Monday, August 31, 2015

Luvie's Report

Luvie was in a pretty good mood at the end of the week despite that I only swam twice for a total of 10,500 meters. Since I formally withdrew from Swim the Suck, he is taking the swimming like I am: whatever. I don't know if I am burnt out but I am burnt down some. Since my 19-mile Chicot Challenge, I have not had much enthusiasm for swimming, and even the thought of driving to Chattanooga and swimming 10 miles only makes me want to take a nap.

I started the week knocking off 4.05 miles on the road. Tuesday, I even met John at the pool and swam 4,400 as

10 X 50 @ 1:15
800 small paddles
2 X 200
100 breast/free
5 X 100 (3 with medium paddles).

After the swim I ran 10.05 miles with some multi-pacing. Sleep was sweet that night.

Wednesday John and I were back at Twin Rivers. Finally, we have outlasted the kids, and we have it all to ourselves again. I swam 2:09:52 straight. My pace was way slow and I only covered 6,100 meters, but without a race coming up, that is good enough. I managed to shuffle 6.12 miles after the swim.

John was out Thursday and I was tired so all I did was a 2.16 mile shuffle. Friday, however, was super as Buddy Bones and I did our first adventure run of the year, which I have already written about.

Saturday was another one of those slow days when I lost my mojo for everything. I eventually forced myself outdoors for some weightlifting, upper and lower body. For the week, I

ran 36.08 and walked 5.7 miles,
swam 10,500 meters, and 
lifted weights one time.

This is not much if I were training for the Suck, but it was a pretty good week preparing for The Great Noxapater Journey Run.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

ATM Update

There has been a break in the case. Another article on the Great Greenwood ATM Heist appeared in Sunday's Commonwealth. The piece was short, the information sparse, but at least it was something. The ATM has been found although the Leflore County Sheriff's Department is not saying where. They are also not revealing the state of the machine, but who can doubt that all the cash is gone. 

What they are saying is the truck the ATM was loaded onto belonged to Larry Kelly, a local legend of the cooking variety. His place of business, Larry's Fish House, is one of the most popular eateries in the area, and my wife and I frequent it often. Once, his wife even wrote a donation to my swim efforts when Penny and I went there to eat the night before Chicot Challenge I. The authorities know about the ATM landing on Larry's truck because security footage shows the thieves loading it onto the back of what I presume was a seriously overloaded pickup. When police arrived at the bank, the ATM was gone and the forklift was sitting in its place, still running, idling as if to say, "Nanny nanny boo boo!" 

Kelly reported his truck stolen at about 2:45 am on August 22nd. Are you keeping track of the crimes here? There was a stolen truck, a stolen forklift, and a stolen ATM. And that is just what the general public knows. Who knows what else they did. I bet there is a stolen something else somewhere and maybe an unpaid bill here or there. My estimation of these thieves grows with each passing Commonwealth article. I hope there are more. Articles I mean.

Besides the ATM, Kelly's truck was found, abandoned, and in perfect order except for a "stripped steering column." Excuse me, but I do not know what that means. Exactly how does one strip a steering column? Does that mean the steering column is gone or that the wheel turns and the tires don't or has a tie-rod end dropped? If communication is the first order of good writing, then someone needs to take my Comp I class.

Anyway, I hope you find this little update as amusing interesting as I do. Stay tuned. As soon as I learn more, I will let you know.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Season's First Shike

Buddy Bones and I hit the road Friday morning, August 28th, for our first shike of the year. Yes, that is a new word coined by me and if you use it I will sue you for all of your money. Not really. Please spread my brilliant creation around all you want and practice the concept because shiking is good for your health as well as your soul. It's also a lot of fun, or can be. The word is a combination of "shuffle" and "hike" which aptly describes what Buddy and I do when I am fit enough to keep up with him. We shuffle along and hike while we explore roads, take pictures, and have fun. Sometimes I call these things "adventure runs" because we seek adventure and find it by seeing new sights, spying wild animals, and sometimes meeting new people. For me, exploring roads alone is always an adventure.

I was at work, at lunch in our massive and spectacular break room this past Thursday when Katheryn Ledbetter and I bit food together and chatted about our weekends. "I want a place to run where I feel that inward excitement over the idea of going," I told her while I gnawed on a piece of chewy leftover pizza, made tough by too much time in the microwave. 

"Why don't you go to Malmaison, or to Eden?" She then proceeded to describe some roads in the Eden, MS and Hillside National Wildlife Refuge area near Yazoo City. I was stunned. Cha-ching. I didn't expect such good advice while eating a piece of pizza with a science teacher who lives in Indianola. But I always said, good advice is where you find it. Immediately the wheels started turning in my mind, and that inner intrigue, that sought excitement began to build within my innards.

I stayed with Mom Thursday night but came home before my wife left for work and began to get my stuff together. I had to pick up the day help and the plan was to be loaded and ready to go after I delivered the help to West Harding Street. To make a short story long, I was at one of the Malmaison hunter stations at 8:53. When Buddy and I shuffled away from the truck, the air was still cool. 

We started a gentle but steady climb as we left the Delta and entered the hills. After a couple of miles, the gravel gave way to pavement and trees lined the narrow road giving shade while the crows cawed overhead and crickets chirped from the roadside grass. I came upon an area that looked like a golf course but it wasn't, just a place where four houses sat in a partially opened field, but instead of cow grass, there was manicured lawn grass spread out over several acres of lovely hill, hollows, and pine trees. Somebody loves his lawn mower, I thought.

Later I came to a T in the road where the pavement went left and straight ahead turned gravel. I followed the pavement and the sign said I was no longer on Nixon-Flatt Road but on one named Sixteenth Section. This one went about a mile and ran into another paved road. I took a left for no reason in particular and not very long later I came upon Sparta Church and Cemetery. I had been here once when my wife's aunt was buried there. The procession that day had come from the town of Holcomb where I think I will park the next time I run this area. I snapped a couple of pics and headed back the other way. 

At the cemetery, I was 5.85 miles from the truck, so I didn't turn back onto Sixteenth Section Road right away but did an out and back first on what I now know is Sparta Road before coming back the way I had come. After I ran Sixteenth Section the second time, I headed down the gravel road at the T. I got to a house place that had maybe fifty dogs (OK, maybe twenty) who made such a fuss that I turned around and headed back. My goal for the day was twenty miles, but I was tiring and despite the cool weather at the start, it was now pretty warm. 

Going back down Nixon-Flatt was nice because first, a car pulled up and somebody said, "What are you doing out here, Zane?" It was Todd Fincher's dental assistant, Annette. 

"I'm just running and rambling," I told her. She had two dogs in her vehicle and told me that she and her husband are building a house in the area. It's always nice to know people who can help you if your body breaks down.

The second reason Nixon-Flatt was so good going that way was it is mostly downhill. I was shuffling three miles at a time and walking one. That pattern was about to break as my legs were wearing out. Before I got all the way back, I took a side road the add a little distance. Then I walked in to the truck with 18.01 miles, 13.7 of which was shuffling and 4.31 was hiking. I had had enough. I was tired, and Buddy and I considered the day a success. I think we will come back. There are a lot of roads I haven't seen yet, and thanks, Katheryn for the idea. If you have any more, let me know.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Great Greenwood ATM Heist

We had a murder once, the kind you could make a movie about, not the shootout in the street type variety that we are all too familiar with. Actually, we have had a couple of those, murders that should be immortalized in film. But last Friday night, or was it Saturday morning? we had one of Greenwood’s greatest crimes, a dark deep one that made me laugh out loud when I read about it in the Commonwealth, our town’s local paper. Over the weekend some intrepid souls—there had to be more than one—stole an ATM machine from a very well-lit, well-manicured, well-patrolled bank that sits next to a well-populated neighborhood in a good part of town.

Are you kidding me?!?!?!?

I couldn’t help but think of me n Poot, my boyhood friend, and how it might have been us if we hadn’t got on the straight and narrow some years back. We both are married, have jobs, preach the Bible when someone will let us. I actually pastored a church for twenty-three years, thus proving God’s abundant sense of humor.

I’m almost jealous. According to our local paper, the police were on scene within minutes because ATMs have alarms and the alarm drew patrol cars to the bank only for the startled officers to discover a gapping empty space where the ATM sat only minutes before. And there was an abandoned forklift nearby. Turns out the forklift was also pilfered and left almost like a calling card taunting the police.



In Greenwood?!?!?!

Hey, you can’t make this stuff up.

Maybe crime is on the upswing in our little town by the river. By upswing, I mean this is one we can be proud of. So much of our crime is thuggish, boorish, dumbish. Normally we read about shootings, burglaries, murders, assaults, rapes, vandalism, traffic infractions, domestic violence, and other uncreative sins and violations of the law. This one, however, is different, is bold, cunning, admirable even.

First, somebody, some people, had some nerve to pull this off. I figure if I were approached to be let in on the scheme, I would have turned down the opportunity thinking the odds of getting caught had to be close to 100%. How in the world could you possibly expect to get away with it? As already stated, the area is well-lit, well-patrolled, covered with security cameras and security systems and sits close to some of Greenwood’s finest houses.

Second, this crime required a previous crime, the stealing of the forklift and the transportation of the stolen forklift to the scene. How can you possibly do that and not be seen? Dragging around a forklift at 4:00 am is not exactly normal behavior. Or maybe it did look normal to whomever must have seen the perpetrators. Perhaps they looked like hard-working men up early to get a jump on the predictable August heat.

Third, somebody had to be really good at operating a forklift because they had only minutes to load the ATM and get gone. And fourth, they had to leave, presumably with an ATM on a trailer and then drive to wherever. Who does that? Maybe driving around at 3:30 am with a forklift doesn’t draw suspicion but driving around with an ATM in the back of your truck or on your trailer? Come on now, how can that happen?

I assume one of the crooks ownes a machine shop that could deal with opening the stolen machine and extricating the heisted cash. I wonder what the police are doing this morning. Drinking coffee probably. I can’t help but wonder if any of them were in on the theft. I’m not accusing, just wondering. I hope they were not, and I hope they are stopping by every machine shop and garage in town. I hope the sheriff’s office is doing the same in the county. I hope, but excuse my pessimism, because I doubt they are doing anything but shaking their collective heads and wondering, “Who done it?” If I had to place a bet, my guess is that these thieves will never be found. They will spend their hard stolen green freely in Greenwood and then face God with their crime and whatever other misdeeds they have done. One simply does not start with a crime of this magnitude but one has to build up to this level. Sort of like me n Poot burning houses and shooting stuff. We started shooting road signs and then barns and then automobiles. But that is another story.

This bold act makes me jealous. Stealing a forklift and using it to steal an ATM makes me think if me and Poot were still outlaws, it might have been us doing that. The Great Greenwood ATM Theft gets my vote for crime of the century. I have lived every single year of the present century and this is the most daring, most admirable, most astonishing thing that has happened in Greenwood yet. I can’t imagine what these guys will do for an encore other than go in the bank and take all the money out, or steal the whole bank. Imagine that. The police answer an alarm and find a forklift where a bank once sat, or a gas station maybe. One thing is for sure. This crime has fueled my imagination and fired me up to look at the paper today. I can’t wait to see if there is a break in the case, or if anything else has been hit. Life has suddenly become more interesting. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Luvie Says

Luvie says it was a good week running, but I fell off the face of the earth when it comes to swimming. I will most likely drop Swim the Suck this year and maybe forever. Randy Beets is not on Facebook anymore, and it's just no fun without being able to torment him with my posts. For the week of 8/17-8/25, my running totals look like this:

M- 3.61
T- 8.1 plus weights
W- 6.08
Th- 5.38
F- 12.59 in hills
Total: 35.76

This makes my 23rd straight week at 20+ miles running and my 3rd straight 30+. I am entering the territory of endurance. Compared to last year, I am 291.14 miles above then at this same time.

I let the legs rest both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I did some upper body weight lifting and worked in the yard. I only swam 5,500 meters for the entire week. I just don't have the fire in the belly to hit the pool hard right now. My mind and energy is focused on The Great Noxapater Journey Run. This week I will post a piece I started Sunday that attempts to explain my obsession with this journey run.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Friday Run

When I finally dragged myself away from the cat and coffee, it was ten o'clock but the weather was still cool and the sky overcast and looking like rain. Carrollton was my destination, and I loaded my truck, bought gas, and made my way east on US 82. I stopped at Dollar General and parked in the back of their lot. In nothing flat I was shuffling south on Highway 17.

In my last blog post, written yesterday, I told how my spirit was ill at ease seeking for an adventure. My usual haunts didn't appeal to me, and I had the intuition that there was a run out there somewhere just beckoning me to come and enjoy. I wanted that one not any sort of ordinary outing. I mused upon this while I sat in my bed and sipped my wife's delicious coffee and snuggling with Jeff the weeny dog. 

I thought about driving to Lexington, a distance of sixty miles, and parking on the square there then running Highway 12 back towards Tchula. That road has the most relentless set of hills I have seen in the entire state, with the possible exception of Highway 49 going south out of Yazoo City, and every time Penny and I go that way to Jackson, I think about making that run. I don't like running highways, but I was hill hungry, seeing how I am in training for The Great Noxapater Journey Run. The Lexington trip fell out of favor when I thought about the absence of shoulder on that road and how potentially dangerous that run could be. Yazoo City? Well, I just didn't want to drive that far. When I make that trip, I must drink less coffee and leave home earlier.

Then it hit me-- Highway 17. I have cycled that road and even run small sections of it from the cabin. Leaving Hodge Ski Lodge, it is a good six miles to the highway via a maze of gravel roads. Once, I ran to the pavement and then to Pelucia Creek and back, a round trip of about eighteen miles. I'm not in eighteen-mile shape. So I drove to Carrollton and parked the truck and began my adventure from Dollar General.

One thing I realized very early in the run was how shaded this road is. As a north/south highway with pine trees close to the shoulder on both sides, I came to the realization that I should have run here much of the summer. This year we have had a very hot school break, and finding adequate shade had proven impossible. This jewel was here all along only I didn't realize it.

My aim for the day was to go a minimum of ten miles, maybe twelve. I shuffle comfortably for 5.1 before I decided to take a walk break while I consumed a gel and drank some water from my Nathan. Although the weather was cool, the dew point was 73 and by now I was already soaking wet. Be that as it may, I felt good and was having a nice time.

I walked a half mile before resuming my shuffle down the lonely, shady paved path. Round two of running was a 3.51 mile jaunt that took me out a gravel side road. I had already turned at about 6.6 total miles south and then I threw in some short side shuffles on the way back to up the distance. My second walk was only three tenths of a mile. Actually, I need to walk more. The Great Noxapater Journey Run will include lots of walking, so I need to train that more than I currently am.

When I started back for round three of running, my legs were feeling the fatigue. This time I went 1.53 before I slowed to a walk on a gravel road that paralleled Pelucia Creek which, I found out on this run, is three miles south of the store in Carrollton. Back on the highway, I shuffled and walked the final three miles back to the store for 12.59 miles of running and 1.95 miles of walking giving me a total of 14.54 foot miles.

This was not a real adventure and it was not really that long, but it was a nice start to the kind of training I need to do a lot more of to be successful in my rematch with TGNJR. Right now, I plan to make my attempt in November. It will be cool enough then to be able to cover long distances with not a lot of liquid. It is usually warm enough then that danger from the cold is not an issue. 

Stay tuned. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's Delima

Finally justice and order are restored to the universe. I have a Friday where I am really off. I know you can't believe it, but I have had very few of those this entire year. Besides having to work for MDCC six or more, somebody is always throwing a monkey wrench into my Fridays. I have not been happy with that. In fact, I have been angry at that.

I know I have it good. But when we went on the four-day schedule several years ago, I felt like God had given me an incredible gift, and I have tried to and often succeeded at enjoying those days to the fullest. On Fridays, I do crazy swim training. I ride insane distances on a bicycle. I have done adventure runs with Buddy Bones. Sometimes I just hang around the house and blog and take naps. It looks like my next two Fridays are bummed so that leaves today.

What to do?

I am thinking of some type of long run, but I have no itch to go out Money Road. That paved path is my old standby, and it is always there, but it is not calling me right now. I could go to the cabin. For some strange reason, however, that doesn't appeal to me either, not now. I want to drive some where and run someplace that I have long wanted to explore, and I know there are several of those places out there, I just can't remember where they are. 


At this present moment, Jeff is napping against my leg, the cats are slinking around in the house, and I am drinking coffee too good for a poor man. And I'm scheming. I just haven't settled on THE scheme yet. 

I'll let you know.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Luvie's Latest

Luvie is as happy as a fat cat napping on a soft bed about my running numbers. Come to think of it, Luvie is a fat cat, and he does nap on a soft bed. Be that as it may, he is not joyous over my swimming numbers. Neither am I. 

The week before school starts is always a difficult one for me because I work a lot of hours and have to be in a lot of places. To make things even harder, my buddy John has  out most of the last two weeks. I've been at the pool alone. [insert weeping emoticon].

Monday I had to go on the main campus at Moorhead, and when I was cut free, I drove over to Nobile Fish Farm to look over my old stomping ground. I bumped into Jerry and we chatted a bit. He graciously re-extended an invitation to swim or do whatever wherever. It was not until I left him and drove a little farther down the levee road that I noticed it. "It" was a newly repaired pond being pumped up with fresh, cool water. I went home right away, got my swim stuff, and came right back. I only swam two laps for 2,000 meters but the water felt great although it measured 92 degrees. After swimming, I shuffled around the levees and bean fields for 3.51 miles.

Since I had to be back in Moorhead Tuesday, I brought my swim stuff with me and enjoyed a 4.1 mile bath followed by a 7.05 mile run after out English faculty meeting. Not bad for a busy day.

Wednesday I was stationed in Greenwood, and I took a run in the afternoon. The air temp was 93 degrees with a dew point of about 60. That was so much better than what we had been having that it felt downright cool. Despite having shuffled seven miles the day before, I managed to get another six. This, however, left me with little energy for swimming and I only did 1,000 meters before tapping out and going home early. 

Thursday I continued my running spree with a 5.35 mile effort. Again, I was unable to muster much of an effort in the pool but completed 3,100 before calling it a day.

Friday I worked all day. I hate working on Fridays. When we went to the four-day schedule, I felt like God had given me a great gift and I have made it a point to enjoy that gift as much as possible. Now, whenever something takes a Friday away, I feel as if Satan himself is stealing my gift. I hate that. I did nothing physical the whole day but went home and rested after my tour of duty was over.

Saturday I ran 10.03 miles and did some weight lifting for both lower in the morning and upper body in the afternoon. For the week, I

ran 31.99 miles,
lifted weights two times,
swam 12,696 meters, and 
walked 4.63 miles.

That gives me two straight weeks at 30 or more miles per week. I need to keep that up for the next six weeks or so and then build it a little higher if I want to pull off The Great Noxapater Journey Run. I want to do it. The more I think about it, the more fired up I become.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


It's been almost two years. I haven't obsessed over it, I haven't schemed on it, I haven't chaffed under it, but the itch has been building of late, and I've done some thinking. I want a rematch.

What's that you say?

I've been thinking more and more of a return go with The Great Noxapater Journey Run (see "Pulling the Trigger" 12/16/1013; "And Shooting Myself in the Leg" 12/19/2013). I wrote a bit about this in July ("A New Dream" 7/19/2015) but the dream is becoming more real. I may or may not do that particular run, but if I stay healthy I almost certainly will do some sort of journey run. 

I wrote about this in July, but my thoughts are become more clear now and a few things will be different this time around. For one, I am much more fit than I was almost two years ago when I crashed and burned on the very first day, the only day I had confidence I could complete. As of the end of last week, I had run 257 miles more than the same time in 2014, and 2014 was a better running year than 2013. Also, I've been working the weights pretty hard to increase my lower body strength. My relative weakness is a major reason I think I broke down on my ill-fated earlier attempt. 

Another major realm of difference involves weight, mine and my packs. I have to travel with less and this I think I can do. By doing the run on Thanksgiving instead of Christmas Break, I can get away with fewer clothes due to the milder weather and thus save weight there. Also, I plan to be more logistically minded and stash some provisions along the way. Gels are heavy and I can drop some of them along with some protein powder along the way with people I know who live in the areas I will pass. 

Also, I will begin experimenting with a packaging system for moon pies. While gels are heavy, moon pies are not and they are high calorie snacks that provide not only carbohydrates, but fat as well, which is important in ultra-endurance events. The drawback with moon pies is the bulkiness that carrying a number of them entails. Some type of mesh bag attached to my pack should allow me to carry plenty of them and keep weight down at the same time.

In 2013, I left the house with sixty-four ounces of fluid in my hydration pack. I can easily get by with forty thus saving a pound and a quarter right there. I also plan to load my pack ahead of time and experiment with how light I can get it. In addition to all of that, I will soon start training some with a pack to begin adjusting to the weight. I did not do that in 2013. Short story long, I will be much better prepared for the upcoming attempt. I definitely will do some long one day runs, and I may even do some two day runs in preparation. That will be fun in and of itself and great training to boot.

I just got myself really excited. Now the idea is a goal and the goal will become action which will take over my training and thinking for the next twelve weeks. Come along for the ride. It should be fun. If I don't crash and burn again.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Luvie's Report

I'm a bit late posting this because Luvie has been napping all day, and I have had to work. Imagine that, work. Into each life a little rain must fall. To make a short story long, I cranked up the swimming a bit last week, hitting 4,500, 3,500, 4,800, and 5,200 on Monday through Thursday for a total of 18,000 meters, all of it at Twin Rivers. I did some good endurance sets of 300s (Monday), 400s (Tuesday), and 500s (Wednesday). Thursday I did an unbroken 5,200 meter swim. I like to do a straight swim at least once per week when I am building endurance.

On the running front, I totaled out at 30.42 miles. I failed, however, to get in a really long run, but I did two seven milers, one Tuesday and another Saturday. When I finished the run Saturday, the heat index was 107 degrees. I have just about enjoyed all of that I can stand. Not only is it difficult to run, but the water temps are running mid-nineties. It just tough right now. 

I lifted weights once for lower body and once for upper body. 

All in all it was a pretty decent week, but now that I have started back to school, for the next two weeks it will be extremely challenging to log adequate training. But that is what I pay Luvie for, to push and motivate me in tough times. He's pretty good at his job.
Luvie encouraging me to get out
and run in the heat.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Money Road

There's nothing like it in all the world. Scenic, lonely, dangerous. No where else I’ve been do you go from town to country in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and not even see the change coming. When you drive north over the Tallahatchie Bridge off Grand Blvd, you drive out of one world and into another, literally and metaphorically, all in the span of two tenths of a mile.

On the south side of the bridge is town: small, Southern, upper-middle class, at least as far as the boulevard goes. On the south end of the boulevard are old, stately homes, several of which have appeared in movies, and a few more that ought to. The northern end of Greenwood, Mississippi’s prettiest street is lined with newer houses and on the extreme north east corner sits Bankston Elementary, a light tan brick building that houses 303 students during its academic year. Me and my friend Poot were once among them.

And then the bridge. It is an arched concrete road that hides one’s view of the other side until one traverses the tree lined Tallahatchie River via the bridge. Then Grand Blvd spills onto Money Road which winds through seventeen-miles of cotton, corn, and soybean fields, through woods, besides river banks, and past an old frame church and cemetery that is the final resting place of the musical legend, Robert Johnson. Although many area residents know nothing of our celebrity, as a frequent runner of the road, my workouts have often been interrupted by people from all over the world who ask me in broken English, “Where is church, Robert Johnson church?"

To local officials it is County Road 518, but ever since I was a little boy, the only thing I heard it called was Money Road after what is now a little ghost town ten miles north of Greenwood.

As a child my dad hauled me up and down that stretch of asphalt in a 1966 Chevrolet pickup truck, six cylinders with a three on the tree. We fished the McIntyre Scatters, a swampy lake my dad seemed to think was heaven itself. We caught a lot of fish, and we caught them at first on poles and trot-lines, later on rod-n-reels.  Sometimes we spent the night at the landing so we could run the lines several times before daybreak.

I remember an old, leaky, wooden boat dad owned when he first started taking me fishing. I remember him speaking of the day when we would have a motor and be able to run the boat, with the aid of a mechanical engine, onto the shore. That dream came true in the form of a three horse power Johnson outboard that moved us slowly but surely over the water for many years.

In those days Money was a real town, small but a town nonetheless. That old, white, closed up building on the left when you drive into town from the south was open then and the sign read: Ben Roy’s Service. There we bought gas, drinks, moon pies, crickets, and ice.

Many years later but still a long time ago, while working in the pest control business, I did some work for Ben Roy. I remember his wife, who was in her eighties, if a day, being so incredibly attractive I could only stare and wonder. That was the first and only time in my whole life I saw a woman her age that I thought was physically beautiful. She was stunning, and I remember thinking how could Ben Roy and the little town of Money contain such a creature? How was it that I had never heard of her? Why was it not a proverb: as pretty as Ben Roy’s bride. How had Hollywood failed to find her? Why did Ben Roy not have to battle hordes of smitten suitors for his wife’s attention? How did he keep her safe from predators, from dangerous men? It remains a mystery in my mind until this day.

Ben Roy’s wife in some ways is the manner of life and history here in our Mississippi Delta. An incredible beauty crouches unexpectedly, often hidden from common view, sometimes crusted over with the mundane, with the dead foliage of a past both fascinating and repulsive. Some of that history took place in Money itself.

The beauty comes in part from the land. The unending flatness can at times be dreary, especially in winter when the fields are bare. Spring time, however, with the greening of trees, the plowing of cropland, and the busyness of tractors brings a charm, a familiarity to the landscape that is somehow charming and comforting. We survived the winter; we plant in hope. Animals are a frequent sight if one walks, runs, bikes, or drives the road: deer, raccoon, possums, coyotes, squirrels, and fox, to name just a few, can appear without notice and disappear just as quickly. Elvis is occasionally seen walking the flat highways around here but always disappears when an automobile stops to offer a ride. Really, I hear this, but I have never heard of a Bigfoot sighting in our parts. Go figure.

The very things that help display beauty, however, also contribute to the area’s ugliness. In my far too infrequent travels, I have noticed that road kill occurs everywhere, but it shows itself nowhere like here in the Delta. One can scarcely cover a mile without crossing paths with death. There are of course always the small animals who fail to get to the other side, but larger animals like deer are often mutilated and their broken carcasses are smeared, scattered, and spewed along the roadways. Recently I saw a large, black hog, wild I presume, lying in a state of semi-decay in the bar pit not far from town. Buzzards, which most of my life lived only in the hill region of our state, now soar in the sky above, seeking carcasses but failing, even with the help of coyotes, to clean the pavement of mutilated death.

But the ugliness of this region goes far beyond the unfortunate accidental deaths of animals, large and small. Mississippi’s history is stained with a racist past that inflicted damaged on the bodies and psyches of both blacks and whites. The blacks of course suffered the most by far, first under slavery and then under a Jim Crow South that kept them in povertr, deprivation, and shame. This very road was the site of one of the ugliest of our sins. Even today, on my frequent ramblings on the road, I am sometimes stopped by motorists and asked, “Where is the Emmitt Till store?” 

The store partly stands, partly lies, in ruins long neglected and allowed to slowly collapse upon itself. I can remember when it was still open. I forget what it was called then, but I ate lunch there one day many years ago when out working for All-Delta Pest Control. The building’s lack of upkeep sadly betrays the area’s lack of guardianship over its own history.

For most white people, it represents a shameful past they were not a part of and long, long ago tired of being assaulted with and judged over. They, we, just want to move on. It’s a new world, Mississippi has changed, let’s not look back.
From what I can tell, African-Americans seem to fall into one of two categories concerning this and other horrors from our past. Some act like it happened yesterday and all whites are guilty of all crimes committed against their forefathers. Thankfully, this position is not as pronounced as it once was, but it still shows itself far too often. Others, judging from the students I teach at MDCC, know nothing of Robert Johnson or Emmitt Till or hardly anything concerning their, our, history. Both positions trouble me.

I like to think I stand somewhere in the middle, but probably I’m not a good judge of myself. I must confess, when it comes to Robert Johnson, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Is he famous for being famous? Or is he famous for being extraordinary in some way. I bought a CD of him once and eagerly listened to every song. My confusion remains. Nevertheless, whatever he is famous far, he is still our celebrated enigma and when I teach Film as Literature, the first thing we do as a class is make a field trip to his marker and gravesite. He provides an wonderful introduction to the Faustian Bargain.

When it comes to Emmitt Till, well, that really is shameful even though I was about one-year old when it occurred. Like most of the other white folks around here, I would like to forget it ever happened, but I know that is not the proper response either. It is important to remember the darkness of the human heart as a guard against our baser nature.

It’s our history, whether we like it or not, and we should have some familiarity with it, with them, with the good and the bad of our past and present. And although I know Robert Johnson and Emmitt Till are just a part of the history of that road, when I think about it, I realize how ignorant I am of even some of the rest of that history. Why is the town called Money? Who settled it and when? How long has that church, Little Zion MB, been there? What about that place called Craigside? What was along this path during the Civil War? Who lived along this road and cleared the forests and fought the beasts and hacked out a living? Who established the plantations we now know the names of like Wildwood, and Star of the West? Speaking of Star of the West, that plantation takes its name from a Union ship captured by the Confederates during the Civil War and sunk in a bend of the Tallahatchie River on the outskirts of Greenwood in an attempt to prevent Ulysses Grant from travelling the river to Vicksburg.

Questions abound as do the history and ignorance we Deltans live immersed in daily often unawares. Much of this history is sad, some of it is ugly, but a bit of it is just as fascinating, beautiful, and as enigmatic as Ben Roy’s wife. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bikes, Blues & Bayous 2015

Our family at the start.
The weather was cool, the crowd was huge, and my daughter was excited to be riding with her dad. I could not have been happier myself. The BBB drew almost 889 participants which included not only my daughter and me but my wife also. Too bad our son, Forrest, had to work that day. With five official distances: 2, 11, 20, 46, and 62 miles, there was a ride for anyone who was interested in some exercise and a social experience on a bicycle. That last aspect, a social experience on a bicycle, was what I sought on this first day of August 2015.

The number and variety of cyclists was amazing.
I signed up for 62 miles and registered my daughter for the 46, and my wife for 20, but I decided I would ride whatever distance Andrea did. She only had a working bicycle for a couple of weeks before the event and rode once, I think, so I was dubious about her ability to complete 46 miles. Certainly I doubted she would enjoy it much if she did ride that far. 

Come what may, we started in two groups. The metric century folks started first at 7:00 am and then the rest of us in one big group left Front Street, went south down Howard one block before riding over to Fulton Street on Market Street where we turned north, crossed the Yazoo River Bridge, and headed towards Money Road via Grand Blvd.

The number and variety of cyclists was amazing, and while my daughter and I pedaled gently we were passed by so many riders that looking over my shoulder for my wife seemed an imprudent thing. We were out on Money Road all the way to the Robert Johnson church before I could look around and see Penny in the background, visible because she wore the bright orange event T-shirt. I told Andrea I was circling back to check on her mom.

I found Penny spinning at a nice cadence and obviously enjoying herself. The cool air and the low humidity along with the harvest ready corn in the fields and the sound of distant crop duster made me think this was October instead of August. Everywhere I looked, everybody seemed happy.

I rode with Penny a while and then went back up to Andrea. This gave me a chance to ride a little harder. When I got back to Baby Girl, she was already complaining about pain in her hinder parts. We were not yet half way of half way of half way. At this point, I knew 46 was out of the question but I dare not say anything to Andrea. She is just like me in that she always wants to overreach. 

I went back and forth a couple of more times before Andrea and I made it into the rest stop in Money at the old Ben Roy Service. The place was hopping like Greasy Street on a Saturday night. I saw and briefly chatted with Carol Moore and her husband and then Penny rode in and joined Andrea and me at chowing down on all the goodies laid out for us. There were sandwiches of various kinds, cookies, trail mix, and fruit.

The Money rest stop was clearing out about the time we left.

I also ran into David Pentecost at the rest stop. We grew up together on Harding Street. I asked him if he remembered the time Dad took all the neighborhood kids on a bike ride up the same road and on to McIntyre Lake. He remembered and we chatted some about the old days and how we swam in the lake and then rode home. That was nice.

While at the stop, Andrea relented that it might be in her best interest to turn around, so when we left, we left as a trio, she, her Mom, and me. 

We had an enjoyable ride back to town. A couple of time some of the faster 46-ers came by in pace lines. I jumped a few wheels and rode them a bit before turning back to check on the girls. After we got back into town and just before crossing the Yazoo River bridge, I saw Mark Blackwood, my swimming mate from DSU and physician who delivered our grandson, Zane. We rode in together, and then I went back and rode in with Andrea. After I got off the bike, I had a text from my sister which meant I had to leave right away. I wish I could have stayed and continued to visit with Mark, enjoy the music, and sample some of the food, but a text from my sister always means something is amiss.

All in all, it was a nice day and a good experience to share with my wife and daughter. Maybe they can be more fit next year. Whatever. This one is all about fun, and I had plenty of that. I hope Baby Girl did too despite the sore hinder parts.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Luvie's Report

The numbers weren't that good last week and Luvie wasn't that Luvie. Monday I started with 4.71 miles of shuffling and a 4,000 meter straight swim at Twin Rivers. Tuesday I paltry but pasty 3.15 miles and worked the weights lower and upper bodies, am and pm respectively. At the pool I was pitiful and only managed 2,500 meters before I tapped out. I don't lift weights and swim well on the same day. I do swim well the day after lifting even if I am sore and stiff. But a swim following a weight lifting session just doesn't work well for me.

Wednesday I tried to train for my Big Hill Challenge (see "Big Hill Failure" 7/29/15) and almost expired in the heat. I did get in 5.87 miles and some slow, dreadful walking. At the pool I swam

5 X 200 @ 4:25 (first and last 50 fast)
100 easy
total: 2,700.

Thursday I did something I haven't done in years. I ran twice. I took my truck in to Mike Rose for some new tires and brake work. I left his business on foot. I didn't run straight home, but got in 4.15 miles. When he called in the early afternoon and said my truck was ready, I ran back but this time I did the 1.65 straight shot. John and I met at Twin Rivers and I swan 4,300 straight.

Friday I took a little run (1.77) and did a little upper body weight lifting session. Saturday was the 8th Bikes, Blues & Bayous of which I will write about in a separate post.

For the week, I

swam 13,500 meters,
ran 21.3 miles,
lifted weights once lower body and two time upper body,
rode 28.11, and 
walked 5.12 miles.