Saturday, August 30, 2014

"For Your Work," She Said

I've had some weird experiences while out running.

I've had some frightening ones.

I now carry a weapon.

Once, while running in the dark on a lonely county road outside of town, I had a car come idling up behind me. Slowly the car pulled up beside me and drove at my side for a couple of minutes. I couldn't see inside the auto, so I have no idea how many people were in there, what they were doing, or what they were planning. To say it made me nervous is an understatement.

Eventually, the driver increased his speed to almost one mile per hour faster than me, so the cat and mouse game, or whatever it was, continued.

You don't forget things like that.

There have been other incidents. Besides carrying a weapon, I have become hyper-sensitive to automobiles stopped on the side of the road or sitting in a driveway ready to pull out but not doing so. It seems that sometimes people just want to watch me run, but at my age and pace I have no idea why.

I had another strange car-encounter Friday morning while out for a jog. To you who are not from around here, Greenwood, Mississippi is unique in that you go from town to country in a moment. We have a beautiful street, Grand Blvd, that runs south to north from the Yazoo to the Tallahatchie River. The Boulevard, as it is called by locals, is tree-lined and decorated with lovely homes. On the north end, sits the bridge which has a crest that hides the view of what lies on the other side. What lies on the other side is Money Road, and when you crest that bridge and tumble onto County Road 517, its alias, you are in the country. Just like that. There is no slow transition from town to country, but an abrupt. shocking, total change from one world into another.

And speaking of other worlds, it is not uncommon for me to be stopped on this road while out for a run by drivers who want information. This little seventeen mile county road in the Mississippi Delta is a destination for people from all over the world. Literally.

Robert Johnson, the Bluesman who reportedly sold his soul to the devil, is buried just a few miles north of town. I once had a man from Germany ask me in a very thick German accent, "Where is he buried?"

I didn't even have to ask, "Who?" He was not the first nor will he be the last pilgrim to ask that question.

Also the road is infamous for running through the little ghost town of Money which is where I once ran over a fox that caused me to weep for days. But Money is infamous for something much, much worse than a dead fox. That little town is the scene of the Emmit Till tragedy. I have also had motorists stop me to enquire about that. "Where is the store?" they succinctly ask. I don't have to wonder which one they mean.

I don't like being stopped. For me running is sort of like eating. Once I start, I don't stop until the job is done. That's just the way I am, and that's the way it was when Penny and I were raising our kids. Sometimes I would let my wife finish eating so when I started I didn't have to stop. Tell me I can't eat, but do not tell me to stop once I start.

I was just a little bit over the bridge onto Money Road, Friday, Augsut 29th, and shuffling north in the late morning heat. I saw the car on the edge of the road at the only driveway for miles. (By the way, that driveway runs to a house where some of The Help was filmed. Here in the Delta, we can't hide from history, bad or good) That is the kind of thing I will always notice. No, I didn't feel threatened. I never do. But I always notice.

It is almost a quarter of a mile from the base of the bridge to the driveway. The car didn't move. I slowly shuffled on and once a few steps past the driveway and car, I heard the automobile pull onto the road. Then I could tell it was coming my way. Slowly. It was coming very slowly. Then I heard . . .

"Excuse me, I hate to interupt you."

At least it was a woman's voice. A woman's voice always makes me calm.

I turned and saw her a little behind me with her driver's side window down and something in her left hand which she extended towards me. I knew her. She had money in her hand, maybe a ten dollar bill.

"For your work," she said.

I took the bill and stuck it into the mesh pocket of my Nathan Hydration Pack.

"Thank you," I said. "Thank you very much."

I turned and kept trotting north towards WABG Radio, towards Robert Johnson's grave, towards the Emmit Till store.

"Keep swimming," I heard her say.

And then she was gone.

Two miles later, I pulled the cash out to take a look. Ten dollars heck. It was a hundred! That will bring the total of this year's Chicot Challenge to $1,855.

There has been a lot on Facebook lately about charities with the ALS ice challenge and all that. I recently read that 27% donated to that group goes to its charitable purposes. Every group has overhead. I understand that. Want to know how much goes to the charitable purposes if you donate to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi? The answer is 89%. Besides that, 100% of those funds stays in the State of Mississippi where we have the highest diabetes rates in the South. The South has the highest diabetes rates in the country. The good ole USA is at or near the top in the whole world.

Thank you, Aubry Whittington, for your donation. The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi thanks you. Kids across Mississippi who have diabetes thank you.