It takes a long time for the sun to come up in the mountains, too. Old men step outside at dawn to drink their coffee and breathe the air and they all remember to say good morning and their dog doesn’t follow you. There is no flat route in the mountains, even old mountains. If you run down, you will run up. But when you are done, you will know the best place to come back and watch the zombie parade.
First, if the crowd you are running with considers a 20K a “fun run,” consider yourself warned. Keep the rain guard off your tent and you can watch the satellites fly by. You can also wake up to the full moon’s travels across the night sky. Walking down the draw before sun-up to the starting line, where a guy is playing bagpipes, lets you imagine you are heading to the Quidditch World Cup instead.
The trail is well-groomed, but sometimes feels as if there’s little difference between that kid free climbing the rocks and your own dash along a skinny trail around the formations. Sunrise takes a long time in the canyon. Texas is so very beautiful, in this big, unfathomable way. Don’t even try to take photos, except of the turkeys.
Peggy: So how was it, being in the Aubrey Peanut Fest parade?
Sam: It was good. Really good. Almost as good as Fourth of July.
You really can forget your race bib on the top of your dresser. No one thinks you need to be stopped from running 20 kilometers around White Rock Lake at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Trimming your toenails before a race is not optional, no matter how recently you last did it. I don’t know about the psychological stamina of the runners at the front of the pack, but at the back of the pack, people get creative. Don’t judge the Brooklyn 2016 T-shirt guy and his whoops and hollers all for himself, because he might manage to finish the race when you do. On a humid September morning, the still air can nearly suffocate you while a breeze off the lake can give you chill bumps. Take a cue from the kids. When you’re done running, skip the lawn party and head straight for the frog fountain.
Peggy: So how was horseback riding today? Were you back on Revenue?
Sam: Yep, back on Revenue.
Peggy: How was he?
Sam: Revenue is back to his usual misdemeanors.
Yesterday Sam and I went to a funeral. They are always hard on us, and this one underscored both the hope and the cruelty that comes in the march of time.
When it was time to go, Sam came out of his apartment clutching a tie he’d gotten from his brother, Michael. I didn’t consider it the best match for the shirt he was wearing, but it was acceptable. He needed my help putting it on. He’s always needed my help knotting his ties.
Before I even thought about it, I blurted, “I won’t be able to do this as well as Michael.”
Michael visited a month ago, when Sam rode both English and Western in an able-bodied horse show organized by North Central Texas College. When it was time to knot his tie, Michael helped him with a beautiful, neat knot that I knew he didn’t learn at home.
He was in the middle of his junior year in high school when Mark died. He went off to college at Texas Christian University knowing a lot of things about how to take care of himself. But he never learned to knot his ties other than the simple way I faked up trying to help my boys look good. He wasn’t going to get away with that at such a prestigious school.
Michael said he watched lots of YouTube videos to learn how to knot his ties.
I wish I knew why the little things always break my heart.
When all your favorite trails for training have been washed out, or are under water, and you haven’t run a real trail race in a year, take an 8-mile romp to get your footing back. It’s not too short. It’s not too long. It’s just right. Drive two hours to run two hours and you will be with the other runners that look like runners. (It’s not your family’s Reindeer Romp. HT @PaigeCWolfe, first-time 8-mile trail racer). Chia seeds make a first-time trail racer hyper. When it rains in Texas, Texas turns green and purple and green and yellow and green and white, and green. A mockingbird perched on the safety light by the port-a-potties will sing all he knows, the chirps, the tweets and warbles, the chirrups and gurgles, the cardinal song, and the car alarm. What do you name your back country road when you can’t think of a name for your back country road? “Our Road.”
Sam competed for the first time in Western style horseback riding at the North Central Texas College stock show last weekend in Gainesville. He competes with “able-bodied” riders from time to time to challenge himself. This was great practice for next weekend. The regional equestrian Special Olympics are being hosted by the stables where he rides, Born 2 Be, in Aubrey.
His coaches have been encouraging Sam to ride Western for a while. Sometimes it takes Sam a little bit to warm up to an idea. He put jeans on for the first time in about 20 years when he tried on a new pair of Wranglers at Weldon’s Saddle Shop last week. (Like his great-grandfather, whom he was named for, Sam’s a khakis man.) Kippie helped him look good, although it’s a mystery where those most excellent chaps came from. Sam says they were, like lots of gear, donated to the stables.
Sam said he knew when he went into the ring, he was up against some stiff competition this year. He still had a great ride.
The holidays are done and with it, for the most part, the obligation to eat all the things that come out only around the holidays. Our neighbors, an older couple, seemed to think our place was a good place to dispatch the rest of a home-baked cake gifted to them that was more than they could hope to eat.
It was a nice little cake. But I took one look at what was left and knew even the entire Wolfe pack wasn’t going to be able to finish it. It had dried fruits and tree nuts. The middle child is allergic to tree nuts. It wasn’t going to keep well either, the way a proper fruitcake would, because it hadn’t been soaked in bourbon, or brandy, or rum.
(This, by the way, is the problem with nearly every commercial fruitcake. Don’t these bakers know the ONLY way to make a proper fruitcake is to bathe it in booze once a week for at least six weeks?)
That meant I was going to have to take it to work. Just for fun, I made a hard sauce to go with. I didn’t want to put out any kind of memo about the sauce — after all, it reeked of bourbon — but I explained over and over how one might want to warm the cake, and then put a dollop on, and then it would come a little closer to a proper fruitcake. Or maybe make the cake a bit more like bread pudding.
Two of us took home the extra hard sauce. One of the editors on the night desk said he added it to hot chocolate and that was pretty good. I took a bit, too, and left it with the chocolate pound cake we made for Aunt Regina and her 94th birthday. It does appear that Hard Sauce goes with everything.
1/2 cup butter, left at room temperature for a few hours until very soft
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 T. bourbon
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the bourbon until incorporated. Chill until firm. Put a heaping tablespoon on a warm dessert, and let it melt in.