Sam

Since the first day of first grade when I was six years old, I have had a friend called Sam.  It is safe to say that he has been a best friend for the last forty years.  We went to the same school through the ninth grade.  We played various sports together, went to dinner and the movies together and spent many nights at each other’s homes.

I remember our dinner and movie nights being remarkable for the amount of food we would consume.  Typically we would start out at Pizza Hut beforehand, where we each consumed our own medium pizza.  Of course, by the end of the movie we were hungry again and would typically go to Burger King for another meal before heading home.

Sam is known for having played football during high school, but what I remember was playing basketball with him in elementary and junior high school.  I remember those basketball times with a laugh because Sam was terrible at basketball.  He would throw up the worst bricks anybody had ever seen, with the ball smacking loudly off the backboard.  It didn’t matter to Sam or hurt his feelings when the rest of us would give him flack about being a bit too strong with the ball.  Sam was just happy to be playing with his friends.

During our sophomore year of high school, I moved away.  Being hundreds, or thousands of miles away from Sam did not diminish our friendship.  Each time I made the trip back to Mississippi over the years, I always spent a majority of my time with Sam.  All of those times with Sam involved watching sports, hunting or fishing.  Sometimes all three in the same day.

Our fishing trips usually involved Sam baiting my hook for me and then getting the fish off the hook when I caught one.  We never failed to catch lots of fish, which made the fishing more exciting.  I remember one fishing trip we caught over a hundred fish!  Fishing with Sam should have been called Catching instead of Fishing.  All the catching of the fish led to us eating lots of fish as prepared by Mavis Byrd, Sam’s mom.  That was certainly the best part of fishing with Sam.

Hunting with Sam was also lots of fun, but not because we got a deer every time we went out.  Most of the time we never saw any deer.  Hunting was fun because of all the things that happened while we were hunting, or at least supposed to be hunting.  Sam would wake me up about 3 am so we could get ready and be at the hunting site before the sun rose at 6:30.  We would get dressed and have breakfast.  Next we would gather all our hunting supplies and put them in the truck.  Then we would drive to the gas station and fill the truck with gas.  After filling up with gas, we would finally drive out to the hunting site.  The hunting site was typically in a wooded area in the middle of some large property.  Getting to the site meant we had to drive through pastures where barbed wire fences sectioned off various areas of the property.  When we came to a gate in the fence, I would jump out of the truck and open the gate so Sam could drive the truck through.  I would then shut the gate after Sam drove the truck through, only to realize that I had shut the gate with myself on the wrong side while Sam sat in the truck watching me in his rear view mirror, laughing heartily.  I would then open the gate again and put myself on the correct side, re-close the gate and get back in the truck.  The funny part is that I would do the exact same thing at the next gate, and Sam would sit there in the truck and watch me the whole time without saying a word just so he could laugh again.  I blame it on the fact that it was early in the morning.

Finally, Sam and I would arrive wherever it was we were going to park the truck so we could head into the woods and begin hunting.  The only problem was that it was now about 3:45 am and too dark to hunt.  Daylight being a scant 2 hours away, we passed the time by singing, “Killing Time”, the country song by Clint Black.  After a while we would both fall asleep, only to wake up just in time to see that we now had plenty of light because it was about 7:30 in the morning.

In later years, I would sometimes call Sam when he was sitting in the woods hunting.  The conversation would go something like this:

Sam (whispering): “Hello”

Me: “What are you doing?”

Sam: “Killin’ time.”

Me: “Oh, so you are hunting?”

Sam: “Yep.”

Me: “Seen anything?”

Sam: “Naw.”

Me: “Ok, well, I’ll talk to you later.”

Sam: “Alright, be good buddy.”

Be good. Sam lived his life being good.  Other people have been described as having lived a life of service to others, but I have never met another person who lived that way as much as Sam.  When my grand-parents were still alive, they moved residences constantly.  Coincidentally, they also moved nearly every time I came to Mississippi for a visit.  In other words, I was always around to help when my grand-parents needed to move.  Sam being Sam, he was also there, picking up all the heavy stuff and putting it in the truck.

At a time when I was living in Colorado, I called my grand-parents to say hello and update them on whatever was happening in my world.  My grandfather said his car was broken, so I told him to call Sam.  He called Sam and of course, my grandfather’s car was fixed the next day, Sam having taken care of everything.

When Sam took a job coaching football and teaching at a small school in South Mississippi, about 5 hours away from our hometown of Starkville, I was certain the town of Starkville was going to fall apart because Sam had left.  Proving that miracles do still happen, the town still exists, but that is probably because Sam eventually came back to the area.

Sam always put others before himself because that was the essence of Sam.  It never occurred to Sam to live in any other manner.

It was ever my privilege to have known Sam.  I am certain that anyone who knew him would say the same.  Sam passed away on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.

Thank you Sam, now go up there and be good buddy.

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Road Trip to the Big City

When you move to France, you have to have a medical exam from the French immigration office, known as OFII.  The OFII office nearest to us is in Annecy (pronounced Aahn-see and not Ann-eh-see, because as usual, the French have given up on some letters in the word).  Annecy is about 90 minutes from Le Tour.  That distance and the timing necessitated a road trip.

Emily and I have not had the occasion or desire to do any big road trips since we moved here and do not look forward to doing them often.  At least not yet.  This is mainly due to the fact that we are still uncomfortable driving around in France.  There is no real reason for this discomfort other than the fact that we are scared.  We are scared because we are uncomfortable and vice versa.

The main thoroughfares in France are some of the best roads we have ever driven on.  If there is a bump on the highway we haven’t found it yet.  It is true that the roads through little villages are a bit on the narrow side, slightly wider than a US bike path is normal.  Our journey to Annecy was all on big highways though so there was no need to worry about narrow roads.  There were tolls however and those made us nervous.  As it turned out though, the toll stations were easy to navigate and round trip cost us a little less than 20 Euros.

Annecy is mainly known for it’s lake, aptly named Lac Annecy.  It is a medium sized lake surrounded by large hills and it is quite beautiful.

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Lac Annecy

The lake draws a lot of tourists and there are many boats for rent or for hire, including sail boats.

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Part of the Rental fleet

There are also quite a few statues and other pieces of art to view around town.

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ART!

I think the main part of Annecy reminded me of the Pearl Street area of Boulder as it had lots of restaurants and shops and was for the most part a pedestrian only area.

Our appointment with the doctor went fine and was just a series of questions along with height and weight and an eye test.  The appointment took about an hour and we were on our way back to the car which was parked in a parking garage that had classical music playing.  Of course there were some distractions between us and our car.  Namely shops selling all manner of bread and sweets.  As shown below with Emily having found a small beignet.

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The Beignets are slightly bigger down here!

While I was waiting for Emily, I too found some nourishment.

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A whole Gluten Free store!

Technically the sign on the door says, “Without Gluten Free” but I got their meaning and had to go in and buy some sweets for myself.

We also saw what appeared to be an imminent game of unintentional dominoes.

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I really wanted to see the results of this impending disaster.

Our trip was very successful and we are looking forward to visiting Annecy again in the future.  It is a possible drier winter running area that offers many trails around the lake.

This week is UTMB week which means there are lots of spandex clad runners hanging about the Cham valley.  If you are unfamiliar with UTMB, www.irunfar.com has a nice preview of the various races.  Americans have a fair chance in several of the different races this year so hopefully they can perform on the biggest trail running stage in the world.

Emily and I meanwhile, will be trying our best to avoid the madhouse that is Chamonix during this week.  The main street through town is literally shoulder to shoulder with people and the buses are packed like sardines in a can.  Thankfully Le Tour is fairly removed from all the hustle and bustle.

Now go out and be consistent!

 

1/3/18 – Team SWAP

For those not in the know, Team SWAP is a running group founded by David and Megan Roche. SWAP stands for, Some Work, All Play.

I have been a part of the team for just over a year now. The membership of the team is comprised of a huge variety of people. Elite athletes like Clare Gallagher, Cat Bradley, Coree Woltering, and David and Megan themselves, are part of the team. So are people like myself and my wife M, and Pamela whom I’ve never met but I follow on Strava because she is encouraging.

Hopefully Pamela won’t mind, but I would like to use her as an example. As I said, I have never and likely will not ever meet Pamela, but she exemplifies the main characteristics of SWAP and why being part of the team means so much to me. The characteristics of the SWAP team are encouragement, accountability, knowledge, wisdom, adventuresome, curiosity, sacrificing for others, helpful beyond the call of duty, and LOVE.

Growing up I was a part of many teams, some successful and some not. No team I was a part of however, exuded all the fine characteristics that members of Team SWAP exhibit. Like many others on Team SWAP, I will never win a race. I am fortunate to finish in the top half of the field, maybe. Those things do not matter on Team SWAP. No matter where I finish in a race, the other team members will give the same praise as if I had won the biggest race in the world.

Even though I am not an elite, Team SWAP members make me feel like an elite. The team makes me feel a part of something right in the world that is bigger than just myself.

I wish there were more teams and team members in the world like Team SWAP.
GO TEAM SWAP!