Thursday, July 31, 2014

One of Those Days

I had one of those days. Tuesday. My wife has them often and I always know it because I can see the signs. It makes me feel helpless because I don't know what to say or do to help her.

When I have them no one knows and I am not fully aware why no one recognizes it in me. I had my worst one ever when my aunt Barbara died. I worked that day and dealt with people from the beginning until the end, and no one ever noticed that I cried all day long.

No one.

That makes me feel invisible.

I'm sure it's my fault because I will never say to anyone, I am hurting or sad or disturbed. I suppose I am too much like my dad in that regard as I am like him in so many other ways. Men of his generation did not talk about their feelings. They just didn't, and looking back I can now see how he sent out signals, but I was too obtuse to read the signs. I would drop by the house to see him and when I would get ready to leave often he would say, "I'll fix some popcorn." I used to think that was comical, but I didn't have a clue that he was really saying, "I'm lonesome, and I want you around." One day it was around 3:00 pm, and I started to go. "I'll cook some fish," he said without even looking at me. And he did. He just got up and went to the kitchen, and twenty minutes later we were eating fried speckled trout.

I have written before about his death and my reaction to it. Shock was the biggest thing I had to deal with. Over time I came to see that disappointment was also in the list of things I had to wrestle with. My hero, who had never let me down, had failed me in the worst way by showing he was mortal after all. Eventually I came to terms with his passing and accepted it. Yeah, those five stages of grief are real after all. But even now, even after acceptance I have those days when I cry and cry and cry.

It was my truck breaking down that was the trigger to this one. I couldn't drive my wounded auto to the repair shop but had to drag it with a tow strap, and like so many times before I picked up the phone to call him. "Who ya gunna call?" For me it was never Ghost Busters or any one else. It was always Dad.

This time I called RT. Ronald Terrell is my brother-in-law, and he drove from Ruleville, MS to Greenwood, MS to help me haul my truck to the repairman. I asked him how my sister was doing. "She doesn't talk much about your dad anymore," he said. "But I think she's still dealing with it." I guess she's like Dad too. When I see her again I will want to ask her if she ever has one of those days, if she is OK. But I already know that when that time comes it will be as if my jaws are welded shut. The thoughts will be there but the words will never exit my mouth. I'm too much like Dad.

He taught me a lot and maybe emotional awkwardness was not one of the best lessons I learned from him. But he taught me to mow the lawn, how to change a spark plug, how to drive a car, a truck, and a tractor. He taught me how to shoot a shotgun and a rifle, how to hunt and skin animals. He taught me how to build a fire, how to train a bird dog, how to oil leather boots. He showed me fishing knots and how to tie progressively smaller leaders together so that a popping bug would curl out under a limb and gently drop to the water's surface if the fly rod was handled correctly. Besides fly fishing, he taught me how to bass fish, cane pole fish, and fish the marshes of Louisiana. He taught me how to make a meal of sardines and crackers, how to plant and hoe vegetables, even how to make gravy.

One of the best things he ever taught me, however, was about cats. When I was a very young boy we had a cat named Gladys who somehow got in the family way. She went off and had her brood and returned home only to eat. Dad fed her and followed her from afar one day. He tailed her across the backyard, through the cane patch that bordered the back of 422 West Harding Street, and across the huge empty lot between the canes and Park Avenue. Past Park Avenue Dad trailed the cat to what was then a tire place next door to what is now No Way Jose Restaurant. He found Gladys and her brood in a tire in the lot of that business, and he brought them home where they belonged. That taught me something.

Once he showed me how to play with cats, how to tease them with a partially hidden finger and make them pounce and bite and kick. He taught me that they like to have their ears pulled and the sides of their faces rubbed across their eyes because that is where their mommas lick them when they are babies and it makes them feel secure and loved and cared for. I use those lessons often, especially when I have one of those days.

That new kitty, the yellow tabby tom who was living under our house, sleeps on my chest at night. I love that. Sometimes I instinctively reach up and apply one of those lessons Dad taught me so many years ago. I grab an ear and gently pull and rub the face across the eyes. I did this the night after that day. The baby began to purr so forcefully I could feel the vibrations going through the covers and into my chest. Those vibrations and that sound had a soothing effect, and I drifted off to sleep while a tear leaked out of the corner of my right eye.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Throwdown at the Heart O' Dixie Thriathlon

Throwdown at the Heart O' Dixie
By Jay Unver

The 35th annual Heart O' Dixie Triathlon was metaphorically as well as literally marked and marred by an epic fight between Justin Nunnery and Zane Hodge. Nunnery, the latest contract athlete signed by Big ASS Endurance, won the Association's World Triathlon Championship with a close, hard fought victory over a complaining and pugalistic Hodge.

The battle started at 6:30 am on Saturday, July 26th, as the athletes were ushered, one at a time, into the water for a half mile swim in the beautiful Lake Tiah O' Khata. Hodge, starting only a few positions behind Nunnery, quickly caught and passed his almost-as-tall-as-Randy-Beets rival. Hodge's swim margin over Nunnery was an astonishing 1:56.
Hodge emerges from the water after kicking
Nunnery's hinder parts.

When the race moved to the road, however, Nunnery quickly made up the deficit and then some. On his bicycle, he caught the slow-pedalling swimmer before Noxapater and was out of Hodge's sight by the time they passed through the tiny town.

Hodge never threatened Nunnery again, during the race that is. After the race proved to be a different story.

With no Nunnery in sight, on the run Hodge began a desperate battle with an unidentified fat lady. The two took turns passing each other until Hodge finally settled that struggle on a steep hill at mile four of the run course. Hodge passed the big woman near the top of the hill and expanded his lead over the next mile. He was later to say, "I whupped that fat lady like she was my red-headed step child."

Hodge stumbled onto the half-mile dirt track at the Neshoba County Fair and finished his race in 3:17:01, a good three minutes ahead of the fat lady, but a disappointing minute and forty-eight seconds behind Nunnery's 3:15:13. The fireworks started soon afterwards.

When Nunnery was announced the 2014 Big ASS World Champion, an irate Hodge began a yelling match with Nunnery and several others.

"He cheated!" a furious Hodge yelled. "When he passed me, his wife was towing him and his bicycle behind her car!"

Nunnery plays to the crowd as he clebrates
his victory.
"You used fins on the swim!" Nunnery yelled back at Hodge

At this point, Hodge ascended the platform and faced up with Nunnery. There were more accusations from both athletes, some shoving, and then the fight broke out. Nunnery placed Hodge in a headlock and the two then tumbled down the platform steps onto the red dirt track below where there was punching and pummeling and eye-gouging until order was restored at the arrival of a Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff.

Hodge was ushered off the fairgrounds and ordered not to return until the 2015 race.

"I'll be back," Hodge yelled over his shoulder. "I'll be back, and I'll get even!"

Friday, July 25, 2014

HOD Tomorrow

Another Friday morning with cats and coffee and the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon is only a day away. Penny and I are spending the night with my aunt and uncle, and she is cooking supper for us. That's just one reason I still do this race. Both Mom and Dad were from Louisville, and many of my relatives still live there. When Uncle Teddy Bear was alive, we always stayed with him and we got to see Aunt Mary at his house. Now we stay with her and Uncle Paul in Noxapater, which is on the race course from Louisville to Philadelphia. At Philadelphia, we dismount our bikes and run to the world famous Neshoba County Fair and finish on the half-mile dirt horse track.

I'm not that fit, overall. My swim is good, but my running is poor, and my biking is only slightly better than last year which was as bad as it gets. I know some fat ladies will pass me on the bicycle, but if they try to go around me on the run, I'm gunna get physical. It will be a good workout and help me get ready for the Bikes, Blues, and Bayous ride next week.

Wednesday I did a transition workout that went something like this: squats, bike trainer ride, treadmill run for three rounds. It was brutal, but the idea is to be able to get off the bike and immediately hit a running stride at a decent pace. At the pool that night, we got thundered out although there was only a twenty percent chance of rain. In fact, it rained five inches in one hour. That is two days in a row we had a twenty percent chance of rain and got rained out. That reminds me of the time I took a boat trip after I graduated from Wesley Biblical Seminary in May of 1998. My graduation present to myself was a trip up the Tallahatchie River. I left early one morning in my homemade wooden boat with a small tent, a sleeping bag, twenty-six gallons of gasoline, some water and fried chicken. There was a twenty percent chance of rain for the day I left and it rained not five, not six, not seven, not eight but TEN inches that night. TEN inches!

Thursday John and I had clear skies and an empty pool at Twin Rivers. Brent showed up and we did something we almost never do. We did a couple of sets together. We did 100s on 1:57. I would not have been able to do but a few on my own, but together we knocked off ten of them. Then we did my 800 countdown set, as I call it. I finished with 3,000 meters and a 2.71 mile run earlier in the day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Buzzard Crew: Priceless

It's another one of those days. I didn't intend for it to be like this. I had plans. Really I did. Get up early, mow the lawn, lift weights, work on the backyard gym, do a transition workout on the bike trainer and treadmill.

What happened?


Tuffy was the first to get on the bed with me. The only time he is ever still is when he sleeps. He climbed up on the bed and started lounging like an older cat. Then the older cat, Luvie, climbed up on the bed and started lounging like an older cat. Wow. I ran to get coffee and they were still there when I got back. Delightful.

I intend yet to do some stuff today after the coffee runs out. Monday, I lifted weights and mowed the back lawn in the morning. After lunch, I took to the road on my bike and did 31.14 miles. When I got in, I changed shoes and did a 1.8 mile transition run. At the pool, I swam

15 X 100 @ 1:57 (rep one was @ 1:56)
800 multi-paced
400 small paddles
total: 4,000.

Tuesday I had to work. Imagine such as that. Consequently, time was short and so was energy. I ran 2.06, and then at the pool I swam

10 X 50 @ 1:30
before lightning forced John and me to abandon our swim.

Now it is Wednesday before a Saturday race. I think I will lift weights and do a transition workout, but I could easily fritter the day away relaxing with the cats and Jeff. For a teacher, life during the summer is tough. You have to make so many decisions and exercise so much discipline or you just get sorry. Sometimes I feel like I'm one sorry individual.

As for good news, my daughter is going to do Bikes, Blues, and Bayous with us. She said she does have one reservation, though. She isn't sure if her bike will hold up that far. I told her not to fear, BBB has a buzzard crew who will gladly scoop you up if you or your bicycle can't go the distance.

Entry fee: $45.00
Bicycle: $150 - $3,000
Bike shorts: $50.00
Gatorade: $6.00
Bicycle computer: $250
Buzzard Crew: Priceless.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coming Up

Concerning those decisions, I didn't do anything. Not that I decided to do nothing, but by default I let the day slip away while I lounged with a dog, two cats, and a coffee cup. I needed the rest. Saturday, however, I got back into the swing of things and did a 5.5 mile multi-paced run, lifted weights, and swam 3,400 meters at Twin Rivers. At the pool I did my 13 X 100 @ 1:57 set for the second time this year. For the first time, I was successful at it. For the week, I

ran 13.16 miles,
lifted weights three times,
swam 14,100 meters, and
walked 3.27 miles.

I have several upcoming events. The first on tap, July 26th, is the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, thirty-five miles of heat and hills which began in 1980 making it the oldest continuous triathlon in the continental United States. I was there when it started, and if I am successful in making it to the finish line this coming Saturday, I will complete my sixteenth HOD. I did the first six, took eighteen years off, and this year will make ten of the last eleven. I not very good at tris and this is the last one I still do, but one of my long term goals is to be the oldest man who ever finished this one.

One week after THE triathlon, as my wife and I have always referred to it, is Greenwood's own Bikes, Blues, and Bayous. With three distances to choose from, my wife, my son, and I will join approximately 600 other cyclists in Mississippi's largest bike ride. I will opt for the metric century although my bike fitness is marginal for that distance at best. I will approach the ride as a rolling party and a paid-for training ride.

Mid-September, brings another Greenwood event, the 300 Oaks 10K, a premier road race on a flat, certified course that is held about the time the early morning temperatures start to get noticeably cooler here in the Delta. I hope by then to be lighter and fitter on my feet.

The first Saturday of October brings the Swim the Suck Ten-Miler in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year will be my fourth swimming of the race that is only five years old. It is also how Randy Beets and I became friends and then enemies. It was all about our rivalry to defeat each other in one of the most beautiful swimming venues on planet earth.

And then?

And then I hope to ramp the running up and do some fun stuff on my own when the weather gets cold. I am thinking one day journey runs. I knocked two of those off my bucket list last winter. The fist was during Thanksgiving Break when I ran out to Highway 7, north to Waley, then across to Money and south to home, thirty-something miles. The second happened when I ran up Highway 49, through Bledsoe Plantation, to Money, MS and again south to home.

And what of the Great Noxapater Journey Run you ask? Well, I am still writing checks from the first attempt. I definitely want a rematch, but I don't see myself doing it this winter. Maybe late winter but I'm not sure. One thing that makes that difficult is that the Chicot Challenge has become such a big part of my life. As soon as I finished this year's edition, I started planning and plotting for 2015. Not only does the planning start immediately, but in reality, training for it is a year round effort. In fact I was in a bank Thursday last when one of the tellers recognized me from long ago, and we began to chat. Two other tellers joined in and one asked, "When is the next Chicot Challenge?" The question made me proud and it means people are starting to take notice of and expect the swim. I was able to give an immediate answer: "June 6, 2015."

As my swimming has gone up, other sports have necessarily gone down. Biking has taken the biggest hit. There was a year, not too many ago, when I rode thirty-seven 100 milers in one season. Most of these were my personal rides, just me all alone with my thoughts and my unbridled spirit of adventure. I miss that because with that kind of cycling, I learned roads, ate from neat little stores, and met some really cool people. I also miss hunting and hope to do a little small game stalking and shooting this year.

That's what's coming up in the near future. We should be in for a warm winter. We have had four cold winters in a row. It's time for a typical winter and if we get one, I will swim more outdoors and that, in turn, may make the Chicot Challenge really crazy. I hope.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

It's Friday morning, it's raining, and my coffee is hot. What do I usually do on Friday mornings when it rains? You guessed it: blog.

The week started slow Monday with John and me both being ill. Somewhere around 10:00 pm, however, I suddenly felt normal. Tuesday, not wanting to overdo things and relapse, I only swam at Twin Rivers.

4 X 500 1-3 with small paddles.
Total: 3,200.

By Wednesday I felt confident enough to run for 7.62 miles and lift some weights. The downside to that was I had little energy for the pool and only did

10 X 50 @ 1:15
10 X 150 @ 3:15 (8 with medium paddles and 2 with small paddles)
Total: 3,500 meters.

Thursday I worked in the yard and lifted more weights. Then

4 X 600 r 1:00 (400 with floating 25, 100 easy, 100 as 50 hard/50 easy)
The 600s felt challenging but good. I think that will be a good Swim the Suck set. My times were
1 - 11:25
2 - 11:19
3 - 11:24
4 - 11:42
I finished with 300 small paddles.
Total: 4,000 meters.

Now I'm in a conundrum about what to do today. The rain is pouring and I feel like a nap. Even the wild little tabby kitty is curled up asleep at my side. After my nap, I could go to DSU and swim there, but if it clears up this afternoon, John will want to swim. Maybe I should go to DSU and if it does clear up, double-dip. Also, I really need to run having done so only once this week. Decisions, decisions. I guess that's why God created coffee.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Journal Entry

In case you didn't notice, my last blog post, "Algoma," was the first installment of the long promised genre that I created: Historical Cycling. I will share some more pieces from this new art form in the future. Since I'm not cycling a lot now, I am not writing much in that manner and had not intended "Algoma" to be a Historical Cycling piece. But then the old man showed up. What can I say? It happens.

Today is a no-nonsense journal entry which is what this blog usually is. Below is last week, July 7 through 13.

Monday I started the day with an early morning bike ride with Brian Waldrop. I don't always get up early, but when I do I enjoy it. It was sort of neat to see the sun come up. We rode 15.3 miles before he went home to prepare for work, and I went home for a nap. After a short nap, I went to the hills and ran7.55 miles. That afternoon, I met John at Twin Rivers where I swam

13 X 100 @ 1:57
2 X 400 @ 8:15 with small paddles and floating 25 per 100
Total: 3,800 meters.

Tuesday I walked 1.41 miles working in the yard and between sets of weight lifting. For some reason I can now not remember, I ran on the dreadmill for 2.15 miles and then met Big John at the pool where I did

20 X 50 @ 1:30
10 X 150 @ 3:15 medium paddles
300 easy
Total: 4,200 meters.

Wednesday it was more walking and weightlifting, more running (2.52), and more swimming

3 X 100 @ 1:57
16 X 50 @ 1:30 with small paddles
Total: 3,200 meters.

Since Twin Rivers was closed to us Thursday, John rested while I went to DSU for a session with the Mad Swimming Scientist and the team. We swam

6 X 400 odd paddles,  even breathing 3/5 by 25
200 small paddles
Total: 3,400 meters.

By Friday I was feeling very tired so all I did was a run but I tried to make it a good one, a Vvo2 max session (OK I read too much). It ended up being 3.41 miles of multi-paced work.

My wife and I went the the Tanglefoot Trail Saturday. I have already written about that. What I didn't tell you was that on the way home, I began to get sore all over my body. By the time we made it to Greenwood, I unloaded the truck, took a bath, and went to bed. I had fever and felt like the old Jerry Clower joke: just shoot up in here amongst us cause one of us got to have some relief. Sunday, we stayed home because the little church we last visited and want to start attending was closed due to the pastor being on vacation and the air being out. I was in bed all day. Now, Monday morning, I feel better, but not 100%. I think I am going to lounge a lot throughout the day and maybe swim tonight. No running, no lifting, no heavy thinking, no yard work. That's the plan.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I got my phone out to take the old man's picture,
but he was already gone.
He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen and his hair, though thin and grey, was mostly still on his head instead of only being a distant memory. I guessed him to be about eighty years old or more, and he had a presence about him, one that announced him as a man of hard-won wisdom. We, my wife and I, had just driven up to the Whistle Stop at New Houlka, MS on the Tanglefoot Trail for a bicycle ride. It was near lunch time, Saturday, July 12th, our second trip to the trail.

After unloading our bikes and pushing them around to the trail, we saw him sitting there in his quiet dignity. He relaxed on the bench in the shade, like a king though dressed in a simple khaki pants and worn blue dress shirt that was meticulously pressed but had small red paint stains on the front.

"How far you guys going?" he asked.

"Just to the next town and back. There's a whistle stop there isn't there?"

He didn't answer.

"What can you tell me about Houlka?" I asked. "What's behind that name?" These kinds of things have always interested me and when I ride a bicycle to new places, if the opportunity presents itself, I ask questions.

Penny headed up the tranquil trail towards Algoma.
"You're interested in that name?" he asked, pointing to the sign above his head. "You need to be interested in that name," he said, pointing up the trail presumably to the next town. "Now that one, it has some history behind it."

"And that one is?"

"That one is Algoma. Nine and a half miles up the trail. It used to be called Progressive City. Can you believe that? Progressive City, population 401. You can't make this stuff up."

I waited, hoping he wouldn't make me pry the story out of him sentence by sentence. Then he began to speak again, slowly like he was savoring every word. Like there was great historical significance in everything he said.

"It was the first weekend in October. We hold our annual Cross Tie Festival then. The year was 1993. You remember anything about 1993?" he asked me, peering into my eyes with his deep blue ones.

"Not really. Not off the top of my head."

"There was a presidential election going on. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were in a bus touring the country, campaigning, making speeches and they stopped at our festival. I think they were on their way to Arkansas or something."

"Well, that must have been special."

Just like the old man said.
"Oh, it was special alright. They showed up unannounced. One reason they stopped may have been the Seafood Junction, our claim to fame. That restaurant is as big as the whole town put together and people come from all over, famous people sometimes. So they show up and stop their big bus out front of the Seafood Junction. Next thing we know, Al Gore is on the tailgate of a pickup making a speech."

"You were there?" I asked. "You saw all of this?"

"I was there," the old man confirmed. "I saw it all."

"How was the speech? How was he received?"

"Do I have to tell you that this is a very conservative community? Bill Clinton and Al Gore were about as popular as the county sheriff at the chicken fights."

"Y'all have those here?" I eagerly asked.

"Forget that. He got to talking about re-inventing government. You know, you should never insult someone's intelligence. That can lead to some bad things."
Just like he said.

"So you, y'all were insulted?"

"A man named Redland Serepta, a trouble doer from way back, began a chant and in nothing flat the whole crowd, which was probably 500 or 600 because of the festival began chanting with him."

"Chanting what? What were they, y'all saying?"

"We're gunna whup them democrats! We're gunna whup them democrats! Over and over and louder and louder. The look on Al Gore's face. Priceless." The old man was smiling and he had the far way look in his eyes. "There is now a road named after Redland. You'll cross it on the trial, right up there," he said pointing with a thin, crooked finger up the trail where we were planning to ride.

"So what happened then?"

"Another one of my friends, Johnny Wallfield, he climbed into the cab of the truck that Gore was standing on the tailgate of and started the engine. I think he was going to try to shake him down by popping the clutch but them some of those guys in suits, Secret Service I guess, got involved."

He did it again. He stopped and made me ask what happened next.
Spot on again

"What happened next could really be called a riot. There was fighting, and bottle throwing and the taking of the Lord's name in vain. No telling what would have happened if that posse of State Troopers hadn't shown up with sirenes blazing and guns drawn. But before they did, Al Gore was in for one more surprise."

"What? Just tell me the story. Quit stopping. Please."

"My old buddy Clay Yeoman fired a potato gun at Al's head."

"Huh? A potato gun?"

"It's a homemade thing. Made of PVC pipe. It's attached to a butane tank that supplies the pressure. You ram a sweet potato down the front, and flip the valve and the potato goes hurling through space at about 800 feet per second."

"Really? You're not just making all this up?"

"These men I've mentioned. They all have roads named after them now. You'll see them when you ride to Agloma."

"Anybody get in trouble for all this?'

"Boy did they ever. A whole bunch of people were arrested. Redland spent some time in jail as did Johnny Wallfield. But it was Clay Yoeman who they came down the hardest on. He spent thirty days in the county jail, was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, was sentenced to thirty years in prison, it was suspended, and was put on probation for 166 years."

"One hundred and sixty-six years?"

"Yeah. And all these guys are dead. All under suspicious circumstances."

"Seriously? This really happened?"

"Yeah. That's how come the name got changed. So many people was sayin' that if Al Gore came back he was gunna be dead, that people started calling the town Algunna, short for Al-gunna-be-dead. Then it became Algona. Then the mayor ordered some new city signs and the sign painter, who drank a little and couldn't spell good, painted Algoma. The city council changed the name and that's why it's called Algoma instead of Progressive City."

"That is interesting. So many stories. Every where you go there are stories."

"Well, you be careful who you talk to about Algoma. People are still sensitive over all this and they don't trust outsiders."

"Thanks," I said, and reached into my bike jersey to retrieve my phone to take the old man's photograph. He was gone.

The store in Algoma where we ate lunch.
Penny and I then made our way up the trail in silence. Besides the chirping of birds, I could still hear the old man's voice ringing in my head. When we made it to the famous little town that no one has heard of, we found the Whistle Stop deserted. I was sort of wishing the old man would be there waiting on us. We used the restroom and then made our way to the store where we ate lunch and cooled off. Inside the store, a few old men in overalls hung out. I wanted so bad to ask a question about 1993 and the town's name, but the old man's voice was loud and clear: "Be careful who you talk to about Algoma. People are still sensitive about all that and they don't trust outsiders." We were definitely outsiders.

We ate in silence. Penny had a chicken on a stick and I had a plate lunch of chicken, baked beans, and mashed potatoes. I kept looking out the front window and trying to imagine the events the old man had described. After lunch we left the store on our bikes and headed back to New Houlka. When we arrived, the Whistle Stop was deserted. We loaded our bikes in silence and drove home the same way neither of us mentioning the old man the whole ninety-miles back to Greenwood.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Makes Me Think

A year or two ago, I had some business cards printed. You know those "free" Vista Print specials. Wow, like I didn't already know to run like the wind anytime the word "free" is ever used. To make a short story long, I'm very happy with the cards, but these free ones cost me a lot of money.

They have a pic of me on front with my nose taped. What, you expected me in a business suit? I announce myself as an Extreme Swimmer. I like that. Pertinent information like my cell number, blog address, and slogan, "Fighting diabetes one stroke at a time," finish out the card. I always keep a few in my wallet and give them out with pride. The look of confusion on people's faces when I pass them out causes me extreme joy. Maybe I'm sick.

I got a call last night. It's a wonder I answered because I didn't recognize the number. I was almost to Minter City, coming back from Masters Swim in Cleveland, MS, when my phone went off, and I had to turn down my brand new Marty Robbins cd to answer. Marty was singing about loving a Mexican girl in El Paso at Rosie's Cantina, and I was just about to cry. That song does it every time, so I was a little pissed somebody messed up my experience with the dark-eyed Mexican beauty and Marty's enchanted story telling.

"Zane Hodge?"


"I found one of your business cards at Kroger" [in Cleveland where I had stopped to buy fruit and some diet drinks].

I waited.

"It says you're an extreme swimmer."

"Yes I am," I answered with pride expecting questions about my athletic feats to follow. Instead, what followed was:

"Well, you swam away from you wallet at Kroger."


Already I was braking and the truck was lurching towards to shoulder of the road before I finished my scream.

Dude, who does that? Lately I've begun to worry myself. I locked the keys in the truck at Twin Rivers last week. I popped the hood on my truck, Tuesday, and was working on my battery connection-- me and some good Samaritans-- for a good ten minutes before I discovered instead of a battery problem, I had simply left the truck in drive. Who does that? Now the wallet. Who loses their wallet in a busy supermarket in a crime-ridden town? Who tapes their nose with pink duct tape to swim? Who swims in catfish ponds? Who takes his wife's dog riding with the window down to look for cats?

*Raises hand meekly*

OK, maybe I am different, but so was my dad. All of this made me think about him. In fact, everything makes me think about him. Everyday I think about him, and the thoughts are always good.

My sister texted me and wanted me to take Mom to the doctor. No problem. This was my older sister who has been here from Florida for several weeks, and I must confess she has given my younger sister and me a nice break. She also wanted me to go with her to the place in Carroll County to dump some corn, Huh? Don't ask. It's a long story and it involves our dad.

I took Mom to the doctor, and back at the house, Helen was ready to head to the hills. The bed of Dad's truck was filled with corn, really, hundreds of pounds of corn. We dumped the corn in an open field. I don't hunt much anymore, but it is far enough from any of our stands that maybe we won't get arrested this winter if we carry a rifle out there. Then she wanted some gravel, four buckets full, so I loaded her some gravel.

We stopped at Acy's on the way back and had a burger. It was nice.Their burgers are the best, and I don't know when I've enjoyed being with my sister more than then. She was happy, pleasant, and we talked about Dad. She told me that before he died, a Scripture came to her mind,

Genesis 25:8 And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, and old man, and full of years, and was gathered to his people.

She said the idea of a "good old age" began to purcolate in her thoughts. For Dad, his old age was beginning to cross over the line of good into the region of just old. He had stopped fishing in Louisiana, he had fallen in his little boat in Carroll County and wounded himself severely. He had sold his big boat. He had several unexplainable wrecks. He just couldn't do the things he always had, and he went home, "full of years and was gathered to his people."

She said that had prepared her for his death. Nothing had prepared me for his passing. Dad was my hero. In my entire life, he only disappointed me one time. That was when he died. It takes a long time to get over something like that.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Up to Date

The last training update I did was several posts ago and went through Friday, June 27. Saturday, June 28, I worked in the yard and did a mini brick with a ten minute bike trainer ride and a 2.02 mile  run. I also did some upper body weight work in the back yard gym. For the week of 6/23 - 6/29, I

ran 15.14 miles,
swam 10,567 meters,
walked 4.4 miles, and
lifted weights one time.

The week of 6/30-7/5 was a good one training wise and otherwise. I have already written about trapping the kitty Monday. What I didn't tell you was that morning I went to the place to pick up one of Dad's live traps and while there I did a slow but steady 7.02 mile run. Then I was in the midst of swimming at Twin Rivers when I had to go home and try to calm Jeff down so he didn't go into cardiac arrest. Before leaving the pool, I swam,

6 X 50 @ 1:15
3 X 300 small paddles @ 6:30, 2nd 50 fast and first 25 of last 100 fast
Total: 2,700 meters.

Tuesday, I lifted weights, ran an easy 1.64 miles, and met John at Twin Rivers for a swim. I did

My friend, John Misterfeldt
10 X 50 @ 1:15
4 X 300 small paddles @ 6:30, 2nd 50 fast and first 25 of last 100 fast
2 X 150 medium paddles @ 3:15
Total: 4,200 meters.

Wednesday, I lifted weights and did a bike trainer/tredmill brick as 12:00 on the trainer and an easy 1.05 on the dreadmill. At the pool, I swam

6 X 50 @  1:15
8 X 100 @ 2:00
4 X 400 @ 8:15 small paddles with a floating 25 every 100
500 finger paddles
Total: 5,000.

I did it all over again Thursday with more weightlilfting, a 15:00 trainer ride, a 4.6 mile multi-paced run, and a refreshing 3,400 meters in the pool that went

11 X 100 @ 1:59
500 small paddles @ 10:30 as odd easy and even hard.

Since Friday was the 4th of July, things were different. We went to Carroll County, and my daughter and I got out at Browning Road and ran the 3.74 miles in. By the grace of God, I had a pretty good food day. I really have to get this weight off that I put on last January after the stress fracture. It is a matter of looks, athletic performance, and more importantly, health. I don't want to become a diabetic and with my genetics, I have to do things right.

Saturday, I lifted more weights after first hydrating with a quart of coffee. I did something I had never done before. To my surprise, shock really, I found that a single set of kettle bell swings left my legs trembling. Just one set. I think I have a new favorite exercise. I followed the weights with a 16:00 minute trainer ride and then an easy 3.64 mile shuffle. At Twin Rivers, I swam

12 X 100 @ 1:58
800 small paddles with the last 50 of evens hard
100 easy
Total: 3,100 meters.

Usually I just rest on Sunday, but Penny and I visited a new church (we think we may have found our home) and after a good nap, I called my old buddy Brian Waldrop. We rode to Money and back, my first road effort of the year. I flet it even though we didn't ride over fifteen miles per hour.

For the week, I

ran 20.02 miles
lifted weights four times
walked 3.89 miles
swam 18,400 meters, and
rode 43:00 on the trainer and 20.38 miles on the road.

It was a good week of training, a good week for the new cat, and a good week in our church visitation. I look forward to the next  seven days.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Kitty

I was a termite man for twenty-nine years. Believe me when I say you can only crawl under houses for so long. No joke. It is not fun, it can be frightening, and it is always spooky. At best. My tolerance of being in dark, tight spaces, with spiders and slimy creatures peaked somewhere about a decade before I made a career change and slowly began to go the other way. You can only crawl under houses for so long. That's true for me at least.

Today, just walking past the opening to a crawl space causes me physical pain. Seriously, I hurt. What does it feel like? you ask. It feels like I have the flu and my body smites me with discomfort. My crawling days are over. Or so I thought.

Saturday, June 25, was one of those slow start days at the Hodge household. We slept in, moved slowly when we did arise, and drank lots of coffee. We also heard something, the unmistakable sound of a kitten. The loud meows were coming from under the house. How could that be?

You can guess what comes next. I did it. I crawled under the house and stayed under there until I was convinced there was no kitty. But we had heard it. Then, the very next day, we left for Biloxi on a four day trip. We came home on a Thursday afternoon and Friday morning was another slow start  day with me being off for the remainder of the summer and Penny taking a vacation day. Then we heard it again. A kitty, crying for help, for attention.

It sounded like it came from a different place, so we went outside and looked around, checked the flower beds, tried to find a clue. But silence had replaced the cries, and we were left wondering. I thought maybe it was an older cat that just sounded like a kitty.

We pulled into the driveway late Sunday evening after attending my mother's birthday party. As I brought the truck to a stop, I saw movement on the porch which my eyes followed. The movement turned into a clear view of a tiny tabby kitty who bailed off the driveway side of the porch and dove through a crack in the foundation wall.

"Did you see that?" I yelled.

"See what?" Penny answered.

"Are you kidding?"

She wasn't kidding, but at least we knew there was a kitty, and we knew how he had been surviving. He was eating Bubbie's (our outdoor cat) food on the porch. Later that night, she looked out the front door only to see him once more pilfering food, but when she attempted a capture, he again fled like wildfire and disappeared into the dark, lonely crawlspace.

Monday morning I drove to Carroll County to make it a twofer: pick up one of Dad's live traps and take a long hill run while there. The hill run was dreadfully slow (I did a pedestrian seven miles), and then I discovered that a falling tree had crushed Dad's traps. My father-in-law has everything, and since his place is only a mile from Dad's, I went to see him. I got a trap.

Back home, I baited the box with tuna and set it where the mysterious feline was entering his lair. Two hours later I found most of the tuna gone but the surprise unsprung. The little fellow was too small to trip the trap, so I went to Ace Hardware just before they closed and bought a smaller one.

That was a bit after 5:00 pm. At Twin Rivers, I checked my phone between intervals and saw the text appear on the screen: "I have the cat," it read.

A few intervals later: "Come home now, Jeff is going crazy."
Jeff bathing the kitty who seems to think the dog is his mother.

Jeff is our aged weenie dog. He loves cats. His best friends are cats. I could guess he was probably getting dangerously excited. He has a heart condition, and we are under strict doctor's orders not to allow him to get too excited. Cats excite him.

When I arrived home,  Jeff was bathing the hair off the kitty. That's just the way he is. One of our favorite pastimes, mine and Jeff's, is to go riding in the truck and look for cats. When he sees one, he whines like a little baby. He wants to be friends. He has no idea that they would either run from him or pop his jaws.

So we have a new cat who has no brother or sister or mother as far as we can tell. We don't know where he came from. Maybe he was sent by God. He looks a lot like one I had when I was a small boy of four. To gaze upon him makes me cry. Jeff can't leave him alone. Poor baby.