mulling over this inspired collection of homilies Robin came back sniffling.
" Mr. Gilbert, I really want to run, but I want to go to the party. What am
I going to do?" Blub, blub.
do what you want to do most. I can't tell you."
"I want to
run most," blub, blub. "Please don't be mad at me."
daughters of my own I had come to know most of the girls who showed up every
afternoon in the pasture (I no longer think of my oldest daughter, Lyn, as
such, but as my 220 sprinter and second girl on the 440 relay team). However, I
knew most of them with ribbons in their hair and birthday cake smeared over
their faces. In the beginning the tendency around the pasture was to continue
thinking of the girls as little squealers who were out for sort of an athletic
party. However, it slowly became apparent that they were something far
different, more than this. Whatever we did—jogged, sprinted, jumped—there were
always half a dozen girls well up front, ahead of the boys. Furthermore, at the
end of a two-hour practice session it was invariably a girl who wanted to know
if she couldn't run some more.
First—most of the
time and in a lot of different ways—was a wispy, leggy 11-year-old, Linda.
Linda has a great mop of honey-colored hair from under which peers a rare and
elfin face. You seldom see her when she is not laughing out of what apparently
is sheer pleasure in being Linda and being where she is. In addition to being
the original joy girl, she is also, usually, at least three yards ahead of
anybody—girl, boy or man—who tries to run with her.
" Mr. Gilbert,
can I run a hundred yards with you just for practice?" Linda said one day
when I knew less about this remarkable sprite than I do now. The notion
appealed to everyone, particularly the high school principal, who was standing
nearby, a portly gentleman whom the kids call, behind his wide back, Captain
jog along with her. I don't want to discourage her," I said in an aside to
Captain Zoom Zoom, who gave me one of those withering, high-school-principal
We went out the
first 50 yards at what seemed to me a recklessly fast pace, but I consoled
myself because Linda was able to stay at my side. About 10 yards from the
finish line she went zip past me. Trying to stay by her side, I felt something
go z-zz-pop in my right calf.
Gilbert, you run good for somebody old," Linda said sincerely, as she
waited for me. The experience convinced me that my future in track and field
lay in filling out entry forms for girls like Linda.
Cindy is 12, with
legs that start below her chin. She is a dark, cool child whose general
appearance can only be described as saturnine. She has a Roman nose, black
gambler's eyes and unlimited confidence. "I'll be the best jumper and one
of the best runners, not quite as good as Linda but pretty good," Cindy
announced calmly on the first day, not giving an opinion but stating a fact.
Nobody has yet disproved it.