Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I was not about to challenge the floodwaters running through our nearby railroad tunnel this morning.  Cold, wet feet did not appeal to me, so I turned to the old track on the now defunct Natural Bridge High School campus.

This runners' oval hides on the top of a hill at the end of a gravel path.  Like many of the soccer fields in our son's former high school league, it offers panoramic views of the Blue Ridge.  I imagine retired real estate agents and developers have kicked themselves for failing to construct mcmansions on these properties.

I never feel bored running circles there.  Several deer, including a little bambi, had arrived before me, prancing halfway around.  Someone took a bicycle joyride on the wet cinders, leaving ridges to wobble my ankles.  At one of the turns, chalk lines mark the corner of the football field, which apparently isn't quite big enough for the little league boys.  But this is recent history.  Let's go back to when those retired real estate folks were in school.

It's easy because they left clues.  "Rockets" and "Visitor" top the disused, rusted scoreboard overgrown by weeds and untrimmed tree branches.  Note that the psychology of the singular was in vogue even then to subtly intimidate opponents.  At the opposite end of the field sits a sturdy, dilapidated cement block concession stand.  Since I began running around this area, the doors have been opened, boarded shut, and now lean upon again.  I haven't looked inside because, well, I haven't been in a morbid enough mood to explore what reminds me of an open coffin.

I prefer running past, trying to memorize the teams that appear on the final, painted schedule -- Lexington Hurricanes, Covington Cougars, Rockbridge Rebels, James River Striders and, of course, the Natural Bridge Rockets.  Like faded corporate giants (Sprint, Standard Oil, Citicorp), these names have been swallowed by mergers and consolidations, but I hear cheers and smell the obnoxious fumes of the lineman's cigar.

"Those were the days," says Virginia.

Not really, but it's fun to peak at the haunts of the near octagenarian who shares my drives to orchestra practices.  Maybe some of the stories she tells are true.

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