Friday, July 14, 2017

Retracing Steps and Reminiscing

This is a continuation of my previous post.

I left the gravel road and drove north along Lincoln Ave toward the west side of downtown Huron. I was reminiscing about the time I went for a run early in my running days and rather than the typical 2 to 3-mile loop I was accustomed to then, I kept running up Lincoln Ave into downtown then east beyond the James River and past the beef processing plant. I didn't stop until 9.6 miles later when I returned home. My quads were so sore. My cardiovascular system was up to the task but my legs weren't quite there yet. I soaked in a warm tub to try and ease the pain.

The demographics of Huron have changed considerably since the mid-'80s when the population was overwhelmingly white. There's now a noticeable presence of Hispanic and Karen people (an ethnic minority from Myanmar) who came for jobs in the turkey processing plant—by far the largest employer in town. The beef processing plant is long since gone.

I doubt there's any hope for The Huron Mall but how nice it is to see the city doing as well as it is.

Following the route of my first long run (mentioned above), I drove toward the James River and the Memorial Park Golf Course—a small 9 hole municipal course that I'd occasionally play when I was new in town before I made the switch to the longer course near the airport. I parked my car in the gravel lot and went inside the metal shack of a clubhouse. I believe it's the same clubhouse from the days when I used to play there. I spoke with the woman inside and she gave me some history of what's been happening in the area, focusing mostly on a flood in the late '90s that left all of Memorial Park and even the clubhouse underwater. The course layout has changed some to accommodate an expansion of the minor league ball field adjacent to it. I asked her if it was okay if I walked the course for old times' sake. She was happy to give me the go-ahead. I pocketed a scorecard with the course map and made my way to the 1st tee.

The greens were in very good condition with the exception of two of them where ants posed somewhat of an obstacle. There was only one other golfer out there. I eventually caught up with him and tagged along for a couple holes making small talk before going on ahead to complete my lap. I made it back to my car and took my clubs and cart out to have a go at it. For old times' sake.

By the time I took to the 1st tee, I was the only other golfer out there. I finished my nine holes in record time (for me) at around an hour. I got back in my car and continued to retrace the steps of my run, all the while feeling like it was only recently that I lived here. How can 32 years get away so quickly? I kept asking myself. It was a sobering thought that kept coming back to me.

My plan had been for me to walk this old running route of mine but I was heading back home the next day and there wouldn't be enough time. I got back in my car and slowly drove the rest of the route, taking it all in as my brain accessed memories that had been dormant for so long. I eventually ended up back up at my old apartment and parked in front. I got out and walked around a little, grabbing a few photos before driving back to the hotel and the restaurant there for dinner. I tried to find the old local FM station, KURO, on my car's radio but it's no longer there.

While seated in the restaurant I was able to get a possible number for a friend I used to work with. I texted him. "Is this Willy Kutter's phone? This is Kevin Gilmore and I'm trying to reach him. Thanks!" I didn't know Willy well enough to stay in touch with him over the years but how nice it would be to reconnect and catch up on each other's lives.

Before long my phone lit up with a call from Willy. He invited me over. It was getting late so I quickly paid for my meal and navigated the 6-minute drive to his home. He met me at his front door. This must be the Twilight Zone I thought because none of us ever changes in the eyes of the other. A few more wrinkles, yes, but I'd have recognized Willy and his wife Joan anywhere. He expressed the same sentiment toward me. We chatted for 3 hours about so many things. I enjoyed our time together a lot. We could've easily kept chatting but it was after 11:00 and I was feeling tired. It was a nice end to a very full day and I'm so glad I reached out to him.

I woke up early the next morning with a pounding headache that wouldn't allow me to sleep due to what I figured was dehydration from my ride the day before. I had one last thing on my list before refueling and heading for home, and that was to play a round of golf at the course near the airport that I'd spent so much time on when I used to live here. Except it wasn't the same course at all anymore. I'd looked online at the layout days earlier and saw that it bared little resemblance to the course that once occupied this plot of land. Where there used to be only 9 holes of what could fairly be described as "prairie pool", there were now 18 challenging and beautifully maintained holes of golf that I was so impressed by. If only my pounding head would allow me to fully enjoy them.

I walked the grounds and tried to imagine where the previous tees and greens used to be while a flood of memories came back to me—good memories. Small and mostly meaningless memories I suppose but they are mine from a lifetime ago and they add to the pages of my life so they're not insignificant to me.

And all too quickly I was back at my car, loading my clubs in the back for the ride home and feeling grateful for my time spent in Huron—for the blessing it was to me then and now.

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