A Hike with Waylon, Connections, and Unexpected Uphill Hell

This was begun almost three weeks ago. It was put aside for some drama, fierce second phase editing on my manuscript, golf, and most importantly a weekend visit from grandson Sam, my daughter Blythe, and son-in-law Jason. i resumed last week with the preamble below. It got put off again because i got sleepy. and i always listen to the sandman. Tonight, i listen to Enya in the dark of the evening, late for old folks (i finished but did some editing this morning).

i began this post yesterday morning after a most unusual hike. Now, i sit out next to our slope with a cool ocean breeze floating down from our hill where the flag at the top is snapping in the breeze. i can hear this product of the soft, cool breeze. i have chosen to play Dvořák’s Ninth, “New World” Symphony in E Minor.

It not only soothes me. It gives me hope.

You see, Dvořák took his inspiration for the symphony from Native American music and Negro spirituals.

Ever since i saw Cy Fraser conducting the symphony while listening on earphones in a Vanderbilt library sound booth in the spring of 1963, i have been captured by the beauty of this piece. i have written about it here before.

It is difficult to write this evening as i keep thinking about the passing of my friend Mike Dixon. i keep thinking of all the things we did together over the years and wishing i could capture them all here while i ‘m writing this post.

Then, i think Mike would like this, and i carry on…and i’m very good at carrying on.

My brother Joe and his wife, Carla Neggers, have been in Ireland for a while, hiking in incredible places.

i wish we were with them.

My sister Martha and her husband, Todd Duff, are hiking in Tetons near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with beautiful vistas.

i wish we were with them.

This morning, i decided i did not like the idea of running, not even downhill, this old man’s excuse for a fartlek i’ve recently resumed. So i headed out for the open space and supposed horse riding and hiking trails in our neighborhood. i’ve posted about those trails here before. This time, i thought it meaningful in that my brother in Ireland and my sister in Wyoming also were probably doing the same thing.

i have been not a big supporter of music while working out. i did some semi-serious running a majority of weekdays from 1977 until the late 1990’s. i always enjoyed the surroundings in which i ran. Listening to music on earphones via a cassette player or whatever the next generation of electronics provided seemed to insert itself in a holistic experience, interrupt, interfere, change the experience. But i have conceded it is often pleasurable to listen to my music while i walk or cheat and run.  Now i borrow Maureen’s iEarbuds or whatever they call those things you stick in your ear.

i had those things and my trusty iPhone music in my ears as i began my hike on about a half mile of surface streets before i veered on to the open space onto a hewned out trail down a long slope. i had walked it before but cut it off to complete a circuit around two miles. Today, i was determined to double it.

As i walked down the hill, i first thought of my father. My generation and those that have followed have become fixated with staying fit through every kind of physical exercise and diet regimens of infinite variety, which i’m sure will be added to daily with books and on-line programs and product sales, and i’m waiting for the “Snail Guide to Health: Physical and Dietary Regimen To Let You Live a Healthy Life as a Slug.”

My thoughts were far from that. Jimmy Jewell was one of the fittest men i have ever known, if not the fittest ever. i’m guessing he might have done some exercises during his month or so of early football practice at Lebanon High School in 1931. i’m sure his Seabee bootcamp at Camp Peary in Virginia gave him plenty of exercise. But that was it. Yet he always worked. Hard. i  recall him telling me his abs were better than the bodybuilding ads we see because he frequently had to pick up 250-pound drive trains to line them up and place in a vehicle chassis. And when i was in my late thirties in good shape, he still beat me in the number of pushups we could do. And i wasn’t in bad shape.

There were plenty of men and some women who were fit back then because of work, not working on their body toning. Strange. We don’t do as much physical work, but we work to be more physical.

And walking down that path, i remembered walking at night in the neighbor’s yards on Castle Heights Avenue. i was probably around ten years old after i read a book i had checked out from the Lebanon Library, the old house on West Main. i read a lot of those “histories of great American heroes, excessive in glorifying their exploits and ignoring their faults. One, it turns out was pretty accurate in its praise of the hero. Davy Crockett who fought for the rights of the native tribes, among other admirable acts.

After reading that book and others about Davy, those night walks in the neighborhood wouldn’t find me pretending to be the “King of the Wild Frontier” (and this was just before Fess Parker, the Santa Barbara winemaker was featured in Disney’s fanciful movie series). In those walks, i would imagine being in leather moccasins, an “Indian”, a term i used in respect for those indigenous tribesmen, i would see if i could walk so quietly no one could hear me while i snuck up on my prey. For a short time walking down that high desert path, i once again tried to walk softly, quietly. Of course, i was wearing good quality cross-training shoes, not moccasins, and i am 77, not nine. i probably couldn’t have snuck up on anyone or anything for real.

This open space is expansive behind all of the development. Supposedly the trail for horse riding is carved out from the Mexican border. It is unlike the Tetons where my sister is hiking and certainly unlike Ireland where my brother is doing the same. This open space is high coastal desert, old farmland, not farmed very much, scrub brush mostly with the nasty cholla cacti and old, broken barbed wire fences, demarcation of property lines, old property lines abandoned when the development men came in, bought all the lands from the farmers who could not afford to say no. The development men carved up the land, ignoring the old lines and built as many homes on the smallest lots allowed, put in a lot of amenities, and made scads of money (it is rumored they wouldn’t even start a development unless they, the development men were assured  $40K in profit per house. But someone somehow saved this open space for trails and not much else.

Recognizing it was rather absurd for a 77-year old man to try and recreate the stealth of a indigenous hunter in moccasins, i turned my attention to just walking, thinking, and enjoying what was around me. Nice. In spite of my resistance to electronic interference, i had my music playing on my iPhone while it tracked my distance and pace, the latter being nothing to brag about.

Rather than hit “shuffle” for the 4700 or so songs i’ve recorded from various sources of my music collection — i still resist the panoply of every piece of music ever made on the airwaves…do they still say “airwaves”…or was it “airways;” somehow they both seem more personal, more direct than “the cloud.” i decided to play two of my favorite artists. i began with Waylon Jennings.

i really got to know Waylon when i was the senior Naval officer at the Texas A&M, 1976-1979, certainly the saddest period of my life facing the inevitable of not being the live-in father for my daughter, but somewhat, somewhat mollified by reintroduction into bachelor life. That’s a good time to listen to country music, and Texas was a great place for country music, mostly swing and the “outlaw” version, but not bluegrass.

Waylon touched my inner feelings. Still does. i marvel at how the thoughts in his songs are nearly always in sync with my thoughts. Perhaps the most accurate of me for me is:


So if you want a good idea of how i think of myself, just listen to Waylon’s album, “I’ve Always Been Crazy” from which this song was included, and to his solo songs with the Highwaymen.

The Waylon collection ran out when i had covered about two miles mostly downhill with a couple of good climbs about half way to the turnaround. i turned and started back up. The music kept playing. It may have helped me a bit. But my focus was now on finishing my trek. It was in the high 80s and humid for the high desert, probably around 70%. i returned on my old route, upward hills mostly, some at a 20% grade or more. i was proud of myself, drank liquids, paused every once in a while, enjoyed the views: Mount Miguel to the east and the ocean and the city to the west. i reached the highest point, which was on my old route i took several times with Cass, my lab, and Lena, the follow-on dog i got at the pound (oh yes, there are all sorts of stories about those two). i decided to go back the old way. It was more difficult than taking the street route, should total about the four miles i wanted to cover, and ended at the top of our slope.

i was doing all right (sounds like a song) even with the grade being steeper than any of the others. Proud of myself although i was drenched in sweat. Decision point: i was about 200 yards from our home if i went the old route, or i could turn left and go on the route i knew was open but was about double the distance and the final 100 yards or so and required me to hug the fences of our neighbor’s back yards. The last time i took that route, even though i did not see anyone, i felt like a peeping tom.

When i was taking this hike regularly a number of years ago there was a patch on manzanita about half way between where i stood contemplating my options and our home. The city of Chula Vista had cut and maintained a path through those trees. In recent years, they had allowed it to become overgrown and looking impassable from our hill.

i thought i could check it out. Perhaps i could get through the old manzanita path and if not, work my way around it. When i reached the manzanita grove, it appeared there was a way i could wiggle through the branches. Soon i was in the middle, pushing limbs out of the way, limbs pushing back and poking or scratching cuts in my arms. It took about ten minutes working my way through. Then i hit was i recognized was impassable. i turned and could not ascertain how i got up to that point. i decided to go sideways and double back. This was not a bright idea.

i fell on my backside several times, each time sitting just a bit longer contemplating my next step in the escape. The dirt was soft. My hiking stick would not grab the soft dirt and was essentially useless, even a bit dangerous if i leaned on it.

When i sat (awkwardly) again, sweat was messing with my vision. i took out my trusty bandana and made a trifold cover to go under my sweat soaked ball cap. This time i thought of people being lost in the wilderness and being found dead. i knew i was too stubborn to call for help. i could see them giving me a helo lift out when i was only yards from my home. i knew i wasn’t going to die, but i did feel stupid…and hot…and tired…and really, really stupid. So i decided i didn’t want this spectacle on the nightly news and resumed my treacherous trek through the brambles and brush back down to where i should have taken the street route.

i reached civilization. Bwana made it through the jungle. Beat, i decided i could now call Maureen and have her pick me up at the end of this cul de sac. She did not answer her phone, out on a walk with a friend.

i began the walk up the hill, walking on the road to avoid the hot, hard sidewalk. There were no brambles, cacti, brush, or stands of manzanita, but it was a steep hill for about a half mile until i would reach our street.

Made it. i turned the corner of our cul de sac and saw Paul Shipley, our gardener and landscape man supreme in our front yard.

As i approached, he sort of gasped and said, “My God, you look like you have been out in the Australian bush.”

“Oh no,” i replied, “It was worse than that.”

The hike i had anticipated to be roughly four miles and take about 90 minutes ended up being six miles, over three hours, and about 20 something small but bleeding scratches on my arms.

i cleaned off the blood and patched up my arms after taking a cold shower. i sat down with a glass of ice water and listened to another of my favorites:

…and i didn’t worry about a thing then or now.

1 thought on “A Hike with Waylon, Connections, and Unexpected Uphill Hell

  1. The only movie Mother ever took us to was Davy Crockett staring Fess Parker. Probably because it had “Creek” Indians mentioned in it.
    I don’t think i ever sneaked up on anyone, but i could walk across a muddy yard or field without getting my shoes dirty. My friends asked how come i didn’t sink into the mud. Must have been the way i stepped. I was not conscience of it.

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