Back when I had more time to take solo bicycle jaunts, I'd park the bike for a few moments of solitude next to Pomme de Terre River. This was at the spur that goes down to the riverside on the west side. A gazebo is there. Surely it was an ideal escape place when I was still with the newspaper. A dirt road was in the vicinity. Brent Waddell, the late Glen Helberg and yours truly called it the "dogleg road." It's actually a rather curious road because its purpose isn't clear.
Today there's a little more justification because of the development of townhomes next to the bypass (where, reportedly, we have the nuisance of truck drivers using their "Jake brakes"). In my teen years the bypass wasn't even there.
I got familiar with the dogleg road in my one year of cross country running in high school. Our ragtag group ran along there in the early-morning, before school hours. Tom Watzke was our best runner. I'm glad Gary Lembcke, the great hoops star, chose to run cross country with us rather than punish his talented body in football. He probably could have been a fine tight end, using his height to grab passes. Jim Satter was the football coach. Am I correct in asserting the team didn't accomplish up to the level of his football knowledge?
Anyway, us cross country runners were under coach Jerry Miller, a math teacher in school. I probably had no business being there. I was naïve and lacked basic understanding of the sport. I thought it was a big deal to simply jog three miles, or heck maybe even two miles. We didn't hear much about specialty running shoes in those days. For athletic endeavors we simply pulled on a pair of "tennis shoes."
The team voted me "hardest worker" probably for no other reason than I stuck it out. At the fall sports banquet, Miller reported my award and didn't say anything else about me, unlike the manner in which he gave other awards. My shake of the hands with him was totally obligatory. I'm not sure we even made eye contact. I wasn't real pleased with that. I was just a kid and you have to give kids some slack to fail or to even feel confused.
I felt pressure to take part in some sort of athletic activity. Perhaps that was misdirected. I spent time in dental offices paging through old MHS yearbooks in which I saw the athletes so glorified. Cheerleaders too. I guess I was too impressionable.
The cross country team was male-only in the fall of 1972. I could not have imagined girls in the sport. Education goes through sea changes from time to time. Expanded athletic opportunities have been not only good for the kids, it has made it easier for athletic programs to get the resources and support they need.
Our meets were at the Pomme de Terre Golf Course just like today. I don't believe our team reached any great height. Gary Lembcke gave me moral support and was so much more understanding than coach Miller. Gary and I are both blessed by having our mothers still be alive. Our moms have both needed some medical attention in the past year. We're past our 40-year reunion. As we approach the 50-year, the ranks of our parents will be thinned further. Our own ranks will be thinned some.
Ted Schmidt, son of Jerry, was on our team. He was rather a character and in an uplifting way. I set my alarm so I might join those workouts along the dogleg road. Les Lindor once told me that this curious road with no apparent purpose got built because of leftover money from some other government-supported project.
Isn't that also how we got the tennis courts to the east of the high school? I once mentioned this rumor with the tennis courts around Wally Behm and he showed mock anger toward me. He said I'd "get in trouble" with Dennis Rettke if I was known to make such comments, because obviously those courts were built because of solid fiduciary responsibility in the school district. Not with "leftover money" (which sounds like largesse).
For the record, Wally said "you'll get in trouble with Dennis. . .again!"
Bob Stevenson and his dogs
In my post-newspaper years, I'd often go out to that spur along the bike trail and be in a hurry to do nothing. Every so often, a slow-moving vehicle would come along that dogleg road. I came to recognize this individual: Bob Stevenson, using this lazy cruise to take one of his dogs on a run. He and I would sometimes chat for a few seconds.
I am writing this as we approach the Fourth of July holiday. Bob was born on the Fourth of July right here in Morris, to Floyd and Bertha (Nicely) Stevenson. Mom and I attended his reviewal rites last night (Friday, June 30). He died a week before on Friday, June 23. He looked to be in failing health the last time I saw him. We cannot know for sure when our day will come. Jesse Ventura once said that such a date is set in stone by our Lord, and nothing we do can change it.
Bob was 89 years old at the time he left us. His family "clan" has lost too many in the recent past. The sands of time simply move on. Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and served in that great war. My late father Ralph was in the Navy too. Bob and Ralph developed a very close friendship. They had mid-morning coffee together countless times, mainly at the restaurant where Riverwood Bank is now located. I think our town misses that restaurant.
Bob and Ralph had a hunting connection. Bob will probably be best remembered as a Stevens County commissioner. He retired from that in 2006, the same year I left the Morris newspaper. His family clan was involved with the newspaper. We lost Ed Morrison not long ago. We lost Sterling "Tommy" Tomlin, Shirley Tomlin, Ed Morrison and James Martin too. Too many losses in fact. But there's
nothing we can do to change that, according to Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
I'm writing this on the day of Bob's funeral, Saturday, July 1. Bob Stevenson, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoocom