Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes I Wonder

The climb up Malmaison Road
It was a perfect day for running or at least as perfect as a day can get this time of year. The clouds that brought last night's rain were clearing fast and although the air was still humid, the forecast and expectation were of dryer, runner-friendlier air moving in before the run would end.
I locked my truck on Malmaison Road and began shuffling towards the Carroll County Hills at an embarrassingly lazy 10:38 that morning. Within twenty minutes I was climbing out of the flat delta into the loess bluffs of what we here call "the hills." The plan was far from ambitious. I just wanted to go a bit over ten miles, and since "long" and "fast" and "hard" and "easy" are relative terms, this would be my first "long" run in a long time, since last December when I stress-fractured myself in a foolish but fun effort to run from home to Winona. Fun it was before the pain started.

The road bed was damp but not wet and the moisture made for softer footfalls. Perfect. My legs felt flat, however, and I seemed unfit as my already turtle pace slowed to a pathetic 12:00 minute mile while I climbed the big hill, the one that runs out of the flatlands and into the bluffs above. Stopping a couple of times, I snapped pictures of the view from my lofty position overlooking the flat farmland below. Soon the delta was gone, and all that was left was a lonely gravel road. The best kind. The kind I like.

My company for the run.
I drove away from home that morning wondering what sights and sounds would great me, accompany me on my journey. All I heard, however, were crickets and tree frogs. Although it was daytime and sunny, it sounded like a Southern summer night. Not a problem. I never heard a bird, a chattering squirrel, or a hawk that whole day. Not a crow or a dog or a deer, though I did once see two deer slink silently across the road ahead of me.
I took walk breaks approximately after every 2.5 miles of shuffling. There was almost no traffic out and the farther I went up the road the fewer the houses were. My only company, besides the trees and my thoughts, were some horses who seemed to find me a curiosity.

If those walls could talk.
It had been several years since I went this far up this road and it was almost as good as seeing it for the first time. I ran and walked a bit over six miles one way. Not knowing how far it was to Highway 35, I decided to turn around and head back. There were a couple of side roads I was interested in possibly shuffling on a bit on the way back. On one of the side roads I stumbled upon an old home place. I couldn't help but wonder about the lives lived there. We are only a generation away from people who won a living off the land in these hills. My dad was one of those and any hint of the old way reminds me of him.

A glimpse of the delta below.
At that old home place, I stopped and snapped a photo and became reflective. I wanted to walk up on the property and look around, but people don't take to kindly to trespassers anymore. I can still remember, when I was a young man, talking to old timers who made their living on small farms in these hills. I ran across these people on my job, back when I was a termite man and went everywhere checking and treating houses. That's the one thing I miss about that job: I rambled and met people and found roads. I have always loved roads. One house I went to was built by its inhabitants. The foundation was a series of stones quarried off the land and the beams under the house were ax-hewn, cut off the land by the old man back in the day. Their water came from a well he dug himself, with a shovel on top of a hill behind their house. They raised kids who got educated and moved to town. We call it progress. Sometimes I wonder.

When I made my way down the big hill, I got a glimpse of the delta below. It was impressive from my height and the picture here doesn't do it justice. I wondered also about the people who came here, to the delta when it was in its primeval state. What mosquitoes and snakes they must have found. What trees. What game. Now the land is tame and safe and sometimes dull.

I made it back to the truck with a little over 13 total miles on my legs. The running portion was 11.11. I fixed a recovery shake and drove away. But I didn't go home until I had driven up the hill I had just run and motored a few miles more down one of those side roads. I had to. They make me wonder.