Monday, March 30, 2015

Review, Preview

Last week was a pretty good training cycle, and I feel fit to press forward with a new zeal. I got out last year's training diary (although I could reread here, but the hard cope is concise) and began doing some comparisons. Actually, I have been doing that for several weeks. I try to learn from each year's buildup and last year I did some things well, and I also made some mistakes.

Some things I did well last year include hitting my biggest training week three weeks prior to the Challenge. That is how exercise physiologist say it should be done and it worked for me. In addition to that, I did the taper a little better last year as well as the pre-race meal (pizza).

One mistake I made, however, was to push too hard too early which gave me some pectoral issues that hindered training for several weeks. This year I hope to emulate the good and avoid the bad. Specifically, this is the week when last year I over swam and set myself up for problems. Last week, my long swim was 4.27 miles. Today I hope to get somewhere around 4.7 or maybe a full 5 but not the 10,000 meter swim of a year ago that was too much too soon.

Last week, I

walked 4.35 miles,
lifted weights once,
swam 14,354 meters,
and ran 20.81 miles. 

That running included the Viking Half Marathon. Last year I did only the 5K, fearing the longer half because of my fitness level, or lack thereof. On the running front, I am a little ahead of a year ago. On the weight front I am three to four pounds lighter, but I'm still a bit overweight. Concerning the weights I lift I, I am way stronger on the bench press that last year. Swimming wise, I have a few more meters done, but not as much quality. The lack of quality has to do with the shoulder I have been nursing, which, by the way, gets a little better each week.

The weather looks good out there today although the cold of the weekend has no doubt taken some warmth out of the pond water. Since I have a night class, I am going to eat lunch during my office time so I can leave town early and have time to swim, I hope, a straight two and a half hours, and have time to bathe and get back to work. The real build up begins now. I plan to swim 20,000 plus and run 20 plus miles. I call that a 20/20 week, and just like eyesight, it is good.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Viking Half Marathon

Saturday morning the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce held the fourth Viking Half Marathon and 5K, and the weather turned nice and cold just for us. This was my first race run official shuffle of the year, having missed all the other events on my list due to injuries. I was overweight, out of shape, and full of trepidation when I eased into the pack of starters just before 8:00 am. I was wondering where the fat lady was. When I am out of shape there is always at least one fat lady who challenges me and threatens my manhood. I looked around. They were everywhere.

I knew then it was going to be a tough day. Besides the large ladies, there was the cold which had everybody shivering and kung fu fighting. Not kung fu fighting, but shivering and blowing on their hands and wiping their noses. When the announcer said go we did, as much to beat the cold as the course.

Only a couple of hundred steps in, I thought I saw someone I knew. Brent Bailey runs all over Leflore County, swims and lifts weights at Twin Rivers, and is so competitive that he times himself when he puts on his shoes.

"What are you doing slumming back here with us old, fat, slow folks," I asked after shuffling up beside him. 

"Just out having a little fun," was his answer.

"Having fun?" I asked incredulously. "I thought you didn't have fun," I responded.

"I do. I just turned forty-five today," I suppose supplying the answer to his new found relaxed attitude.

Wow, I thought. Immediately I realized he was running with someone whom he introduced me to but whose name I quickly forgot. He was a fat man from Chicago, and they ran steady but slowly and we ran together for a few miles before they pulled away from me. 
Look at that butt!!!


That's when it started. 

The battle. The inevitable battle. The brutal battle.

When I saw the fat lady up ahead of me with her massive buttocks and jiggling parts, I knew I had to defeat her or turn in my man card, resign from athletics, start playing badminton. 

I began an immediate, deliberate push of pace to close the gap between me and my prey. When I caught up with her, I hoped to pass without incident. Nothing doing. Did she really try to elbow me? 

She picked up the tempo and put a step between us. I matched her pace and pulled even again. No elbow this time and when I passed I thought it was over. Not that easy. She came back, and I refused to let her go around, running harder and harder until I was safely ahead but sweating and breathing hard. Was this a Pyrrhic victory? Only time would tell.

The next battle was with my bladder and it got bad. We ran past my own home, and I was tempted to stop but I didn't. A mile or two later a young lad ducked into some bushes that were sufficient to hide him while an older man-- his granddad?-- stood guard. I slowed down with the hopes he would make quick work of his business and I could be next. When he didn't come quickly out, I pushed on for fear the fat lady might run me down.

The course took us to Medallion and to where Medallion meets Riverside Drive. If you read my Poot stories, that might ring a bell. This is where there was a rope swing long years ago and me n Poot swam across the Tallahatchie River here several times to get to The Star of the West Plantation, unseen, so we could burn down houses. Now, the river bank there is stripped of its trees and rocked. A guard rail prevents cars from leaving the road and plunging into the waters below.

An idea! I would go over the rail. But when the race brought me to that place, a volunteer, female, stood at the rail and made me think twice. I thought three times, in fact, and decided to do it, so over the rail and a tumble on the rocks brought me to a flat place where I could take care of business. I looked over my left shoulder and saw that the female volunteer politely moved away leaving me some privacy. I looked over my right shoulder and saw a steady stream of runners right against the rail and every single head turned my direction. I climbed up the rocks and onto the road full of frustration.

Another idea! The Tallahatchie Bridge (not the one Billy Joe McCalister jumped off, though there is a plaque there about Bobbie Gentry and Billy Joe) was only a half mile up the course. I know going over that meant extra distance, a slower time, and the risk of the fat lady catching up, but things were getting serious. A policeman manned the traffic at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Grand Blvd at the foot of the bridge. 

I hollered, "I ain't cuttin' the course, I'm just going over the bridge."

And I did.

And it worked.

Back on the course I caught up, again, with a young woman I had passed twice before. She got back ahead of me when I went over the rail and again when I went over the bridge. We started chatting this time. She was Amanda somebody who is in Teach for America and is staying in Greenwood and is from Iowa and teaches at East Elementary and needs new running shoes and her knees hurt and she wants to be an EMT and she has never run this far. What!?!?! EMT? That's what she said. I did not cross examine.

We were at about mile seven and I was beginning to know I could finish this thing. I didn't push anymore until the last little bit at the finish where we ran into a large crowd of runners who were busy listening to the live band and eating the free food provided by several local eateries. We finished in a very slow 2:29:something. Good training, that's the way I look at it, good training. No doubt this put some endurance into my legs which can't hurt any when the Chicot Challenge comes around.
Me, the wife, and daughter


I picked up some fish from Larry's, one of Penny and my favorites. As always, it was nice to the tongue, the teeth, the stomach.  

I found my daughter, her friend Amanda, and my wife, and we hung out a little bit. I never saw Forrest there though he did the 5K and placed in his age group. The cold, however, soon got the best of me, and I walked back to my truck and went home. Ordinarily I would walk all the way too and fro from the house, but since I was so insecure with my fitness, I reduced the walking to a minimum.

Back home, Luvie was happy to see me. He has not been pleased with me working on Fridays. He was not pleased with me leaving early on a Saturday. He was pleased with me being tired and taking a nap.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Training and EndangeredSwimmer the Vlog

I've been posting a lot lately, for me at least, but there is a reason for that. My reading habits have changed over the past few years. Now, I automatically check out several blogs each day hoping for a new post. It seems that all my favorite bloggers have gone silent. Without my desired reading material, I have decided to write my own. I like my writing almost as much as anyone else's anyway.

Wednesday, one of my students, Roger Simpson, helped me set up and YouTube Channel aptly named EndangeredSwimmer the Vlog. I am about ten years behind the times in terms of technology, so I need people like Roger, who actually knows what he's doing, to help me. 

After work, I had several errands to run and was unsure if I would be able to make a swim or not. First I had a dental appointment which went pretty well. Then I went by Barry Brewer's to place the first order of this year's Chicot Challenge T-shirt. I made only a small order because I am still trying to round up some more sponsorship. After that I went by a printer to get some order forms and receipts fixed up. In May I am speaking in Jackson, MS to the state meeting of the legal professionals, and I was advised to bring T-shirts and order forms. Nice. I when I asked him how much I would owe him when I came back to pick up my order, he said, "Nothing. I'm going to take care of you."

Wow.

I would mention his name, but I think I should get his permission first. 

Since I don't have a Wednesday night class this semester, when I finished the errands I still had time to go to the farm and do a short swim. The cool side of the pond was 64 and the warm side was 66. I went skins and swam a little farther than Tuesday, stroking for 1.56 miles. I even looped all the way around instead of staying only on the warm side. Two degrees might not sound like much, but believe you me,  that amount makes a huge difference. After the swim I took a 2.03 mile shuffle and explored a little finding a road over one of the ditches that I didn't know about previously.

Thursday, Roger helped me upload two more videos and we threw around some ideas for making some new ones. Dude, I am stoked. Now that GoPro I bought two and a half years ago and used a lot for a short while, is back on the charger and getting ready for some new use. Sweet.

My plan for the afternoon was to go back to the pond. When I checked the weather, I noticed the temps were going to drop throughout the remainder of the day. That's when I settled an internal debate: skins or suit. I wanted to swim longer which is the only reason I was considering suit, but the weather forecast forced me to choose suit. I started getting my stuff together and when I stepped outdoors to load some stuff into the truck, the cool temps, north wind, and cloudy skies instantly sucked all my motivation away. That may sound ridiculous to you, but that's just the way I am. I went back inside and thought about things. Yep, I tapped out. Sort of. I decided instead to go to DSU since it is Masters night.

At the pool, I swam

1,000
8 X 50 @ 1:30 as 15 hard, 20 easy, 15 hard
100 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:30 as 15 easy, 20 hard, 15 easy
4 X 50 @ 1:30 breathing 3/5, 5/3
1,700
total: 3,800 meters.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Long Suit, Short Skins

Monday afternoon the sun came out for the second time this year, and I went to the new pond with the hopes of swimming two hours and possibly doing some shuffling. At first the water felt pretty cool. I wore no socks, only one cap, and nothing under my wet suit. That made a difference, but before the swim was over, I was getting into the coolness of the pond. 
The new pond


Unlike Friday, the pond was quite varied in terms of temperature. It had a cool end and a warm end and one side was very streaky, warm/cold/warm/cold. I haven't figured that one out yet. I have experienced streaky before, but that was when up-welling was occurring on the upwind side. This time the streaky was on the downwind side of the pond. I got nothing.

It was a nice swim. I went for two hours and ten minutes covering 4.27 miles, my longest swim of the year. When I climbed out, I wanted to pull my wet suit off and jump back in and swim a little just for acclimation purposes. I checked the time, however, and discovered I needed to leave promptly because I have a night class on Mondays. I drove home, took a quick bath, and beat it to work.

At work we stayed late due to the number of nights missed this semester because of weather. After work I took a three mile shuffle in the dark and then called it a day.

Tuesday I determined to go back to the farm and swim skins. Wisdom told me to take it easy due to some physical issues I've experienced lately, and I knew that without a wet suit, I would not likely swim too long. I was right about that. Once there, I changed into my jammer, and waded out into the pond. Dude, it was cold. I checked the thermometer and the water was 62, two degrees colder than yesterday. Darn it!! 

The wind had switched to the south since yesterday when it was out of the north, so I walked over to the north end of the pond to see if it was warmer over there. Usually the pond warms on the downwind side. But if the wind blows very hard across the pond instead of up and down it, it can actually cool. Bingo! The water was 67 on that end. This pond is only 100 yards wide, but the temp varied five degrees in those short 100 yards. I can do 67.
How is this for the ZHI, Shawn?


So I swam short just like I planned, and of course I stayed on the downwind side the whole time. I just swam to the other end and back and the Garmin recorded .73. I love this pond. I then went for a 2.5 miles shuffle and did some walking. While out on foot, I found this pond (left) which was perfuming the air. The fragrance was like that of sweet petunias. 



That small brown water in the background
is the Quiver River where the bull sharks
 roam looking for an entrance
 into the ponds.
But I also saw some really pretty stuff. Flocks of ducks rose off the ponds while I shuffled by, their colors and beauty impressing even my near-sighted eyes. Many of the levees are situated on the banks of the Quiver River thus adding a wildness and a danger unknown on other parts of the farm. To the right is a pic of the drain pipe from one pond that empties into a ditch that runs into the river. Bull sharks run up the river from the Gulf of Mexico, and during times of high water jump the levees and ravage the fish. That's what my friend, Poot, told me. So I am always nervous when I swim a new pond, and I always scream when I hit something hard in the water. At my old new pond, I was hitting stuff on every lap. Turtles, only turtles. I think. But the image and fear I get when I hit something where there is supposed to be nothing is that of an alligator or a bull shark. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Latest New Pond

The pond. 

That was my choice.

By going to the pond instead of to DSU, I chopped off fifty miles of driving and gave myself some solitude with the ducks, the whispering wind, and the lonely water. The more I thought about it that day, the more I became consumed with the idea of swim testing the new pond. I love me a new pond.

I called David a few days ago and he told me that block of newly repaired and recently pumped up ponds have not even been stocked yet. That means the water quality is way above average and will likely be that way the remainder of spring and summer.

I got off work about 11:00 am-- it's terrible to have to work on a Friday-- and had a bite to eat, took a nap, and spent some time with Luvie. Then, to decrease my odds of failing to swim, I put my wet suit on before I left home. It was cloudy and cool and those conditions always sap a lot of my will to work. On the farm, in the vast openness of the delta, the wind and the coolness is always amplified from what it is in town. Getting naked in those uncomfortable conditions always makes me just want to scream, to turn the heater on in my truck, and find a high gear back to town. Not this time.

When I parked at the new swimming hole, I tossed my thermometer in but I didn't wait for a reading, opting instead to wade right in. The water felt pretty good. I swam one lap and then stopped just long enough to check the Garmin watch and the thermometer. The water was 61 and the distance was .79. That was the longest measurement I have ever recorded for a single lap. Great. And the 61 felt really nice. At the first of the week, 66 was freezing. This time I embraced the chill having acclimated a little bit these past few days with this being my third open water this week and year. 

Then I started back swimming and just cruised along without a plan. With my right hand and wrist being in the shape they were in, I was a little reluctant to swim very far. I stopped after one hour and fifty-two minutes and a total distance of 3.67 miles. I became a little tired towards the end, but not too much.

After swimming I decided on a small shuffle. This area has lots of gravel top levee roads which are great for running. There are also a lot of levees without gravel which are nice when the ground is dry. But one simply cannot run on gumbo ground when it is wet. It can't be done.

Saturday, I went out for a run in the morning at a time when the showers had slackened. I managed to shuffle for 8.82 miles and would liked to have gone farther, but I lost my nerve and stopped there. I was a little surprised at how good my legs felt. I was very slow but not too tired. I still don't trust my body and am fearful of re-injury. Next Saturday is the Viking Half Marathon and 5K. I'm trying to decide between the two distances. I want, of course, to do the longer, but the fear still lingers pretty strongly. Penny is working as a volunteer and both of our kids are running the 5K. 

For the week, I 

ran 27.24 miles,
swam 19,352 meters,
lifted weights one time, and
walked 8.64 miles.

That's a pretty good week right there. Luvie was even happy.

Compared to last year, I am a little bit ahead in both running and swimming volume. This year I have swum 16, 492 meters more than last year at the same time, and run 8.04 miles above last year's total . Also I am bench pressing more than I was march a year ago. All in all, I am OK if I can stay healthy and continue to find ways to train.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Workday Friday

I went to the pond Wednesday afternoon and took a shuffle first while my thermometer soaked just off the bank. Mistake. While I ran, the clouds increased, and I lost my drive to wade into and submerge my body in cold water. I am extremely sensitive to sunlight. The more the sun shines, the more courage I have and the more I do. Clouds bring me down. It's a character flaw, I know, but one that I can't seem to conquer.

Also, the pond temp fell another six degrees since Tuesday.

I didn't swim.

After running I did ride around some scouting for a new pond. The catfish industry is rebounding from a long down cycle. During the crisis, a lot of ponds went out of production. Randy Beets and I used to swim in a huge block of ponds on PD Plantation which is a part of Tackett Fish Farm, the largest fish farm in the world. At that time, they had 9,000 acres of water. That number shrunk to 5,000 + but is currently on the way back up. That whole area was drained and turned into soybean fields. 

A few weeks back I drove over to PD on my way to DSU. Our old pond, PD 29, is back in production. I called David, my fish farm friend, and he told me that 29 was lightly stocked but it contained hybrids. I would love to swim that water, but the hybrids are rough costumers. When fed, they churn the water up like a huge school of piranha. Seriously. 

Wednesday I drove over to another block of ponds where we swam a few times. Last time I was over there, they were all drained. Bingo. I found them all pumped up and the levees in that block are really long. I measured one a .33 of a mile. That's two thirds of a mile just down and back not counting the end levees. But before I jump in, however, I am going to call David and find out what's in there. 

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I decided give myself no opportunity to fail, so I drove to DSU to "Get 'r done!" I/we swam

1,100
4 X 50 @ 1:30 25 fast/25 easy
100 25 scull/25 swim 25 scull/25 swim
4 X 50 @ 1:30 25 easy/25 fast
100 25 scull/25 swim 25 scull/25 swim
4 X 50 @ 1:30 25 fast/25 easy
100 25 scull/25 swim 25 scull/25 swim
4 X 50 @ 1:30 25 east/25 fast
100 25 scull/25 swim 25 scull/25 swim
end of Masters. I then swam
1,800
total: 4,100 meters.

At this very moment, I am at school. My students are writing and so am I. Luvie and Baby Kitty are lonely, not being used to me working on Friday. Despite having to work, I will have time for a swim today. The question is, to the pond or to DSU? I'll let you know what decision I make. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ezell's Pulpwood Truck

As promised for my Monday/Wednesday Comp I students, here are some pics of Ezell and his truck.

Number 1


Number 2
Number 3

Number 4
Number 5

Number 6


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Warmer Day, Cooler Pond

The sun was visible and its rays warm again Tuesday for half the day before clouds moved in once more. After work, I took a nap and then made the decision to go back to the pond instead of making the long journey to DSU. That way I could get more walls-free swimming and get home earlier. I had papers to grade, not to mention the gas it saved me.

According to my thermometer, the water temp had dropped several degrees although the night time low was in the mid-fifties and the daytime high was in the mid-seventies. Dude, how does that happen?

In the past, I have been in the pond when it cooled on a warm, sunny day. Twice. Not too long ago I wrote about that. When this happened before, I finally figured after much thought that a cooling pond on a day when the weather should be causing it to warm was caused by up-welling. Specifically, this up-welling, which happens anytime there is wind, cools the pond when the winds are out of the north due to the shorter distance between the levees. The ponds are longer, west to east, than they are north to south. Thus the up-welling occurs at a rate faster than the sun and air can warm the surface water before it is once more forced under to lose its heat.
Clear as mud?


What made Tuesday's experience so shocking to me was the fact that the wind was and had been blowing straight out of the west. In the past this has always meant a warming pond with a cool end and a warm end. Tuesday was different. So that is what I thought about as I wading in and began stroking away.

I figured it out. I think. Although I don't have numbers, the wind was stronger than normal the last two days. There is a lot of cold water down there and with the strong winds, the up-welling must have overwhelmed the warming action of the sun and air. Who knew? I wonder if I can get a PhD in catfish pond water temps?

I had no real plan when I started swimming, only to listen to my body and maybe go a little farther than Monday. I felt really good, better than yesterday and swam 3.4 miles straight. I could have gone farther, but I thought I should be a little less reckless than I was last year when I pushed too hard too early. After the swim I went for a 6.22 miles shuffle. Ducks rose from ponds I ran by, and I thanked God for being allowed to witness their beauty. I had a nice day and one that gave my confidence a needed boost.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Look Mom, No Walls

Today the sun started shinning in the Mississippi Delta. It was such an event, I started my Comp I class writing and then I went out into the parking lot, looked up, and said, "Thank you, God." It's been that long. Our brutal winter broke last week, but the sun came late to the party. Its here now and i
t is spring.

You guessed it. I went to the fish farm.

For months I have looked forward to this day. Twice I tried and twice I failed earlier in the winter to swim these free waters. Now, real endurance training can begin. In January, February, and early March, I have swum in a short course pool. For me that means every eighteen or nineteen strokes I am doing a flip turn. Not that I mind doing turns, it's just that the muscles get a rest. That is too much rest and too often. At the end of Endurance Week, DSU converted to long course, that is the bulkhead was moved from 25 yards to 50 meters. The stroke count doesn't double from short course to long course. It goes from eighteen to forty-eight. That is almost a triple, and that is much better for building endurance.

Swimming in the pond eliminates the wall altogether, so the stoke count goes from forty-eight per length to about sixteen or seventeen hundred per mile. And I don't stop at a mile. In short, this is where open water endurance is built, without walls and flip turns.

The first thing I did when I got there was to take a temperature reading. Dude, it was 71 on the end of the pond where I park. I knew the temps would be lower on the other end. I debated with myself a second or two about my wet suit and then decided to wear it. This early in the year, the temps vary wildly from end to end and even spot to spot. I wanted to be able to stay in as long as I wanted without freezing out. 


One of the drained ponds creating
a housing crises for the turtles.
Sure enough, I parked on the east end of the pond, and as I swam west the temp dropped enough that I could feel it through my coat of neoprene. The chill penetrated my body and eroded my will to swim long. I also noticed turtles parked bumper to bumper on the banks. They were in abundance everywhere. Never have I seen so many. Several times I hit them in the water, and although I knew what was happening, I always screamed out in fright and the image that came to my mind was the dark head of a giant alligator. That image was hard to shake even though I knew in my consciousness that turtles were the culprit.
My pond

As I swam, I tried to come up with an answer of why so many turtles. I have swum fish ponds since 2007 and had never seen anything like this. Then I began to connect the dots. In the section of ponds where I swim now, five or more have been drained for repairs. That means a whole bunch of turtles were suddenly homeless so they moved over to my pond.

I swam a straight 2.41 miles and then went for a shuffle. My legs were disappointingly flat, and I had to cut it off at five miles because I teach on Monday night and needed to get back. 

Now I am thinking about tomorrow. Tuesday is Masters with the Mad Swimming Scientist. But I may stop at the pond instead. The temptation is great.


Not a huge swim, but a big step up
from a short course pool.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day Seven and the Back of the Boat

Endurance Week is over, and tomorrow I go back to work. I can't say I'm happy about that. The break was just a little short, and the training level way below where I wanted needed it to be. But is was an upgrade over what I have been doing.

We woke this morning to another cloudy, drizzly day. It is supposed to be drying out around here, but that prediction has proven to be inaccurate for several days in a row now. I noticed on the Weather Channel App on my phone that tomorrow, previously hailed as a sunny day to be, is now predicted to be partly sunny. That means in reality it will be all clouds. 

This morning we picked up Terry, a friend of ours, from Riverside Nursing Home to take him to church with us. We are still traveling our less than favorite route to the Carroll County Church because of some bridge and road work on the favorite route, which we like more because of the sheep and wildlife we often see travelling that way.

We did, however, see three deer cross the road in front of us on the way to church this morning. That was nice. Not only that, but the Bradford pears have started beautifully blooming. And along the way, Penny blurted out, "Those yellow flowers have bloomed since last week." Spring is here, and just like driving up to a burger joint pick up window, we want fries with that, we want our sun to go with the rest of spring. 

Once at church, we had another treat. At Centerville Baptist, Sunday School is held in the fellowship hall, a slab-on-grade attached to the back of the wood frame sanctuary. All present quickly detected a strong odor of natural gas, so Gerald turned off the heater and opened the back door giving us an earful of God speaking softly through his ubiquitous radio. A mockingbird and jay were in a duet, or duel. for who could sing the sweetest. I think the mockingbird was the most melodious, but the jaybird was nice in his simplicity of sound.

During the class, Sheila, our teacher, asked,"What kind of power impresses you?" The lesson was from Mark 4, the chapter about Jesus asleep in the back of the boat in the Sea of Galilee when the storm arises that threatens to destroy them. You know the story, right? If not, read it for yourself.

Sister Beth, the pastors wife, responded to the query with her fascination of storms, how thunderstorms and tornadoes are awesome in their power and beauty. I get it. They impress me also. I didn't answer, not out loud, but for me it has always been endurance. OK, endurance does not equal power but close enough.

As long as I can remember, endurance has struck me as an admirable trait. Besides athletic endurance, longevity in all walks of life is something I esteem. People who stay married a long time, who work the same job for decades, who prodigiously produce literature or paintings or whatever. 

Back to the text. A boat on the Sea of Galilee was the area of expertise for several of Jesus' disciples. They were fishermen by profession and the Sea of Galilee was their office. They knew how to handle a boat. This was not their first storm. In my mind's eye, I see them, smug in their self-confidence, as Jesus settles in for a nap. We can handle this, they may have said to themselves. But they couldn't, not in their hard won skill and experience. Jesus response, when awakened, was that they should have handled it by their faith.

After bragging in my own mind-- sometime back-- about the fact that I knew exactly how to train for and complete a marathon swim, specifically the Chicot Challenge, I have been swarmed with issues of weather, a hot Endless Pool, an aching hand, closed pools, missed workouts, a troubling shoulder, a painful wrist, and self doubts. It is past time to go to the back of the boat and wake Jesus. 

Actually, I did that already. You can help. Pray for and with me. 

Things are looking up, since my return to humility at the back of the boat. The shoulder is better, the water is warming, and I am praying daily, taking nothing for granted, not anymore. No Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat. I need Him. I need Him awake. I need Him rebuking the winds. 

Last week with Jesus awake, I 

swam 14,953 meters,
ran 18.2 miles,
lifted weights one time, and 
walked 5.59 miles.

Not a banner week, but not a bad one either. Now the real training begins. Stay in the boat, Jesus. Don't go to sleep. I need you every day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day Six

It was raining during the night but not when I awakened this morning. What!?! Nice. According to the weatherman, it was supposed to start drying up a bit. It did a little, but the sun never came out all day long. 

I took advantage of the semi-dry but cloudy day to take Jeff to the Recycle Bins. This has become a habit with us. In fact, he starts following me around on Saturday mornings and begging. He looks at me with an intensity in his eyes. Sometimes he pokes my lower leg with his nose. He wants to get in the truck and go. So we did as we usually do.
Jeff barking at a bird house. He's bad!


I dumped the recycle stuff, and then Jeff and I went around the paved trail. He likes that and we set a record time for making the loop. We stayed out of the woods where there is a forest trail because the river is all up out of its banks right now on account of the monsoons. Jeff and I try to cover a mile and when we got 1.03 done this morning, we climbed into the truck and left.

When we leave there, we always go riding looking for cats. Jeff loves cats and if he sees one he whines like a little baby. We stopped beside a house we always drive by because a whole heard of felines live there. The problem with Jeff is his eyesight is not good and if the cats don't move, he can't see them. Today they moved and he saw them and whined. That makes me happy.

Then we always ride some more and go by a couple of house that have dogs. Jeff likes dogs almost as much as cats. If he sees a dog, he gets happy and whines. We saw dogs. One dog, a big red shaggy one, approached the truck, rared up, and sniffed Jeff's nose while we were stopped in the middle of the road. Sweet.

After I took Jeff home, I went out for a shuffle and did 6.01 miles. The Viking Half Marathon is in two weeks. I am beginning to believe I may do it. Maybe. One thing is for sure: if I think there is a much of a risk of re-injury, I won't do it.

Later in the afternoon, I went outdoors for some dry land. Below are a couple of pics of Plate City Gym. I have made a few improvements lately. I have some more things in mind. This is not the whole of the gym, but this is the center piece, the place where I prepare my muscles for the training it takes to complete the Challenge.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Day Five

Day five started like all the other days this week, with rain. I am going to enjoy the sunshine when if it ever comes. I went to get Ollie, but she never came to the door. Why does no one ever tell me these things? I would love to be able to stay in bed some mornings. But no, that will never happen.

I didn't have a lot planned, just to swim until my arms fell off. It would be too wet to do anything else on Plate City, and I thought my legs might need the day off. I am still insecure about my ability to stay healthy right now. It takes awhile to get over that. Plus I am having some sensations that set me on edge. I don't remember having these when I stress fractured my tibia. Maybe I did, but I don't remember them. So when I have some of these strange feelings-- and I am having them in boot feet-- I get nervous and think the sky is falling.

Before I left for DSU, I checked my email and found a nefarious message from work that put me in a sour mood and necessitated me going by the Registrar's Office at Delta State and spending a lot of time there, time that I had planned to use swimming. When I finally did make it to the pool, I was delighted to see they had converted to long course. Praise God for that. I was horrified, however, to find that they were not only still pressure washing the floor, but the washer was now fully INSIDE the building. Yes, some doors were open, but dude, it was sickening, the fumes. I did swim, but left early and vowed to never repeat a swim with a pressure washer. I choked through

2,200 41:37
4 X 50 @ 1:00
8 X 100 @ 2:30
100 easy
total: 3,300 long course meters.

Then I went home and started hanging out with Luvie and waiting on my bride to get in. We are going out to eat, the highlight of my week.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day Four

Day Four was a bit of a disappointment if numbers are all that matter. Numbers are not all that matter. But Endurance Week is looking more and more like just a week off work. Yesterday I left the pool early due to a general fatigue that followed me the rest of the day and into the night. This morning, I slept in a little longer than normal and spent some time with the cats. I posted about that already, about the nostalgia that invaded my soul upon waking. 

I gave into the nostalgia and decided not to make the drive to DSU. It takes me a minimum of four hours to make a swim there. I just didn't want to do it. What I did instead was take a long (for me at the present time) run. The rain held off, so I went shuffling in the morning and went longer than I have since I restarted a couple of weeks ago. I did 5.21 miles of shuffling and .5 miles of walking.

Normally I would lift weights in the afternoon when not swimming. What I did instead was work on Plate City Gym. I got a lot done although it is difficult to put into words exactly what all that was. Part of it was getting things cleaned up. I put nails into some of the wooden posts and was able to get a lot of plates off the ground. I also laid some concrete blocks to give me a little more room for dumbbells and kettle bells. Another thing I started but didn't finish was to work on the leg press machine. I am attempting to make it where I have a greater range of motion. My attempt today was a failure, but I'll work on it more tomorrow.

Tomorrow after DSU. Yes, I do plan to make the drive and go for a pretty big one tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe we will get that sunshine the weather man has been promising us for the weekend. We haven't seen the sun here in more than a day for the past several weeks. That is beginning to wear on me.

Today?

I awakened this morning in a state of nostalgia. I think it was the trip to the tooth dentist that did it. Having to do an unpleasant task always sets me to yearning for a pleasant one, or it sets my memory roaming over the back roads of my experience seeking some pleasant vistas of the past.

Not that my tooth dentist is a bad one, mind you. He is my age, we grew up together, and I still let him work on my teeth. Besides being a good tooth dentist, he's very nice to my mother, and that endears me to him. But who likes to keep that appointment? I didn't think so.

So I woke up with a strong desire to do something unusually pleasant. One thing I thought about doing was to get in my truck and ride over some of my old cycling territory. In the years 2009 and 2010, I spent almost every Friday on a quest to ride at least 100 miles on my Trek. That was before marathon swimming took over my life. Much of that riding was done in Tallahatchie County, and I miss some of my stops and the people I met along the way. I wonder about James Grammar in Cascilla, the Corner Store in Pope, Janie's in Tillatoba, and other places where I rode and ate hamburgers and greasy fries, smacking and licking my fingers.

By the way, last week I published an historical cycling piece, "Glendora." That story dates from the time when I spent untold hours rambling my world on a bicycle finding stories, meeting people, petting cats. I have many more tales from that time, and I may periodically publish one on this blog. Maybe.

Speaking of cycling, I miss it terribly and have been trying to figure a way to reincorporate it into my life. I think I found an answer to the problem. The hindrance has been all the swim training I have to do to complete my Big Two. My Big Two are the Chicot Challenge in early June and Swim the Suck in early October. These two swims bookend my athletic year in the water and are a strange snapshot of life. 

The first, the Chicot Challenge, is a personal swim that morphed into a fundraiser for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. This year's edition, set for June 6th, is scheduled for nineteen miles. You can't just go out and swim nineteen miles. You have to train. You have to train hard. You have to train for a long time. Oddly, my old nemesis, Randy Beets, actually helps me pull this one off. Last year, he flew in from Morganton, North Carolina, helped crew the swim, swam a few of the later miles with me, and then gave the largest donation I received for the DFM before flying home. 

The second, the Suck, is one of the premier open water events in the country and takes place in the Tennessee River near Chattanooga. In this one, Randy Beets and I are mortal enemies and fight each other with a viciousness and rage that can only be described as maniacal. All the good will between us evaporates like snow in the Mississippi sun, and we result to cyber-bullying and any other kind of bullying we can come up with in a desperate attempt the achieve an edge over each other. Last year my cyber bullying campaign was so effective that Beets, after making the trip to Tennessee for the showdown, chickened out and stayed in bed on race morning. Wussie.

Usually after the Suck, I reduce my swimming to the two regularly scheduled Masters practices with the Mad Swimming Scientist at Delta State. Running and weight lifting take up the remaining energy my body has to consume in order to stay happy and healthy. But an idea! The weather is normally warm and pleasant until about mid-December. That gives me eight to ten weeks I could call Cycling Season. Hot Dog, I'm gunna do it!

So I have a plan for this fall, but what about today? Maybe I can figure it out over another cup of coffee. Maybe.
.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day Three

I went to DSU with the idea of scaling back a bit, but not like what I actually did. Since this was the first time this year to swim three days in a row, prudence said I should lighten up a some. My body said I should lighten up a lot. I simply crashed. What I swam was

1,500
500 back kick/swim with fins
2 X 150 RIM
1 X 200 RIM
4 X 75 hard/easy/hard by 25 @ 1:30
250 kick with fins
250 easy
total: 3,300 yards = 3,016 meters.

I just didn't have the fire in the belly. 

I also needed to get back to town because I had an appointment with the tooth dentist to get my teeth looked at. After I got home from the tooth dentist and getting my teeth cleaned and examined, I turned on the local news to hear about a book signing at the local book store. It was "a fiction novel," the reporter told us. Imagine.

That pretty much finished ruining my day. I know, I shouldn't be so sensitive. I tell my students often not to be English majors, not if they want to be happy. Better be a tooth dentist or something like that. Or write fiction novels.

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe a better one. At least I don't have to go back to the tooth dentist until next week.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Day Two

Tuesday, March 9th, was the second day of Endurance Week, and I call it a success. I went to DSU and met Ricky Smith there. Like me, he is a Masters swim refugee this week and got off work today so he could get in at least one swim. On the way, I stopped off at Coleman 1-- a large pond I have swum that lies adjacent to one of the highways I drive to DSU-- and took a temperature reading. It was 49. The weather has finally warmed up, but we have no sun, and the water will stay cold until we get some sunshine. Maybe next week.

Ricky and I swam

1,150 warm up
6 X 100 RIM @ 2:30
4 X 200 r:30 2nd 50 and last 25 hard
100 easy
6 x 50 with pull buoy between ankles
6 X 50 @ 1:00 first three 25 hard/25 easy; 2nd three 25 easy/25 hard
Ricky cooled down 200 easy and left. I swam
1,400 more in 24:57 for a 
total: 4,650 yards = 4,250 meters.

It was a pretty good swim, though I did get tired on the last set. Also, I think I consumed far too much exhaust from the pressure washer Jake was using to clean the tile floor. Yes, he had it in a doorway with the exhaust pointed outside. But I could smell the engines output from the start. Did I mention that I drove home with a headache. I almost never have a headache. I hope he is through with that.

Before heading home I went to Skene, hugged my grandchildren, and petted Smu. If it had been sunny I may have stayed. We could have thrown rocks or walked to the airport. But with the leaves off the trees and the sky overcast, the delta is bleak, and I wanted to get back to town. Normally I love the county, but the delta in the winter has always been depressing to me. I can't take it. Town hides the hideousness of the countryside.

At home I put my running clothes and shoes on and headed out the door. I felt pretty good and I shuffled the longest of my comeback: 4.15 and walked .45 miles.

Tomorrow I plan to do it all again. With the rain, I have not been able to do anything to Plate City. Maybe later. I'm just trying to enjoy the weather as God provides it. I just wish He would provide us some sunshine.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day One

The first day of my Spring Break Endurance Week was a good one. I made the sojourn to DSU and swam

1,300 21:44
5 X 100 RIM
1,300 21:50
4 X 150 middle 50 hard @ 3:00
6 x 100 @ 2:00
500 easy
total: 4,800 meters = 4,387 meters.

After returning home, I went out for a short, easy shuffle doing 2.83 miles followed by a .4 mile walk. Believe it or not, that was the day. It was five o'clock and I packed it inside for the night. 

That is the main thing I hate about having to go all the way to DSU to swim. I can't get in the pool there until 11:30 at earliest. That means I spend a bit of time hanging out with the cats first. Then the drive alone to and fro consumes two hours. So with three and a half hours taken out of the middle of the day, it's pretty hard to get much else done. But with the ponds too cold, DSU is the only real option I have. Thank God for it. Tomorrow I plan to return.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Re-start, Week Two

My numbers were a little better last week but not much. To my great disappointing, I was able to swim only two times. But next week is Spring Break, and I hope to do some serious making up. The ponds are still far too cold for me to swim even with a wet suit, and Masters has been cancelled for the week. But DSU's pool will be open each day for a couple of hours, and I plan to make the trip as often as possible.

On the running front, things are getting a little better. After a major injury, it takes time to learn once more to trust your body. My trust has not fully returned but some came back last week. I need the running in preparation for the Chicot Challenge for a couple of reasons. One reason is the running prepares my legs for the ten to twelve hours of kicking I will do. I don't kick much, but a full day of two-beat kicking still takes a bit of fitness. Another reason is the cardiovascular benefits of running, especially this time of year when I can only enter the water sporadically, are crucial for a marathon swim. Finally, without running, controlling my weight has always proven pretty much impossible. The added weight is not near the impediment it is in running, but it is not ideal for swimming. 

For the week of 3/2-3/8, I

ran 13.37 miles
lifted weights three times
walked 9.47 miles, and  
swam 7,860 meters.

For the week of 3/9-3/15, I not only hope for a big week of swimming but some other things as well. I hope to use my week of freedom to do some work on Plate City Gym. One improvement I want and need to make in on my leg press machine. As it is currently set up, the range of motion is too limited. For the longest time I couldn't figure a way to rectify that but finally it came to mind how to make it work. Although that will not impact my swimming, it should help my running, general health, and enjoyment of the gym. Another thing I want to do is lay down a few more concrete blocks. Currently I have dumbbells and kettle bells sitting on grass. This will be primarily a cosmetic and convenience improvement. An improvement that could impact my swimming, however, is to redo my speed bag, which currently is unusable due to rotten wood. The speed bag is a conditioning tool used by boxers but swimmers can use all the help we can get.

My plans for Plate City also involve a greater use of cross-fit type workouts. Currently, I have focused primarily on traditional weight lifting. Slowly I have done more and more exercises cross-fitters do. One I made up myself but inspired by the c-f movement was to do a long set on the swim pull machine and then run a mile carrying hand weights. After several rounds of this, I felt worked out in a way that should translate into the water. I hope to spend a bit of time next week just thinking of new workouts. 

The Challenge cometh. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Redneck IM

After missing Masters Thursday because of a weather cancellation, I was eager to find out if the pool would open Friday. It did and I went. I saw Don Smith there. Don used to be a Dam swimmer before he went solo and swims at lunch three times a week. Seeing him reminded me a favorite set of his, the Redneck IM. What's that you ask? Basically the Redneck IM is the IM minus the butterfly, which few of us non-real swimmers ever learned.

Since the pool is currently set up for short course, I decided on a RIM set. What does short course have to do with it? Well, my endurance on the breast stroke is marginal at best. Doing one full length of long course is just about me limit, but short course 25s are doable. That makes 25 free, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free. I found the set to be challenging. The whole workout looked like this:

1,150 19:59
4 X 100 RIM @ 2:00 (1:40-1:42)
1,150 19:47
10 X 50 @ 1:00
1,150 19:40
10 X 25 @ :30
total: 4,600 yards = 4,204 meters.

I did a small shuffle when I got home and that finished up my day of training.

Penny and I were scheduled to eat out with John and Patsy. Remember John? Like me he is itching for Twin Rivers to reopen so we can start training again. We eat out with them once a month. This time he called and said Patsy just couldn't make it but asked if we could come by and pray for Patsy. She has been having some severe health problems and the strain has been taking a toll on them both. If you pray, please add John and Patsy to your list.

My wife and I have now lived long enough to see firsthand how difficult getting old can be. It presents challenges that the rest of our lives leaves us ill equipped to deal with. I saw it with my dad. I am seeing it now with my mom. We saw it with Penny's mom. We are seeing it with her dad. We see it with John and Patsy.

Take care of your health while you are able. Enjoy your health while you can. Thank God for your health while you have it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Glendora

It is one of the world’s dreadful, dreary places reminiscent of a third-world village stricken by a natural disaster. But its aged inhabitants, descendants of the brave, strong souls who conquered the wilderness there, still remember the beauty, the glory, the sadness that was Glendora, Mississippi.  Come now, O Muse, and tell how Biker Guy endured cold, battled dogs, rode over pavement, pushed through gravel, inexorably drawn to the Oracle of Tallahatchie where he received the story of Glendora, a story that left him stunned, silent, and sleepless.

I, Biker Guy, was in my own home and minding my own business when something like the hand of God touched me. Immediately I became restless, pacing the floors of my house like a leopard paces inside a cage. When coffee failed, my hand found a familiar volume of county maps. Hastily and seemingly without purpose, I flipped from page to page until my eyes gazed over the well-worn, personally annotated Tallahatchie County Road Map. My fingers traced a line that peeled off of Teasdale Road to the east just on the outskirts of Charleston. I have never ridden that one, I said to myself. But that wasn’t it; my eyes shifted left, to the western part of the county. Glendora. I’ve been there, an ugly place of poverty and hopelessness.

I used to think I rode to find stories. Now I know that I ride and stories find me. I have to make myself available, but the stories come from the outside. Was there a story at Glendora? How could there be in such a place as that? Why was I drawn to ride there? I didn’t know; sometimes the ride answers the questions. Sometimes the ride doesn’t.

Having friends, church members, in Tutwiler, I thought maybe I could make it a two-fer — I could ride through Glendora and then go up and see my people in Tutwiler. By golly, that was a plan and it got me excited, so excited in fact that I didn’t even go to the DSU Masters Swim practice that Thursday night. I have swum 307 miles this year, so obviously swimming means a lot to me. But sometimes a ride just takes over; I was taken over. I spent the evening of Thursday November 11, 2010, getting my clothes together, washing my water bottles, charging the batteries on my camera, retiring early to bed. Friday morning I would ride.

Jaybirds were scolding squirrels and the sun was breaking the eastern horizon when I pedaled my recently tuned up Trek over the Tallahatchie Bridge and onto Money Road. The air was cold but the sky was blue and the forecast was for high seventies by mid-afternoon.  Thirteen miles out, a pack of six angry hounds gave me severe chase. This had happened before, and I had to sprint hard to keep their snapping teeth out of my skinny calves. At the end of Money Road, still breathing hard from my sprint, I had the fortitude to turn west instead of east where a cup of hot coffee and a soft chair awaited me in the hamlet of Phillipp barely two miles away.

Not far west from where Money Road joins Highway 8 is a small, nondescript road that connects to another road that leads to Minter City. At Minter City, another untraveled-by-strangers road heads north towards Glendora. The catch here is that the road turns gravel and makes a large circle. But somewhere on the left is a small gravel road that connects to Glendora. At the gravel, I dismounted my bike, took off my CamelBak Mule, and unpacked my running shoes. A quick change of footwear and I was pushing my bicycle on the gravel traveling to my destined fate. But after a mile and a half, I had the terrible feeling that something was wrong. And it was.

Someone stole the road. Really. It ain’t there. There is absolutely no way I could have walked past and not have seen it. So I made the big loop and came all the way back to Minter City, frustrated, confused, and late. My friends in Tutwiler were expecting me in just a little while, and I had made absolutely no progress in getting there. 

 So then I did what I really didn’t want to do: I rode up Highway 49. With the rumble-strip and the huge eighteen-wheelers roaring north and south, riding the five miles from Minter City to Glendora was like dodging dragons over and over again. With the approach of each monster, I would cross the rumble strip, dismount the bike, and prepare to hurl my body into the ditch if necessary.

But battling dogs and facing eighteen-wheelers made riding into Glendora a relief. Although I felt pressed for time, I rode east to see if the bridge and the road I had tried to come in on from Minter City were still there. The bridge was there but no longer in use. A pile of dirt had been bulldozed in front blocking the road for traffic. Vines grew over the rusting but once magnificent structure. I got off the bike and walked over, the cleats on my biking shoes clicking like the hoofs of a horse. 

On the other side of the bridge, the gravel road I had sought led south through the delta farmland. While I gazed to the south tracing the road with my eyes as far as I could see, an ancient woman standing on the porch of a sprawling, decaying house to my left caught my attention and motioned for me the come to her. I pushed my bike into her yard, wondering what she wanted.

“It doesn’t go through anymore,” she said.

I eyed her suspiciously. Her hair was white and her face looked like firecrackers had gone off under the skin and then the damage had been pressed back down by a hot waffle iron. She looked, at best, like a very old version of The Wizard of Oz’s wicked witch of the west. A very old version.
I took a picture of the old woman on her porch.

“The road,” she added, obviously seeing my confusion.

“The road?”

“The one you wanted to push through from Minter City.”

“Oh, yeah. I noticed. How did you . . .?”

“I have coffee ready,” she said interrupting me and going inside. I leaned my bike against the porch, took off my biking shoes, and climbed the steps.

“Come on in,” she yelled from behind a screen door.

       I walked in and the wood door closed behind me. Going inside was like entering a cave and I half expected bats to be hanging from the ceiling. I found her seated at a small kitchen table that joined her living room. The room was dark and the house was oppressively hot with a gas heater on a nearby wall burning fiercely. A black cat hissed at me and went slinking off into the shadows. I began at once to sweat. She was a frightful looking thing maybe a hundred years old, and immediately I felt uneasy, nervous, afraid.

“The county cut that road off three years ago. Sit,” she said pointing with a long arthritic finger to a cup of coffee she had already poured.

“How did you know . . .?”

“He came walking into town in 1866. Spring time,” she said interrupting me again.

“Who?” I asked noticing a demonic-looking figurine peeking at me from a little shelf on the wall.

“This place was called Cain’s Landing after Peter Cain who was one of the first whites to settle here before the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Cain was the one who had the vision to leave room for the railroad tracks, and to make the main street wide enough. By the time of the Civil War, a three-story hotel stood on the south side of Main Street. It was a magnificent structure with all sorts of decorative woodwork and a blank sign over the front door because big John Jones couldn’t make up his mind what to call the place. He walked down Main Street and into the hotel . . . .”

“Who? Who walked into town and down Main Street and into the hotel?”

“Him,” she said pointing that painful looking finger at an ancient photograph she laid on the table. “Glen.”
My great, great uncle, W. S. Krebbs.

“Hey. He looks familiar,” I said straining my eyes in the darkness of the room. “I’ve seen that photograph. I have it!”


“That,” she said, “is Stephen Krebbs’ brother.”

“Stephen Krebbs! He’s my . . .”

“Great, great grandfather,” she said finishing my sentence.

“How do you know all this? And you called him Glen. His name,” I said pointing at the picture, “was W. S.”

“You’re right. His name was W. S. But when he came here after the War, he went by Glen.”

“After the War? The information my momma gave me says he died at Shiloh.”

“He did fight at Shiloh and was wounded in the battle, but he didn’t die there. He had a friend write home and say he had passed.”

“What? You mean he let his family think he was dead? Why?”

“His brother, Stephen, could and did pass for white. He married a white woman and went on with his life after the War. But Glen, he looked like a full-blooded Indian, and he knew what life would be like for him if he went back to Louisville, Mississippi. So after the war he wanted a new start and he began wandering around Tennessee and northern Mississippi and eventually he wound up here. He had a restless spirit of wanderlust, the desire to see, to know his world. You have his spirit.”

The coffee was good but my head was spinning as I tried to understand what was happening. I didn’t even know this woman’s name, but when she spoke again, her voice lassoed me like a cowboy ropes a steer, and I was as captive as if I had been placed in handcuffs and leg irons and locked behind bars.

“He came walking up Main Street in his Confederate uniform on a sunny spring day and everything female fell in love. The old women wanted to be his mother, and the young women wanted to marry him. He walked right into the hotel, slapped down a twenty dollar gold piece and rented a room. ‘Anything else?’ John Jones asked him. ‘Yeah, a job,’ was his reply. Jacob Coleman, who was standing nearby having come into the hotel to pick up his mail, asked ‘What can you do?’  All the swarthy stranger said in return was ‘Work.’ Coleman hired him on the spot.”

I think she gave me something to eat at this point, maybe a sausage and biscuit, but I’m not even sure. It was like the room just kept getting darker and the only reality was her voice and my hearing it, a voice that drew me ever deeper into her story.

“Jacob Coleman owned 160 acres on the edge of town, right over there” she said pointing but I’m not sure where. “Most of his land, almost everything around here then was covered in the delta’s primeval forest. Coleman had a milk cow, raised pigs and chickens, grew a garden, and cultivated about one acre of cotton. Like most of the farmers here, he would clear a little bit of land every year, ringing the trees with an axe, and then after they died, chop them down the next year when the wood was softer. The third year he would remove the stumps by burning, chopping, digging, or pulling them up with mules. Each spring he would add one or two rows to his cotton patch. He set Glen to chopping which Glen proved to be very good at. With shirt off and perspiration dripping from bronzed body, he became the main attraction for all the ladies and lasses of Cain’s Landing. 

The women even formed a bird-watching society, which was nothing more than an excuse to wander in the countryside and watch Glen Krebbs chop wood. Coleman thought that was amusing until he noticed his own daughter gazing upon Krebbs’ dark torso. When he caught the two chatting familiarly one day while Glen ate his lunch in the back yard, Coleman fired him on the spot. This was a huge blow to Glen who, though he had no money, did have energy and intelligence. And since he was half-white and had fought for and shed blood for the Confederacy, he felt qualified to court a white girl. Little did he know of the Delta mentality.”

“What did he do then?”

“He walked back to Main Street and got another job. He worked some for the hotel, sweeping, painting, patching; he worked some for the blacksmith shop; he did odd jobs for several people who lived in or near town. But those with daughters always fired him. No need though; Glen had eyes for only one girl: Coleman’s daughter.”

“How did Coleman keep them apart?”

“How? For awhile, they saw each other only at church, although they were forbidden to speak to one another. Still, it was obvious to anyone with a pulse that they were madly in love. Then it became common to hear a shotgun blast late in the night once or twice a week out near the Coleman farm. Glen came in to work one morning at the hotel with a wrapped up right arm. Seems that somehow he got shot, grazed by a buckshot pellet, there,” she said touching me on the elbow.

I startled and thoughtlessly pulled down my arm warmer revealing a ragged scar on my right elbow. “I, uh, I fell on a sling blade when I was a boy,” I stammered.

“This went on for three years,” she started back. In the room I could see only her eyes now. It was like I drifted, bodiless, right through her blues eyes and into the world of Glen Krebbs. “Although they didn’t approve, everyone in town wondered why they didn’t run off and marry. But Jacob Coleman died and then, despite Mrs. Coleman’s embarrassment, her daughter and Glen courted openly. When they married in the Presbyterian Church, the only person to attend, besides Mrs. Coleman, was John Jones.”

“He never won the town people over?”

“People liked Glen, they admired him even, but the color line was too strong for them to cross. Still he achieved a certain amount of respectability. He moved in with the Colemans and took over the farm. They had two children and Glen kept expanding the cotton patch until it was a five acre field, enough in that day to make a decent living and even to save a bit. Then some long hunters came through.”

“Long hunters?”

“They called them long hunters because they left home for long periods of time, up to two years, and hunted and trapped. This was a mangy, dangerous bunch, five of them, out of Tennessee. They stayed around the saloon for a few days and having seen Glen’s wife, they became enamored of her. Since she was married to an Indian, they presumed her to be a woman of ill-repute. Catching her walking from town one night, they pounced upon her and when she resisted, they violated and murdered her right out there not a couple of hundred yards from her own front door.”

“What? They killed my uncle’s wife!!”

“Brutally and without mercy. The next morning Glen walked out of town the opposite direction from which he had walked in seven years earlier. Only this time his face was covered in war paint. He tracked down the long hunters and killed them, brutally and without mercy, one by one. When word got out that an Indian had killed five white men a couple of months later, a posse of a dozen men showed up looking for Glen who was living back at the farm then. Glen took to the run and for ten months they tracked him like a wounded deer always a step behind him. Then on April 15, 1874, exactly one year to the day after the murder of his wife, Glen Krebbs was found hanging from the porch of the hotel.”

“Hanging? They caught him?”

“They would have never caught him. He did it himself. He could live no longer without her.”

The darkness was now complete. I hung my head and silently but forcefully wept. A paper towel found my hand in the dark, and I wiped my face, blew my nose, sighed deeply.

“What happened to his children?” I asked after regaining a measure of composure.

“Who knows? Mrs. Coleman died soon after and the kids just disappeared. Some said the Indians got them. There was a light-skinned strain in the last bunch of them that was in this country.”

We sat in silence for at least a dozen minutes. Then I realized, “Her name? You never even told me her name.”

“Dora,” she answered. “Her name was Dora.”

There was another span of silence while the light slowly came back into the room. Then she arose and spoke: “You must go now. Your friends in Tutwiler wait for you.”

And with that I, Biker Guy, left. I got on my bike, and made my way out of town and up the old Highway 49. I rode away, far far away from the glory, but not one inch and not one second from the sadness that was and is Glendora, Mississippi.