AUGUST
End of Summer

So Mark McGwire inches ever closer to breaking the record held by Roger Maris since the 60's. He hit his 55th last night and has plenty of games left to have a real shot at hitting 7 more. So does Sammy Sosa. Perhaps they both will break it, but part of me hopes that they don't.

In the late 1970's I was watching my sister's team the Bronson Eagles play against Oak Hall in Gainesville, FL. I was sitting next to a man who still had a sixties flat top haircut. He was cheering for Oak Hall. My mother who was on the other side of my nudged me in the side and whispered in my ear, "That's Roger Maris, you're sitting next to."

"Who?" I said rather loudly, since it always aggravated me when my mother would whisper in my ear in public.

My mother, unmoved by my rudeness, went back to whispering. "He's a famous baseball player."

I looked at him again; he was staring intently at the game. I kind of had a running definition of famous that I think I still hold on to, which is: if you are sitting next to me you are not famous.

"That's his daughter," my mother said pointing to one of the Oak Hall girls.

I had never heard of Roger Maris, of course I was only three years old when he broke Babe Ruth's homerun record and I was a Red Sox fan. Red Sox fans grew up hating the Yankees, so we did not waste time studying up on Yankee history.

So Roger Maris and I spent that afternoon watching a girl's basketball game.

Maris only lived a few years after that afternoon, he died of cancer at the age of 51 in 1985. He was a quiet introverted man, a good father. His homerun record has lasted for 37 years, personally I hope that it lasts forever.

Till the Cows Come Home or More Bovine Sins

I awoke to a loud sound this morning not unlike the factory whistle that blew in my hometown announcing that the work shift was over. In this case whatever the noise was, which was not all that evident in my still half-awake state, announced that my night's rest was finished. Wiping the sleep out of my eyes and clearing my mind I discerned that these were cow noises, that indeed the cows had come home.

Intuition told me why they had arrived. A new pig, bigger than the last, penned near the house. At least I thought it was in an enclosure by the house. It was not.

Just the other day I had read in the Atlanta Constitution Journal about the intelligence of pigs. A certain pet pig had opened two screen doors to gain admittance into their owner's home had gone into the living room pulled down a few pillows, got comfy and watched some television. My immediate reaction was to question whether this was intelligent or evidence of piggish behavior. But that aside the article went on to argue that pigs are smart compared to cows who are incredibly stupid, according to the news article.

Looking out the window there was evidence being mounted for either pig intelligence or foolishness, reminiscent of the fairy tale of the three pigs. The pig had opened it's gate for a face to face encounter with the murderous herd. It was also resisting all attempts that were being made to save it's life, in a word it was acting pigheadedly.

The cows, in their defense, obviously have some instinctual hatred of pigs. They cannot be expected to apologize for acting out of instinct anymore than the intelligent pig can be blamed for it's bright move of moving out into harm's way. The pig obviosly had not read the account of her predecessor's untimely death.

Finally, with bovine tempers flaring and a broom sweeping the pig's butt, we were able to convince it that it belonged in a piggery. A couple cracks of the whip scared most of the cows off, unkind words aimed at the few stragglers did the trick for them.

A heavy chain was wrapped around the gate, which no doubt with it's supperior intelligence the pig will figure out how to unravel, but hopefully with it's lack of stamina will tire of before the cow's come home again.

I have no doubt that the pig has proved it's intelligence, but like all intelligent beings it has also shown a great lack of common sense. But so have I time and time again.

Age

The majority of my days over the past four years have been spent with people born after 1980, they have told me in a number of ways how old I am. But I confess that I have never believed them.

I have a mirror that doesn't reflect age. I swear sometimes that it doesn't even reflect the gray hairs that some of my friends tell me is starting to dominate my beard and hair. I look at the reflection and I see the same old me, but I am starting to wonder.

This summer I visited the college I attended in the early 1980's, I had not been back there in 15 years and looked forward to seeing some of the people with whom I had been so close during those formative years of my life. But there was something wrong.

The first person I encountered was a vibrant man who I had worked for on weekends. He was slumped over in a wheel chair the victim of a stroke, I'm not sure that he even knew who I was or at this point even cared. One after another aged men and women introduced themselves as my former friends and mentors. Several I asked about who were not present, I would find in the parish graveyard they told me.

I walked down there and followed the progression of years. Simple crosses with the names and dates arranged chronologically. I stopped at the years and thought about where I had been that year, what had happened in my life, while this person's life had stopped.

Later that night while talking with some people, who were visiting from Cincinnati, I found myself pouring out my feelings of how the place physically was the same, but seemed rather dead. The visitors without my history agreed, but I know the meaning for them had to do with the amount of activity that wasn't going on here in the country. Actually I guess that was my perspective too.

My grandmother turned 104 this summer, she still lives at home and if you saw her you might guess that she was in her late 60's. People often ask her what it feels like to be that old, her answer usually given with a laugh is; "I still feel young." But other times I have seen her saddened to realize that everyone that she grew up with is no longer around and maybe in the long run that is what makes all of us old.

Death and Life--Gordy

I ventured off after dinner as I like to do, the two dogs in toll running along and tonight a little black pot belly pig named Gordy. Gordy had been around the farm for about a week and it seemed during his stay had decided that in fact he was not a pig, but one of the dogs. So wherever the dogs ran off to, there was Gordy in toll, although laboring with great difficulty.

So tonight I was at the usual cow pond and sure enough in a few seconds I caught a whopper. The Siberian Husky ran over to check out the miniscule catfish, even she was not impressed. She turned her attention to her friend Gordy who was grunting hidden somewhere in the long grass of the pasture, but no doubt headed this way. Gordy emerged from the grass to also check out the tiny catfish and having ascertained that the dogs were not impressed, he decided that he also should be about other things.

It was then that I noticed the cattle approaching, at first with the usual curiousity, but then they seemed to pick up the pace. I jumped into the safety of the truck not sure if they were insulted by my lack of fishing skills or desirous of the oft rejected catfish. Either way I wanted to give them plenty of room to render their judgment.

It turns out they were no more interested in me or the fish than the dogs or pig had been. But they were interested in the pig. They started chasing the pig and soon a stampede ensued. I tried to chase them off, but I had never seen them so angry or focussed on one thing as a group.

In a matter of moments it was over. I was picking up the body of the little pig who was still alive, but in great pain, into the back of the truck. I drove off the pasture, took Gordy out and blood was running out of his mouth. A few moments later he was dead.

I spent the night wondering what I could have done diffently to save the little creature. But I realized that there was nothing that I could have done. There is a lesson in this, the dogs were chased by the cows at the same time the pig was, but they were able to outrun the cattle. The pig wasn't.

"Don't hang around with a crowd you can't hang with," to put it in student speak.

THE 90 MINUTE SATURDAY WALK

I decided recently as an addition to my workout to take an extended walk every Saturday, essentially to walk for 90 straight minutes at a good pace. It's amazing how long 90 minutes can be at a brisk pace, but it's also amazing how cathartic a long walk is. The first Saturday I did this, I found my mind emptying of thoughts, worries, and stress with every step.

Things started to take on a different hue as I moved past the thirty minute mark. I was no longer dodging the invisible spiders webs in the woods, now I spotted them well before they caught me by surprise. I started to notice movements and colors. A deer who spotted me at about the same moment that I spotted her lept away in long strides, waving goodbye with it's bobtail. A few steps later a lone wild turkey startled me with squaking as it took to flight a few feet away. As I turned the bend on the wooded path, I was startled by a cow who had just given birth to a calf. The mother jumped up to warn me lest I had any desire to do her calf harm, I walked way around to insure her that I did not. Looking back I watched the mother and wobbly legged calf trot away in the other direction.

After the one hour mark, the sun beating down, I started seeing things that were not there. Up ahead I saw some strange creature that I had never seen before. I marveled at it for some distance. When i finally arrived I found it was a fallen branch with the sun shining down on it's half-dead leaves.

Finally the walk over, I drank down a cold refreshing class of water. My thirst quenched, I wondered why we lose the natural ability to marvel at the world around us as we age. I guess it's because we choose to.