In my career as an athletic trainer I spent a lot of time with people who liked to run long distances. Some of them seemed remarkably sane. Many rhapsodized about something called an 'endorphin high', which apparently occurs when you punish your body to the point that it begins to crank out its own painkillers in self defense. As thrilling as that sounds, I decided to pass. On the rare occasions when I lost my head and ran more than the width of the corral, I was quickly reminded why it was a bad idea. My lungs are not meant to bleed.
Given all that, you can see why I was amazed to find myself jogging the other night.
Obviously, I hadn't planned to jog. If such a plan had crossed my mind, I would have had the sense to stay on my couch until it went on its merry way, as most of my thoughts are prone to do. Along with the grocery list, the location of my keys and the whatever-it-was that my husband asked me to be sure and get done today.
On this particular evening he asked me to bring his tool pick-up out to the far north hayfield, where he was baling hay. Normally, someone else would follow along in another vehicle or on the four wheeler to give me a ride back. But it was a lovely evening and I had spent most of the equally lovely day poking at computer keys in my basement office.
No need for a ride, I decided. I'll just walk home.
I like to walk. Walking rarely causes my thighs to feel as though they're being jabbed with a hot branding iron. I especially like walking in the pasture between the hayfield and our house, across a flat strewn with tipi rings and wildflowers, through a coulee where I might flush the three point buck who spends all of his summer vacations as our guest.
To drive the pick-up out to the hayfield I had to go through the pasture gate near the corrals. Stop the pick-up, climb out, open the barbed wire gate and drag it out of the way. Drive the pick-up through, stop, and reverse the process. Except, as I was driving through, I noticed that the only animals in the field, our small band of Longhorns, were clear out in the farthest corner, over a mile away, beyond where I would be leaving the pick-up.
I left the gate open.
I really should know better. Longhorns are not normal cows. They are much more...active. And crafty. And capable of smelling the breeze blowing through an open gate from over a mile away. They are also smart enough to know that if they made their move too soon, I would simply turn the pick-up around and drive back to shut the gate.
So they waited.
I dropped off the pick-up. Chatted with my husband for a bit. Each time I checked on the Longhorns, they batted innocent eyes at me. Who us? Why no, we're not working our way closer to the gate. Nope. Just sort of casually grazing over here. Pay no attention to us.
I set off across the field for home. A hundred yards from the pick-up, I realized the Longhorns had stopped pretending to graze and were marching along the fence, directly toward the gate, with a big old black spotted cow taking the lead. I could practically hear her calling out cadence to be sure everyone stepped along smartly. The bull, I noticed, seemed a little testy. Rumbling and growling and shaking his head. You know, the head with the big poky things.
I stopped. Looked back. Looked forward. If I went for the pick-up, they would beat me to the gate. But on foot, I had a good angle on them. If I kept going but picked up the pace, I could get across the coulee and to the corral first.
I broke into a slow trot.
I hit the coulee a few yards ahead and a quarter mile west of them. Don't ask me how I managed to blunder down the rock strewn trail, hopscotch across the bog at the bottom, and chug through the buck brush without breaking an ankle. It wasn't for lack of trying. I staggered, rubber-legged and huffing like a steam engine, to the top of the other side just in time to see the Longhorns hit the reservoir.
So much for getting ahead of them. The lead cow had out-maneuvered me. They were now between where I stood and the open gate. And I was dead center in the middle of the pasture, at the spot farthest from the protection of any fence.
The bull glared at me and did some more rumbling and head shaking. And the lead cow, recognizing my dilemma, made a swift command decision. Forget the gate. She led them straight up the opposite side of the coulee, thereby cutting off my direct line to the corrals.
Luckily, a smaller coulee intersects the main coulee at the point. I was on one side. The Longhorns and their bull were on the other. We were all moving south.
Ignoring the protests of my oxygen-deprived body, I kicked myself into a brisk jog. The lead cow also picked up her pace. By now, my vision was beginning to blur. I stumbled over rocks and into gopher holes. But I didn't dare slow down. The side coulee ends a good quarter of a mile from the south fence, and we were all on course to collide at its head.
I drove my shrieking legs and hemorrhaging lungs onward, assisted by a healthy dose of adrenaline. The bull was only twenty yards away when I scrambled through the fence. I hunched on the other side, hands on knees, gulping air. The Longhorns gathered across the wire, elbowing each other and pointing and snickering. Then they wandered off in search other entertainment.
I shoved myself into an upright position. My head spun, then pounded like a ceremonial drum at Indian Days. I did a quick system scan. A few wild rose thorns in my knee caps. One small puncture wound from the dive through the barbed wire fence. My chest felt like I'd snorted a fistful of cayenne pepper. My calves were starting to cramp.
I hobbled down to shut the gate. The experience confirmed my suspicion that joggers are not mentally sound. If this is what they call a natural high, I'd hate to see what they consider a low.
**I'm beginning to think some sort of evil plot is afoot to force me to jog. Directly after posting this blog entry, I went out for a walk. It was cloudy, but it had been cloudy all day, so I wasn't too concerned. I headed south, up the hill and across the barley field, then circled around to the pasture and started home. Which was when I saw the first bolt of lightning bounce off Chief Mountain. I lengthened my strides, not particularly concerned. The storm was a good twenty miles away.
The next bolt crackled above Squaw Flat. Wait a minute. That's only ten miles. I launched into speed walking mode.
When the third bolt lit up Emmigrant Gap, I started running. I was still half a mile from the house and the storm was moving a heck of lot faster than I was. And I was on top of a hill. Once again, I arrived home sweating and in need of supplemental oxygen. I flopped onto the couch to recover, and watched the thunderstorm fade harmlessly off to the north.
I swear, I could hear the Longhorns laughing.