hosts a population of 7,391, a pretty town graced with stately old homes and sitting happily on the banks of the Coosa River. We stopped downtown and walked out over a neat-looking old bridge and gazed at the black water below. In the shallow areas, rocks lined the bottom instead of the ubiquitous mud we see back home.

After Wetumpka, we went to Fort Toulouse, established in 1714 to protect the early settlers from the Indians. There in those haunted fields where the wind blows gently through tons of hanging moss on trees ancient enough to have witnessed the truth, Weldon told me the history and tragedy of the Army of Elmore. 

The Coosa Indians, from which the river is named, ruled that area and Chief Pashmahuna, a mighty warrior and wise leader, promised to drive the whites from the face of the earth. The Coosas worshiped the alligator and believed the hanging moss was the tails of ancient gators standing sentry over their land, watching them, protecting them. The chief was certain the moss-gators would not let them down.

When General Bienville moved the Army of Elmore into the area in the spring of 1714 and built the fort, Pashmahuna stood before the fort's wall, prophesied the destruction of the entire army, and vowed the whites could not withstand the allegiance of the Coosa tribe and their brothers the alligator. The white soldiers laughed at the ignorant savage and some felt guilty for accepting army pay in the face of such feeble foes. So calmly confident were the whites, from the general to the lowest private, that the side and rear walls of the fort were never finished. The men slept under the stars each night with walls on one side, the Coosa River on another side, and woods and open fields on the other two sides.

For a while, things seemed like a happy camping trip. The men ate well on food cooked in the open air. At night, they told stories of home while they sat around the camp fires, the tree frogs making their music in the background. They told about running coon hounds and the girl waiting at home. They told about Momma and brothers and sisters. They told about hunting in their own familiar haunts. By day, they drilled and sometimes were allowed to fish the beautiful Coosa River and listened to song birds that sang from the swaying limbs of huge trees that held the ever present hanging moss. 

Then late one dark, stormy night, a massive alligator crawled out of the river and crept into the camp. He grabbed a hapless soldier by the left leg, and began to drag the terrified man towards the water. The poor soldier made such a racket that he waked the whole company many of whom rose up and began to fire shots in reckless fashion from their muskets towards the demonic reptile. In the chaos that ensued, the alligator was killed but so was the unfortunate soldier and seven others shot full of holes in the mad, chaotic crossfire in the dark night. That was when the term "friendly fire" first entered the English lexicon.

General Bienville, however, had the alligator hung from a large limb in an attempt to dissuade further attacks. What happened instead was after a few days in the hot Alabama sun, the gator began to rot, his neck broke, and his huge torso tumbled onto three soldiers standing below breaking their necks and killing them instantly. Thus one gator was responsible for ten deaths, a huge fright, and a massive loss of ammunition.

The day after the dead gator killed the additional three soldiers, Pashmahuna stood once more before the fort's wall and solemnly stated, "Coosa and alligator brothers. White man leave or white man die." 

One insulted soldier yelled, "Kill that buzzard," while raising his musket to shoot. With the pull of the trigger, his gun exploded in his own face blowing off his ears, nose, and lips. The pool soul of Irish decent, died a slow, agonizing death, cursing Pashmahuna in his country men's fashion until he gave up the ghost.

After that the gators came every night. They grabbed soldiers and dragged them away. More and more faithful infantrymen were killed in close range cross fire attempting to save a comrade. The men became so jumpy that Bienville posted a picket line between the troops and the river. Not only that, but he ordered them to shoot into the river's water every fifteen minutes all night long every night, thus frightening away any would be night stalkers. When three weeks had passed, all the ammunition in the fort was spent leaving the army with nothing but bayonets with which to defend themselves.

Again Pashmahuna  walked out of the woods and stood before the fort wall and spoke. "White man magic sticks no good. Coosa power strong. White man leave or alligator more fight for Coosa." 

When Pashmahuna walked away, the men began to implore their leader for solace. "What do we do?" the beaten down, terrified men yelled towards their general. 

Beinville, who had the power to inspire, stood on the back of a dead soldier and spoke with an eloquence that filled his men with courage and determination. "Up men and to your posts. And forget not today that you are all Elmorons." 

The Coosas came in the night. 

Each brave carried a three-foot long alligator and they began one by one to hurl these small but rabidly snapping reptiles over the fort's wall. An awful howl ensued within the compound. Fingers were snapped, toes bitten off, ears devoured, and one man at the latrine, well, that hurts too much to even write.

The Coosas listened to the racket behind the wall "as long as it takes a hunter to skin, cook, and eat a rabbit," so it was passed down in the Coosa's oral history. After that, the army of Pashmahuna calmly walked around the fort's wall to the unprotected side and began to shoot arrows into the yelling and screaming tangle of terrified soldiers. When the sun rose over Fort Toulouse the next day, the whole Army of Elmore was dead, a mass of hacked up, arrow filled gore, the men's faces frozen by rigor mortis in horrific expressions. 

The Coosas left the bodies to rot in the now summer sun. These once brave soldiers became the feasts of raccoons, worms, and foxes. And the locals vow that today, three hundred years later, after a hard rain, one can still smell the awful stench of decaying flesh if one stands on that once blood-drenched soil. This created the saying still heard in that area of Alabama today. In the presence of a dangerous situation, locals are likely to say, "This smells like coosa to me." If someone ever tells you something smells like coosa, don't have anything to do with it, for you risk your life if you do.

A lot more happened while I was in Alabama. We went that afternoon to Tallassee. I preached three more times. We ate with more members and at the church. But the whole time and for the five and a half hour drive home my mind was consumed with the story of Fort Toulouse and the Army of Elmore. What if I had been there? Would my faith have been strong enough to overcome the demonic gator cult that killed over eight-hundred men? I can only wonder. I can only hope. I can only pray.