“You better put your running shoes on”, the farmer laughed, looking down at Colleen and I from his tractor and eyeing our chest waders, hiking boots… and grey hair. “That chick can really run!” Then he gave us permission to access his bean field to capture the sandhill chick and glue a transmitter on it and drove off for some popcorn and a beer to watch the show, while whispering under his breath, “One small step for man — one giant race for the seniors”.
Meanwhile, the sandhill crane family stood out in the middle of the field giving us the dreaded, “Stink Eye”. “Looks like an AARP Convention”, Papa crane said to Mama crane.
“The Senior Olympics are about to begin”, Mama crane sighed.
“Don’t they have to wait for the Olympic torch”, the chick asked?
“Not in the Senior Games”, Papa crane answered. “Seniors can’t take the heat.”
“Let the Games begin”! my invisible friend announced as the starting gun sounded and our four legs began chasing the chick’s two across the field. It was Like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner… minus the “Beep Beeps”. (And we all know how that turned out!) The soybeans cried out in pain as our pounding feet crushed the life out of them. But they didn’t really care. They weren’t going to China this year anyway.
“Faster!” Colleen yelled. “He’s getting away!” We knew we had to catch the chick before it reached the safety of the not so distant woods where it would easily disappear.
“No Pain, No Gain!” my high school track coach screamed… from my distant past.
But soon my Pain began to outrun my Gain as my heart pounded against my chest so hard that I thought there was an alien in there trying to chew its way out. Then the snot began to boil out of my nostrils like lava from a Hawaiian volcano. My ears rang from the roar of my joints creaking and my bunions popping and the gas of a thousand McDonald’s burgers passing through me as if through a giant wind tunnel. Was it really possible, I wondered, to self-CPR? Would it require government Certification?
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” my old coach began to scream, then added, “Win one for the Gipper!” Who is the Gipper anyway, I wondered?
Row after row of soybeans flew by in a blur of speed and sweat. About a hundred hard won yards had passed into my rearview when my “Check Engine Light” flashed to life. Was I about to suffer the “Big One”? I was just about to brake for a stop when I realized Colleen was right behind me. What if she couldn’t stop in time? Visions of that cowboy in those old, black and white Westerns of my youth desperately galloping ahead of the stampeding herd came into my head. BANG! My foot slammed back down hard on the accelerator.
“Faster”! my invisible friend screamed. “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts — it’s how you keep from being run over and crushed into tiny bits of nothing by the stampeding herd that really matters.”
It was about then that everything began to go peacefully quiet… and all motion slowed… and I was suddenly disconnected and released and floating above it all, watching the whole drama unfold. I was having an “out of wader experience,” complete with the dark tunnel and the light at the end of it. But just then a sandhill chick ran into that light… and I heard Colleen’s voice yell, “Grab him!”
“Bummer!” the chick sighed in humiliation as I reached down from the heavens and grabbed the little fellow with my hot little hands. “I knew I should have eaten my Wheaties this morning.”
The process of “transmitter installation” was as fast and efficient as our arthritic hands would allow. And it had to be. Our morning “Bonanza” rerun was about to start on Me TV and we didn’t want to miss it. Pa, Hoss and Little Joe get really cranky when we’re late.
We released the chick, and over to his waiting parents he ran. “Let that be a lesson to you,” Papa crane told him. “Never compete with a Senior. They’re cunning and ruthless and they’ll beat you every time… even if they are on Medicare. Now go eat your Wheaties.”
As Colleen and I walked back across the bean field towards the tracking van, we could hear the sound of cheering and laughter coming from the barn. It was the farmer and his family. They were holding up large white cards… with numbers on them… all 10’s.
Turns out that In the Senior Olympics, “Going for the Gold” is “Going for the Old”.