Chapter 3 Could 2 Years Have been that long
The pre flight was done. Stephens’s bag was secured in the back seat of the Comanche 180. With the start of the engine clearance delivery from Austin. A flight from Austin to the highland lakes began. Checklists were followed magneto check prop check then with the sound of 4 cylinders swinging a 2 blade constant speed prop at 80 they were off 1000 feet per minute climbing above arrivals then crossing. The flight was up the Colorado River. The line was northwestward through the highland lakes and over Marble falls then to Sunrise Beach. Stephen King was at the right seat controls. The Comanche aside from the prop and the gear which was retracted soon after takeoff tended to spoil. It was heavy but responsive and its laminar flow wings were free of slop. The airplane as Stephen followed the river was effecting the season in ways Stephen could only then begin a grasp. Stephen loved the brief flight in less then 20 minutes they were on final to the asphalt strip. His father handled the landing because the shorter gear and the ground effect of the wing was just a bit different then the Cessna 150 the following week the Check ride would be in. The Comanche did things faster but provided more feedback. Climb in comparison was stunning. The difference came out in the wash the extra speed on final was more demanding the prop control was work. The Comanche was a good navigation trainer.
Stephen got his bag out and walked. The Stratocaster was secured and the amp was in the right hand. Stephen had packed for a glorified camp out plus the guitar. With that he checked the time. He had the map to the house. As he walked around the loop of the airport to Bo's family lake house was on the other side of the blue and white Comanche roared off. Thunderstorms were firing up later. He got the driveway. As he did he saw a convoy of a blue Volovo Annas parents were in that vehicle, a Chevy Suburban and Ford Explorer. Bo's father recognized Stephen and the vehicles went into driveway Stephen walked under the carport.
The guys were getting the downstairs garage area. Stephen was told he could unpack there. They were going to use the lake for a whole host of workout functions and once the vehicles were emptied they were told they had 30 minutes to get ready to go into the lake. Stephen liberated his feet from the combat boot that transferred the feel of the rudder pedals to his feet. His shorts were swim trunks.
(Sumer morning 1991 Darrel Clark's parent's house crosscountry team retreat New Braunfels Unicorns. )
Bo's family had a boat dock that extended far into the lake. Coach Bob had a series of relays which would build strength. The lake when Stephen King kneeling in the area was up to his neck his long calves kneeling on them in gravel that was the bottom made him about the height or many of the girls on the team. The relays were done they helped get upper body strength which played a role in hill climbing. The water forced the legs to work minus the impact. The resistance though did not build muscle mass. Julie was surprised she could talk eye to eye with Stephen when she realized he was on his calves. Tara and Kimber had a good time hanging out. The two were talking about games past and found out though different in personalty they had many of the same experiences. The boys were feeling themselves out. The relays including a long wade and back again. Stephen did enjoy the view. It put him closer to Anna and Lezlee. He normally towered over the two. He lost 8 inches of his height his crawl still put him him 3 inches taller. The girls were short but well formed. Raul was distant talking little but showing his relative strength by being speedy. Serg was displaying humor. The clouds above were threatening rain.
Coach Bob decided to have them run a mile before the rain came down. The organizing and that would allow dinner to be cooked. It was a mile loop some of which had Stephen walked. As they started out the rain began to fall. For Stephen was a joyous thing. Tara was smiling. The group had long ago fallen in love with running in the rain. Even Raul decided he liked it. They made back soaked to the bone but happy.
The burgers were being made in the kitchen up stairs. The condiments had been placed on a picnic table on a porch outside that was covered. Tom asked him about Denton. Stephen was drinking in the highland lake scenery as he talked. At one point he was still trying to get used he was in the hill country with the Unicorns! A smile on Stephen's face was evident to all. For Amanda she was realizing Stephen was enjoying this. Tara was listening to the lore of the team being played out by other girls. The stories told in Denton were far more factual then hyperbole. Denton functioned with out drama generally. The teams in Denton were like a Honda CRX.
Finally the burgers were placed the first load of meat they were told to get just one at first. Bo filled Stephen on some of the funnier stuff that had happened as more meat was brought out and the guys had doubles. Leisha asked about Denton and she seemed surprised at the change and complete lack of innocence. The transition from small town to suburb had been intense and brief. The college profs were not interested in high school sports. Stephen King was actually indicating he liked the results he had left a growing feeling of servant leadership being started. You were an athlete not for fame you represented the purple and gold because you wanted to and you loved the school. The lack of perks had created a different culture. She was surprised to hear Stephen actually talking nice about Denton which was contrary to what she had heard. Stephen explained how Denton Bible had started filling the gap. His face had joys of the modified school spirit he had encountered and he spoke of joy of the play off run of the football team. It seemed confusing.
Tara sat and Stephen talked about the area. The compare and contrast gave Julie a picture of a camp face as youth pastor! Behind the Romantic face a harder edge was shown. Sentiment had its limits. Julie could see echoes of real discipline. This new old guy had echoes of Keith unflinching at times and disciplined.
Amanda was watching some of the guys toss a football round. The sun started turning sky colors as it set and the daytime heating shower had abated. Stephen King sipped his Dr. Pepper Coach Noel Scott watched and walked around while eating checking out the team. Coach Bob was with him talking about his goals for the season while listening to elements of the Team Chemistry as it began to play out. Serg Raul Thomas and Micheal were speaking in Spanglish and would have been surprised that Noel Scott heard about the party they had attended that weekend and the 4 kegs that were there. He played it cool and did not reveal he had heard it to anybody but himself. The west side had the parties. There were also quite a few around Comal County. Dennis talked with Pual about an upcoming football team party that would have a couple kegs of Shiner Bock near old Hinman’s place beyond Hueco Springs road.
As the meal was over Stephen decided to chase some Sunfish hoping they would be at the dock on the deeper end of the lake he got a small mini rattler from the tackle box they were told they could use the fishing rods and he went to the end of the boat dock. Once clear of the noise of the music he opened made a cast with the spinning reel casting the mini trap far into a channel and he methodically began working it. Tom joined him. Their senior status was already affecting thinking. Tom was still trying to see if the once devoted freshman would fit in with the team. As Stephen made a cast he explained what he liked about Denton and learned there. There would be conflict Tom knew it would happen. He saw that much. Stephen was not so much interested in himself but a set of values now was on his mind. Tom asked questions processing what he heard. "Coach Bob is a burn out he has complained about guys not giving it I believe him" struck Tom's ear. At that point Tom realized once again but more so then ever he would have to be a cooling fin on the team. The stories of Cabin 4 and the drills of LLYC had focused on a lifestyle that preached without words. He figured out Stephen despite his persona of lone wolf was really happiest in a pack.
Dr. King's son was pushing himself hard in the workouts. The team had signed a paper at the physical that as athletes any MIP or other offense would lead to a ban on extra curricular activities the whole year. The policy had been around since Stephen left. His mother though had made it clear she was to enforce it. The School Board had been subject to a couple controversy of the policy not being uniformly implemented. Elections brought change and Dr. King was change. The policy was to be enforced by order of the voters of New Braunfels by the narrowest of majorities. Tom then asked Stephen "You realize you and your mom are on the same page?" Stephen replied "scary."As he made another cast the fish though were over a mile away. The two headed for a movie and watched it. It was playing upstairs near the kitchen area and the girls were watching House Party.
Stephen got out his guitar and started trying to put a song together. Coach Noel soon joined him. He asked "How does it feel to feel back." Stephen replied "About what I thought it would be." Coach Noel Scott looked at him "Keep your course clear and on target." Coach Bob had not heard. Stephen nodded and started playing out the riff and the lines. Tom went out and joined in the darkness. Stephen realized he was struggling but he had some components of the song and that was good enough for him. He then decided he would be early to turn in. He knew a long run was coming the following day and he wanted to be fresh for it. The run would occur bright and early before breakfast.
Stephen had been asleep a couple hours when Thomas, Mike, Raul, Bo, Aero, Dennis and Paul came back to the room for sleep. He would shower in the guy’s room first and he had every intent to read the word before they left for the morning run. They were surprised to see him early there already asleep be was momentarily awaken but was soon asleep again. Tara, Kimber and Julie had done a similar thing. The morning arose early and Stephen King walked out to the dock with his black NASB. The passage was Mark 14:32-37.
What Stephen did not notice was Coach Noel Scott was sitting on a picnic table reading the parable of the harvest. Above them Tara was reading Ruth, Julie was reading Romans; on the other end of the group Kimber was reading James extol followers to rejoice in trials. The morning was humid and calm clouds had rolled in and they had yet to be thinned out. Tara was processing quietly she was not a cheerleader and maybe inner beauty would be in the long run more attractive. Romans made Julie face her depravity. Kimber wondered if she would have to be more joyful in hard workouts and she also realized she would have to be warmer and realize her two fold status and embrace the newcomer. For Stephen the words leapt out at him. Christ was struggling he was weak but ultimately obedient. Stephen's eyes filled with tears of joy and attitude of rejoicing. The Holy Spirit had turned a light on he saw the struggle the humanity of Christ the fact he was ultimate sympathetic high priest. For Coach Noël he realized how much Denton Bible had played in Stephen and Tara's life. He would get to help in the harvest it was humbling and good news. As he looked up he could Stephen walking back as an alarm was going off. He was curious he saw the tears and red circles on the eyes. He asked "What passage?" Stephen replied with the number. There was a smile "Good breakfast before a run." Coach Noel Scott commented.
Coach Bob was awaken early and he could see the looks of four girls, his new assistant and Stephen King all reading he figured out the bible. The five figures were in their own world detached from each other. What he did not see was the events happening inside as the God they worshipped was changing them and the season was being prepared for on another level. Coach Bob was only half way aware of the forces that were to reshape the team. Coach Bob had just witnessed unknowingly the force that would change forever the season.
The girls and the guys started getting ready they would have the long run. For guys it was a five miler. Stephen was changed and showered early. He sat on the lake dock while the guys prepared. The girls were not getting too pretty. It took about 45 minutes for everybody to get ready and the team got into 4 SUVs. They back tracked from where they had gotten to the lake and drove out five miles for the guys. The sky was now clear and the temperature would only go up. Everybody on the team knew it. They stretched Tom leading, Serg, Dennis and Paul joined directing things. Aero and Raul were reminded of their place. Stephen Ray, Troy were both groaning. Mike quipped we might give one of these crazy German ranchers a reason to call La Migra. There was a hint of fear not without its legitimacy. The German’s had settled this part of Texas. Stephen King was excited but he was not too thrilled about this aspect of the run. He knew its purpose. Special had cut loose a one liner to the La Migra "I'll tell them you are doing work on my Garden." Bo quipped "Just tell them you are helping my parents build a deck." They started the run. The sarcasm was based in truth there were lots of construction crews who were subcontracted and sub contracted to have lots of people not so legal workers and people looked the other way.
Tom felt it in his soul he knew this was his last season. He also knew the distance. He slowly started the five mile run home. The sun was climbing and the pack strung out a bit. It was a Texas two lane on the Edwards Plateau to a residential street. The ranchers had kept the cedar cut back and this deep cut in the hill country looked like knew the Germans had seen it… Staying below the lactic acid threshold meant that this was going to be a long one. Aero, Raul slowly faded from view. They knew darn well the length and even for potentially stupid freshman they were playing it cool. Dennis, Paul, and Bo were hardly in hot pursuit. Micheal Thomas and Serg were handling the heat the way desert rats would. Tom knew the purpose of this exercise to bore out so to speak the engine cardio capacity. Stride by stride alone. Driving five miles out had been an effective motivational technique. Some traditions were getting humorous with each year this was one. The lake house was where the breakfast was waiting. Cruising below the lactic acid threshold on a five mile run was hardly exciting. It had simply had to be done. Crosscountry was hardly an adrenaline junkies sport. The time though gave him time to think he was glad that the team he cared about had talent. The rain from the day before had done little to remove the faded color from the grass it was something close to brown or gray. Tom was on an Asphalt road over a deep cut in the Edwards Plateau. Football team had screaming coaches and teammates testing metal. Crosscountry was a loners sport. Team tactics may appear in race for a few seconds at a time but for the most each had to figure their own way through it. This was as much mental as physical endurance test five miles at a little over six minutes a mile. Tom would run this at home later but those landmarks were a bit more interesting. At a slightly slower six minute mile pace the hill country was hardly romantic. It was hot it was boring it was the realization he had been smart. Sweat and distance the blue sky above the parched earth around the run continued. He knew the landmarks and he knew he was getting closer at a slow and steady rate. The landmarks reminded him that the run was not an eternal thing he was actually moving. With the passing of a mini-mart store a market to the village he realized he was getting close. He made the right turn. He realized he had about 800 yards left might as well surge. The descent into the lake had begun. His longer legs pushed and the realized how much carbs had been used up by his leg muscles and the juice was not quite there he expected but he did pick up some speed he finally saw the house in view.
Raul was in the land of white men. They had been the ones crazy enough to live out here then they were ones rich enough to by the new lake front lots. He knew to look at the route they were going out. Once the run began well he was a runner. He did not like the drudgery. The sun was shining. The greens and grays and whites filled his eyes. As things strung out he was in front which scared him. Soon he was sweaty be was eating the distance at a steady rate. He wished he was running and Eden Home, he wished he was running an Encino; this was five miles of boredom. The end of the run was where the food was. He had always been a runner and he was good without much effort. Special kind of freaked him out Stephen King was as odd as his sisters stories of him had once been. The black asphalt was beneath his feet he continued to run. The run continued it seemed in slow motion. Well he was a runner so run. His only consolation was each step bringing him closer. This was a world no football player dealth with boredom and fatique attacking the heart no coach in your face.
Stephen King if anything was practical. This was going to be boring. He saw the pack string out in front of him. He knew there was a time for aggression and a time to do the run at a pace that was sain ok for at least the first four miles. The low would not permit the firing of thundershowers for a few more hours. The Colorado River cut a deep scar in the Texas Hill country. The summer had been brutal. Life on the hill country an average of extremes. Averages were transition points. Droughts interrupted by floods. The scenery was nice but was moving slow beneath his feet. He had made a rough note on where to surge after about 25 long minutes he hit the point he started a surge not quite totally fast but he could see Tom being gained on in the front he was closing the distance steady steady steady steady. Once Tom hit the store he was getting just a bit smaller again Stephen matched his pace to keep it going. The distance was static finally he passed the store Tom had disappeared but when the store was close. Stephen slammed it harder to a surge but his legs were not quite up for it.
Tara had been told to get in the same Ford Explorer with Linda and Amanda. Her talent was about to give her a 4 mile run instead of a 3 mile run. She just did not know it at the time. She was watching the Odometer. Amanda quipped "Welcome to the privileged few." The trio stretched and began the run back to the house on the lake. Tara at this point was wishing she was sparring someone instead of running. She knew the lactic acid threshold. She also knew she better stay below it. Her stocky body was not quite crosscountry she was not as slender as Amanda nor as petite as Linda. Yet she worked hard and she knew she would have to stick with the two or reasonable close. This area was relatively free of trees the grass had a weak look green beneath the gray. The two lanes of Texas asphalt had a wide enough shoulder. Well she knew that complaining about things never made em easier. So she ran in the early morning as the heat increased bit by bit she was going to be a star of the team but the glory came with the sweat and the sweat was now. She accelerated a hair when she saw the grocery store that lead to the top of the village it was literally down hill at that point she was glad to get back to the house.
The aroma of eggs bacon and sausage filled the air. As Stephen arrived he knew Troy and Steven Ray were behind him along with Special. He got three cups of exceed and greeted them at the gate to the front fenced yard. It was welcoming. After they calmed down it was time to load up the plates with food. The food was heavy but it was nourishing. The biology was simple a lot of fat had burned that morning. The eggs, bacon, pancakes, butter and whole milk were replacing calories that the team had expended running in the Texas sun. The carbs were like the so called panther piss in the JP-8 that fueled the SR-71. They helped sustain the aerobic fat metabolism. A molecule of fat had far more energy then glycogen did. The team dug in. They were beginning to look like distance runners toned cut muscles not particularly large. Bo's parents knew and everybody had chipped in for the food. While the run had occurred the kitchen was going full force. Bo's parents both coaches had been cutting up the fruit unpacking the syrup and butter. The buffet that was consumed quickly required an effort equal to that of the run with a whole lot more cooperation between all involved. The victory was a couple trash bags full of paper plates void of food and an explosion the amount of empty cabinet space and space in refrigerators.
(Coach Noel Hansen the man who helped make a jock out of this dyspraxic Upstairs Deck Darrel Clark's Lake house Team retreat summer 1991)
The radio was playing outside at first Stephen Could not believe it as he was chewing a bacon strip after a big slug of whole milk. The riff was there he was with Tara. Special started grooving. Dennis had a smile on his face. The song was Hotel California. Stephen could not help himself laughter hard sharp laughter a chuckle. The howls from Stephens mouth grew louder indicating disbelief. "What is so funny?" Tom asked Stephen was laughing like a wild hyena there was a degree of sarcasm in the voice, "Perfectly fitting this town." Amanda heard the line and was shocked as Stephen considered it so funny. Raul asked "Why are you laughing?" Stephen replied "The punch line of the joke is that you do not see the raw humor?" Serg replied "You are weird" Coach Noel Scott rapidly intervened "Condescension does not lead to understanding." He had look of controlled anger in his eyes. The laughter died.
Coach Bob realized what had happened he did see the joke of ritual with forgotten meaning and ignoring of fact. Stephen's harder cynical edge flashed but was cut off. The preverbal teacher shot gun had been drawn fired and stuck back in body holster with all the ceremony of a bite being eaten. He noticed how his new assistant had quelled what would have been acrimony really fast. Coach Bob also noted that Coach Noel had been expecting Stephen King to act that way and was prepared. He shot a look of appreciation. The Bronco had started a buck but the Cali cowboy had gotten the horse under control. Coach Noel had earned Coach Bob's respect.
Tara understood it all the laughter was not surprising to her. Bo commented you are weird. The tension died quickly but it did make clear Stephen King had changed he had once jammed out to the song. The guys knew that they been laughed at but they did not get the joke. Amanda was surprised at how this force could change so rapidly.
It was later that Tom came by Stephen King. He was curious as to the laughter. Stephen King was chasing fish that were far further in the lake deeper down. The shallow water had grown warm. As Stephen King worked his casts Tom asked what was so funny. Stephen King talked about his last visit to New Braunfels before be moved. "Ritual whose meaning had been forgotten is what the song is about. That defines New Braunfels." The voice contained a bit of grief and anguish. Tom said "That laughter does not prove the point." Stephen reflected "Sarcasm is my narcotic of choice." Tom had assumed the big brother role easily. He asked what happened in Denton. Stephen King talked about the blood trail down a hall a suicide a daily assault a sister who forced him to abandon the Catholic Church it had been a blow torch. In Stephen King's words was not so much a hatred for the heart of New Braunfels but rather a reactionary impulse. Tom could see hints of the scorned lover or the man who realized what the town did not. The laughter was really grief.
The day ended with swimming fishing. Stephen did some of his own riffing the week ahead promised to be interesting longer runs the check ride and meet the Unicorn night was coming up as well. The retreat had set up the roles of the team. Stephen King was a force returned. His quirks had been enhanced in the absence his desire to serve and his work ethic could not be denied.
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