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The race

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By Ken Begley

I’m going to turn 51 in October. That may sound old to some people, but I’m a spring chicken in the prime of my life. That’s what my 82-year-old daddy tells me every time we talk about age. He wouldn’t lie.

You may doubt this, but I do all kinds of exercise because I’m still in the Army Reserve. I’ll have you know that I beat most everyone in my unit in the two-mile run. Of course my unit is a division headquarters where men less than 55 are called “sonny”.

Even so, given the opportunity, I can wipe the running track with these mommy-coddled, Playstation-addicted, Big Mac-eating, coke-swigging, hip-hop-listening youngsters in a fair foot race.

Opportunity knocked at the Kentucky State Fair a couple of weeks ago.

My family and my brother Tom’s family went together. Most of our kids were there along with Elizabeth Montgomery, my fifth grader’s running partner in school and play.

We were all over that fair for hours looking at everything from art to livestock to shows.

Then it was there!

My eyes lit up!

I saw my opportunity to prove what a physically fit perfect specimen of a man I am, 50 or not.

It was the National Guard’s inflatable obstacle course.

I looked over at my 13-year-old son Will, pointed at it and said, “You and me.”

Will said, “What? Race? Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I’m serious! I’ll beat you like a bad boy! Scared?”

“No, I just wanted to see if you were serious. Come on old man.”

“Old man? Pride goes before the fall, kid.”

We made our way to the front of the line, took off our shoes and told the Guardsman running the show, “We’re racing.”

The Guardsmen made certain all the kids had finished on the course and positioned us.

The crowd gathered in eager anticipation to watch the “Youth vs. Age” challenge.

As we leaned over, the springs in our legs started tightening up to launch us through the first obstacle, which was a tunnel.

The Guardsman screamed, “Go!”

I immediately tripped Will and pushed him off the mat while I made a mad dash to my tunnel.

Hey, that’s known as a handicap in golf, so don’t look at me like I did something wrong!

The tunnel led to a slight incline you had to climb up and over.

Hey kids, here’s a quick pointer. Never wear ankle socks on the National Guard obstacle course. I started up the slight incline and ran right out of my left sock.

I didn’t see Will around, so I took the time to grab the sock and flung it to my kid, Jenny, niece, Mary Beth and Elizabeth in the crowd while yelling, “Hold on to my sock.”

The girls screamed and the whole crowd parted like the Red Sea when Moses crossed.

Hey kids, here’s a second pointer. Never drag your feet across the livestock exhibit floors. After that organic fertilizer gets on your shoes, you never know where it will end up.

I started up the slight incline and felt a great pull from behind. I looked back and expected to see Will, but quickly realized it was just the weight of my large posterior holding me back. I have put on a few pounds lately.

Sweat poured from me as I struggled up the little incline. I then slid down the other side and had to make my way through a series of donut holes. By that time I wasn’t looking for Will anymore and concentrated on getting the heck out of here. One of my younger kids once gave me the dubious compliment of, “You know daddy, for a fat man you sure don’t sweat much.” Well, this fat man was sweating now.

I made my way through the last donut hole and grabbed the rope to pull myself up the large incline. A Guardsman was seated at the top. Hand-over-hand I made my way up to the Guardsman while the crowd, which was still stirred up from the flying sock, cheered. It was either a cheer or a laugh, I don’t know which, as I was feeling a little lightheaded . Sweat was streaming from every pore, but I managed to say with a look of pride to the Guardsman, “I’ve got 33 years in the navy, army, and army reserve and I can still pull my weight.”

“That’s great, sir. Not many men with that much ‘junk in their trunk’ could pull it all the way up here.”

“Thanks, I think. Anyway, tell my boy when you see him that I still have what it takes”

“You’ll have to tell him yourself. He passed here a few minutes ago.”

What?!?!?

I looked down at the ground and saw Will waving from the crowd.At least I thought I did. The lightheadedness returned and I fell down the slide backwards, ending in a graceful flip in the air until I landed on the floor.

Did you know those Guardsmen know great first aid treatments as well?

Yep. 51 in October. If I live that long.