Author: Alvira, Marco

War Whooping to the Oldies

The ear buds were jammed tight into my ears. The first pulsing beats of “Dusty Miller” pounded their way into my brain. That songs always grabs me. I was off and running. Not a brisk jog, mind you. I was whooping and hollering on a dead run launching off little hills and rises along the trail, leaping over piles of slippery wet leaves and small logs, like the kid in the old P.F. Flyer commercial flying over the short white picket fence. This version of the classic fiddle tune was fast and driving. Somehow it stirred within me that same spirit as my 11 year old former self, running with the wind with my cousin Charlie through Ozark farm fields, my feet occasionally finding the fresh cow patty, the green goo squirting ‘tween toes.

We always ran, never walked unless we had the .22’s cradled in our arms. Once, while in mid stride, my legs beginning to coil so I could vault a low lying barbed wire fence, Charlie cried out, “Stop!” Something about the urgency brought me abruptly to a standstill, balanced on my back leg, my bare front foot about six inches from the ground, read to plant with the spring load that would send me sailing over the fence. I stood there, my pose balanced, still, contorted—an exotic modern sculpture in a Missouri pasture. Along the ground, inches below my poised foot, slithered an inky black cotton mouth. Charlie’s eyes were accustomed to seeing the invisible dangers before him in the deep, green pasture grass (he rarely had cow patties ’tween his toes). He had spied the venomous viper a dozen feet back. I was simply running with the joy that the Ozarks inspire in a boy when he’s allowed to roam free in the fields and woods.

This day, “Dusty Miller” conjured those latent emotions and I was running with abandon…for about 75 yards until the sudden anaerobic exertion doubled me over so that my stomach might heave. After a few moments to catch my breath, I continued on with my biweekly 5K run, this time at a sensible pace. My hamstrings were as taught as mandolin strings after the capricious dash. That unwise burst of energy seriously robbed me of the reserve I needed for a good run. Had Charlie called out his warning to me today, I would have slowed to a halt like a large cargo ship taking miles to turn and stop in the ocean. Today I would have been the viper’s victim; I would be a two inch story buried in a corner of page four of the Aurora Advertiser, their daily rag.

The truth is, even though I carry a few more pounds than I should, I can knock down four miles on a good day. These 55 year old legs are like determined pistons in a leaky old steam engine. They’ll carry me the distance, but with a lot of squawking and coaxing. I hold out a hope, however senselessly, that at some point my legs will begin to feel like springs again instead of rusty hinges—that they might feel rejuvenated after a run instead of knotting into little aching balls that make 2x4’s look limber. Stretch, plyometrics, run, stretch some more. I would become an instant millionaire if I could discover the balm or liniment that could resuscitate middle-aged legs and enable balding, chubby guys feel like they’re 11 again.

Today I enjoyed a beautiful run. The winter’s sun was to my back, and the long January shadows cast by the trees looked like tall gangly spectral stick people waving their arms at me like spectators lined up along the streets of a famous marathon race. I took some pleasure in noticing that I was the oldest runner on a popular path. I had just finished the first mile and was feeling pretty good. I plucked the iPod from pocket, and thumbed the little dial ring, scrolling down to “Dusty Miller.”

See you at the Great 48…let me know if you want to go for a run Saturday morning!

Posted:  1/5/2014

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email