My dad is one of the most influential folks in my life. Both on and off the “track” he has always been an amazing support system for me. Below I have posted a true story. It is a story I wrote for a book of short stories I am writing about running and life. I hope that you enjoy it.
The first week in August in Southeastern New Mexico is an exciting time. Especially in my little town of Lovington. Football two-a-days are wrapping up, which means the start to the much anticipated Wildcat football season. That first week also marks the start of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. These two events carried so much excitement for a 17 year old senior in high school whose big city Fort Worth girlfriend was flying in to catch some practices and be his date to the fair. I barely remember anything that happened in that August of 2000, it was all swept away by the dry Indian Summer. But there was a foot race one afternoon that will forever live in infamy.
The morning started like any other. I woke up hours after my dad and met him on the front porch. Our general morning greetings soon devolved into two friends ribbing each other. We argued over who could eat hotter salsa, who was the better slap boxer, and who was faster in a foot race. This last one was not up for debate. I was one of the top milers in the district. I was sure I was destined to qualify for the state meet that year, and I was sure this little red headed man next to me in his pearl snap shirt, cowboy cut wrangler jeans, and newly resoled black cowboy boots could never outrun me. No matter the distance or stipulations. But still, he persisted. I said, “Listen old man, I can run the quarter mile faster than you could get from here to the stop sign.” Daddy did what he always did, he laughed off my youthful arrogance in a totally non-condescending way. “We could test your theory, if you want.” We both got a good chuckle out of that and then we went about our day. We cooked breakfast and discussed all the fun we were going to have.. My girlfriend and her mom were hours away from arriving in our little corner of paradise. He and I weren’t generally planners, but we set a plan of action. After cleaning the house and spraying the the dirt patched back yard with some water to get some of that brown grass to turn green, we headed off on foot to Bob’s Thriftway for some grocery shopping.
I could probably head to Bob’s now, twenty years later, and pick up the same groceries we bought that day. They were staples of the diet that nourished me for my entire youth. A ten pound bag of potatoes, a bag of pinto beans, some ground beef, some round steak, a couple onions, and an array of spices that daddy knew damn well he had no idea how to use. He would just randomly throw them into meats and make some delicious dish he could never duplicate. But I can guarantee it had tons of garlic powder. We had plenty of eggs he said, we always had plenty of eggs. On the way to the counter we grabbed a Dr. Pepper apiece and headed to the check out.
As we walked home in the deep dry heat that would melt normal folks, two bags on each arm, we sipped our Dr. Peppers and talked about the upcoming football season. We headed down 9th Street toward our house and took the last long swigs of our now luke warm sodas. He glanced at me, now a block from our house, and said “I’ll race you home.” I laughed, but I was always game. We stopped walking and repositioned our bags for speed. “Good thing we didn’t need eggs”,I said. Then we laid out the rules. We would race from the corner of Polk to our house. Just a little over a block. First one there was the winner. I would say go.
We took off down the street. Two wild men carrying grocery bags and stomachs full of Dr. Pepper. One of us barefoot with school issued shorts and t-shirt, the other in jeans, button down shirt, and boots. It was neck and neck. I was straining and pumping, he was laughing and scooting his cowboy boots along the hot pavement. As we turned onto Aspen avenue about a hundred yards from our house the unthinkable happened. He started to pull ahead. I could see my girlfriend and her mom sitting on the front porch, they look confused. Within seconds he started to pull away. I was up on my toes, pumping my arms as best I could with a plastic bag full of beans and spices draped over my forearms. I was sweating and wilting from the heat. Dad was in full sprint. His head was down, his little legs were scooting faster than I have ever seen them. He was beating me and not just barely. He was staring down the road focused on the finish line and I was stuck staring at a clean pair of heels.
I’ve won and lost a lot of races since then. But none of them were as humiliating or as fun as the day I raced home barefoot from Bob’s Thriftway with my dad.