Workouts Races Academics Pep Rallies Ace aint perfect but getting there ......with classic dyspraxic moment Hoof Prints a novel by Esteban Erik Stipnieks
The conditioning runs for Denton had their own vibes. Northlakes Park often was used for them. The Course was used twice as the home course and district approached. Ace accepted that the Denton course did have topography. There were a couple real courses that had measurable and noticeable topography including Norbuck park where two races occurred. Ace set a personal best. The male course the three miles at Denton was two pooched loops double backing in front of a large loop around the northern lake.
The start line was below in front of the northern dam it arched around a youth football field looking very much like quarter loop. There was a tree marking where on a high school track would be. This section of course was level. Ace struggled to run in front of Ponse Allan was usually ahead and the gay member of the team ahead. It felt odd dealing with the chill in late September. The course swung using a concrete sidewalk and a very slight but steady incline paralleling Windsor Street. What followed was long graceful curve circling around. Ace thought to himself one practice….. “Be it ever so humble.” He heard Annie behind him she was not gaining. The loop wound up with about 50 yard straight away to near one shore of the lake where later a fishing peer was added.
There was a series of turns which Ace truly enjoyed he was getting a bit smoother through the section. In this days practice course he could afford to play around which he did not. A 15 mile an hour wind sliced from the north. Very rarely was New Braunfels windy. Denton was affected by winds almost all the time. Their was a near 100 yard stretch where TI’s plant could be seen very clearly. What followed was a 90 degree left hand turn to the area behind the lake there was surprisingly some limestone in the bottom of one of the small draws that fed the flood control lake. Most of the time the draw was dry the dip was barely noticeable. Ace noted the mowers had finally cut the path again. His computer science teacher lived in the area and in the morning she was happy that they were prepping it gave her a nice new walking path to use. His computer science teacher had a daughter in the swim team. Ace thought of that there were teachers kids in Denton but the teacher’s kids strangely enough really were not treated specially at the school. Seeing the way as Ace made a gentle turn to the north around the lake was actually good. The perk less school tended to have more integrity sports were not too much about personal glory. The wind was now slicing ace on the side. There was than another turn where the slightly serpentine path intersected around the backside of radio controlled model airplane field. The radio controlled model airplane field was a point of distraction. Ace enjoyed watching a model perform a Cuban 8.
On the east side of the northern lake was another draw a huge descending turn aimed and Windsor again crossing the top of the dam. The descent was gradual. With the very wide turn back tracking for 50 yards the dam shielded the northern wind. A swath of cut crass marked the two double backs of the course this ended with the long straight away on the dam of the Northern lake. Coach Bob Hansen took out his slightly depressed view of the world but putting hairpins of extreme topography and tightness. The closing straight away of the male course was a long very straight very annoying boldly challenging the courage of the runner. The dam of Northlakes had a commanding view one could see near Lake Ray Roberts one could see the powers Texas Woman’s University. This was better to look at than the long flat level reasonably wide straight that even at five forty five mile pace seemed to be eaten up at an agonizingly slow pace. Ace did know the surge point of the 100 yard point. The irony Ace realized was that he wanted to fish the lake despite the bugly look. Ace no longer had the time to fish nor did his father. An activity done once twice a month had become something done once every two months. Ace wondered what was in the lake probably some catfish, sun fish and some large mouth bass.
Droopy was like Bo a bit of smart alec. Adam was the artist Ponse was a bit of the jock. Ponse was a bit like a Labrador retriever fundamentally friendly and good natured. Ace was the creative anachronism. Annie was the good natured tomboy sincerely warm in reality she would go on to be research biologist. The T-shirts were to be worn as Ace suggested on Fridays. The team was beginning to realize their was some method to the pomp. Coach Noel Scott gently encouraged on. Many on the team had gotten a ride on a bus. Coach Noel Scott was watching the soccer team.
Ace was quiet as the group did stretches. Annie had finished right behind him. Allan and Ellen were strange to him though he did not vocalize it. The two reminded him of Frankie and Annette beach blanket movie. As Ace had processed New Braunfels the two existed in world strangely parallel to Denton but not a part of. What he did not see Allan was far stronger than he realized. Allan did not need to have the bitter taste of sin shoved down his mouth to develop a passion for Christ. Allan had it. Shawn knew they were born again on the team but in the world of Denton people did argue with hostility. The common ground was the love of the long run. Ace was realizing what he liked of Annie and disagreed. There was talk about Arthurian romances. Ace finally vocalized how the letter jackets were a sign of knight hood in the old high school and chivalry. The remark draw some laughs and understanding. The workout was over it was time to do the homework. For that run at Northlakes of 10 teenagers there you had 40 honors courses taken amongst them. There were three orchestra members included.
Denton Ryan Campus was constructed off East McKinney Blvd. One of the fence lines that bordered the property was to a trailer park.
Ace generally got sixth period to run cross-country but one day yearbook and cross-country team needs formed the need for an after school run. There were some JV runners Scott was going to introduce them to the four mile run which ran near behind the school. The run itself was Mills Road to South Trinity, to Grissom finally back on to East McKinney. The run began on the corner of Mayhill and Mills. The first time Ace ran it was a little longer he had to take McKinney to Mayhill and Mayhill to Mills. This run was not fun it was long lonely and often quite boring.
The grass was light green and the trees were dark green the run began on Mills soon Ace grabbed a handful of rocks for his right hand. When he did so the three sophomores went by him wondering why he did what he did 20 yards later Ace had to laugh. He had learned the lesson in a slightly different manner the previous two weeks before he had an unplanned extreme kick. Ace the following week had gotten the rocks beaned the dogs that charged out and stopped them. It was funny. Mills was seemed to surrounded almost in a cave of trees. As he passed the group he grinned they realized why Ace had to grab the hand full of rocks. As Ace passed the farm house the dogs smelt him saw his tightly clinched hand and decided not to charge Ace. Ace knew this was white trash land. Ace was East of I-35 and you could hear the strains of deliverance so to speak. A girl from church lived nearby but this definitely the south. The farm house was poor. Things had gotten warm again. Mills was somewhat hot and muggy that day. Ace went faster. Ace resumed leadership of the run.
Ace wanted to yank the other guys of Junior Varsity. Near where Mills went into South Trinity Ace calmly extended his stride accelerating off the noticeable downhill. What Ace did not realize was he passing by the home of one of his classmates from Expo English. She had been sexually abused and was actually pretty close to starvation. Ace did appreciate her dry sense of humor and razor sharp wit. One thing Ace did not realize in many ways this friend of his would almost wind up like his mother. She had her own come to Jesus moment and stopped trying to earn what she could not possibly earn. He hoped others had noted form he was using on the trick. This speed and momentum made the right hand turn to South Trinity fun. Compared to New Braunfels the terrain was flat it was not extreme. For Dentonites this was as wild as you could get. For about forty yards with tall green trees and wetlands on either side South Trinity the road was flat. Then like Northlakes was one of the few hills in Denton. The grade of South Trinity to its small peal between Mills and Grissom road was actually comparable to Laurel Lane between the right turn and up to Encino forking off. Unlike Laurel Lane though the hill peaked out. It was time for another rock. Near the primitive Baptist church another entry area to another trailer park. This entry had big mean mutt in front of it and this big mean mutt did not like high school cross-country runners going by it. As Ace crested the hill once gain the dog snarled. This teammates this time had taken the action of Ace seriously they got their rocks.
The dog went out charging hard at Ace. Throwing a rock when you are a dyspraxic with real fear in your heart with any degree of accuracy is a difficult challenge. The dog with a dog with a large amount of German Shepherd blood did its low growling charge. The rock weighing one quarter pound hit the dog on right shoulder of the front paw. The next sound was a high pitched Yipe! Ace was not a good rock thrower but at times it paid to be lucky. The Dog looked at the other runners and decided that they were just going through and they obviously were worth the risk or effort to try and bite.
Another trailer park slid into view as once again Ace picked up some speed and made a right hand turn onto Grissom road. The area had been farmed when Ace’s Madre was a student at Texas Woman’s University. Ace made it front of the trailer park. The run up East McKinney had a large field. The trailer park that bordered Ryan high was a signal to begin the surge a quarter mile to Ryan the full sprint would be once on campus to the field house in the northwest Corner of the campus.
The bus approached Lake Ray Roberts. Ace could see the irony the weather today was like the weather of the first unofficial training run of his half Denton season. July 1991 in Fisher Australia mid October 1992 below lake Roberts. The weather was the same. Cold air from the north warm air overriding light rain. Ace had been listening to the song Already Gone. Donna had sent an angry letter slapping Ace’s paw has he maintained contact with New Braunfels. Ironically NB had become small hobby as he watched it contort and crash. Ace could sense with the football team winning and the new elements of school spirit other teams were getting T-shirts.
The run started where the Trinity River left Ray Roberts the path would go to a state park on the East shore of the lake. It was four mile run Annie and Tara would run with the guys. As the rain fell it was hard not to feel a little defiant a little rebellious and fairly reckless. The rebel queen had fallen and Denton was shaping up Ace shared ideas some of his ideas were accepted others had their own. The blank pages were being filled with a new grand story. One thing about the girls aside from Tara was they in their own ways were fun. The realization of what was going finally allowed the scales in front of Ace’s eyes to fall off. Lake Ray Roberts was nice. The water came out the grass well kept. The tannish sand was fun to run in once the concrete path ended.
The scene was not fall down pretty but it was somewhat wild somewhat free the rain was coming down. The four mile run was not quite three mile throttle slam. Then again it was hardly slow. The run became a blur of memory the wet the turning path the trees the soft soil and the broken concrete path. Ace bemoaned the fact he could not fish the area no time to do so. The ride back to campus where the cars were gave precious time to do a Latin assignment. Tara actually helped some.
Brett Stroud the Friday had told Ace was wanted at the pep rally and he had promised that well things were different. Ace skeptically went through the commons area that morning expecting to be disappointed at what he would see. The forty five minutes that followed Ace cheered some he was very pleasantly surprised. No it was not “just like” only half the students present knew the Alma Matre….Ace was in the half that did not know the Alma Matre or the fight song. The pep rally was more student lead far less faculty and administration was involved. A smile slowly emerged when his ears registered some very real loud sound and he noticed people were standing up. The pep rally for Ace was a profoundly pleasant surprise. Ace noted it was as if the campus had climbed about 15,000 feet and the Mach meter was winding past Mach .75. NBHS was have its own issues it seemed that Denton was now hitting his stride.
Ace quickly went to the yearbook room he found out there was an assignment JV football Thursday night. Ace looked at the extended forecast. The Extended forecast for the following week was a freeze. Ace quietly groaned. For all the pride Ace had in the new and improved Denton Ace was still Norteno at heart the idea for freezing his tail off at the small stadium on Ryan campus was not fun but it was necessary.
There were common rituals between the two worlds. The morning of going to a meet always began near the field house meeting a school bus. People would have their bags their music their Gatorade. The bus would be boarded. Ace though would later day risk being humiliated. It came close. The trip to the course was also allowing Ace to learn more about the DFW metro area.
Ace had managed by fluke to run varsity three races he was back on JV. Coach Noel Scott had told him if he finished above Droopy again he would be forced to run Varsity next meet making a letter jacket. Ace was the preverbal alternate. Ace had worked hard but in the locker room whined about the ca ca ca cold of North Texas. Buga had needed a translator and quipped “If you were a real Norteno you would quite la vocal” Ace had blushed at that at they arrived. Ace nearly fatally had not walked the course. The course had a small hill on it.
There were rituals Ace clung to one was the post race debrief. This was becoming serious in the Denton Team. Had it not been for this warning Ace would have been a world of hurt. Adam issued a stern warning from his own near wipe out. Adam placed his finger on the map a 15 yard down hill with a hard left turn at the base of it. Adam who normally was sarcastic was direct “Do not let your speed get too fast Ace I know you like to cannonball but there is nothing but brush and poison ivy…at the base of the hill is very loose sand you can not get too fast without wiping out I heard five people say Oh shit”
Ace ran wild. Coach Noel Scott did not tell him the reason why the back of the T-shirt had “Running Wild” but well Ace scrubbed energy off on a course the way drunken sailor spent money on liberty. The Arlington course was no different. Ace was aggressive but often not smart. He though had gotten the team cheering itself on which was a nice touch. Coach Noel Scott had often thought the team before Ace far too aloof. Now the issue was his aggressiveness. The refusal to walk a new course was a cocky arrogant mistake. Noel Scott was patient with Ace and decided not to confront.
The Arlington course for Ace was flat. Ace had so far made four wild cuts across the course. Ace was coming up on the downhill. Ace vaguely remembered Adam’s warning as he built up some speed on the down hill. Ace shortened his stride…just in a nick of time. Ace made the hard right hand turn. Coach Noel Scott was cheering he saw Ace’s face red. It was not just from exhaustion. Coach Noel Scott realized what had happened and suppressed a chuckle to himself. The lesson had been learned.
What followed at Panchos Buffet was Coach Noel Scott telling the boys that they were closing in on Allen. He made it clear while he wanted Allen defeated at least once. If Allen was defeated next week but not at district that would not be good enough. Coach Noel Scott wanted oh so richly Allen defeated on Denton’s home course at Northlakes park at district. Allen had blown out Denton two weeks previous on the home course.
Ace felt like a tourist as the bus drove back to Denton. Ace was realizing how much aviation history was just outside the windows. He had read Len Morgan’s writings and realized the rich history buried under the concrete and the eight lane highways. Recently Ace had read about Bonnie and Clyde. Ace made note where two police man had been killed. He tried to imagine and found it very hard to imagine that the area with its strip centers was once isolated farm land and gravel highway. Ace also was putting together some of his early trips to the area in the late 1970s as a near infant. Naturally he smiled as slid in some Steve Miller and Steve Miller played his version of “Mercury Blues”. Allan Boyd interrupted Ace’s reverie and asked him what was going on. Allan was surprised when he heard Ace comment that Steve Miller and Don Henley called Dallas their hometown. Allan then asked “So you wish you had walked the course” Ace blushed. Allan smiled “I remembered it from my freshman year…..we just might make a Bronco out of you”
There was no public praise in the Denton Record Chronicle Sunday morning. There was only one professor in the town that knew or cared what happened Friday night at Bronco Gym and Fouts Field. The school newspaper though would have the details and the efforts of elementary school principals with their own visions was bearing fruits. Bullying was going down and the three classes at Denton Ryan were becoming tightly knit. Leaving the bus Annie and Ellen along with Adam and Shawn thanked Ace for the photos he had taken and gotten in the school newspaper. The school newspaper was Ace was finding out was the newspaper that mattered.
It was the Tuesday the paper came out. A football player approached Ace. Ace was quietly fearful. “Man can you give a copy of the picture you took of me catching the pass while the corner back completely missed a tackle” Brett Stroud was behind….Brett had been photographed making a hit… Ace said “Paper is 20 bucks for a pack but the year book teacher will allow me enhance my portfolio I can do it” Brett handed Ace twenty two dollars and than said “Jim the picture 8x10 my birthday gift to you if Ace gets the photo of my tackle.” Jim had noticed “Ace man don’t be afraid of us you are an associate football player thanks for what do with the pictures.”
Wednesday morning Ace realized he had a Latin assignment. It was due in 10 minutes. The assignment was to identify a piece of classical culture in modern society. Ace had long ago made what he thought to be the obvious link between the Opening lines of Kansas “Carry on My Wayward Son” to the Dedalious and Icarus myth. Ace hoped his wise astute fireball Latin Teacher would buy what he thought was warmed over fecal material from a male Bovine and allow him to pass the class by the skin of his chinny chin chin. Ace hoped for C….which would have been decent. What Ace did not know was his eccentric nature he had many statements that struck teachers as wise. Strange in three months….the paper Ace had hoped to clear with C on was instead an A paper. Ace almost argued against his grade the Latin Teacher was resolute even if the artist had not intended it that shows how deep and strong the classics are still influencing modern art and culture. Tara sitting next to Ace was surprised even more then Ace was. She had pointed out the due assignment 5 minutes before class with the implication you better pass Latin.
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