Jumping Over the Moon

Apr 25th, 2013 | By admin | Category: Sports

By William (Bill) Vaught

The last time I went on a 10-miler, I was 19 years old and a sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas.  I had joined the Army ROTC program so I could go rappelling at Toad Suck on the Arkansas River.  One day, after rappelling, we hiked back to campus, packs and all.

Sergeant Major Ah Sam was from Hawaii and was all Army.  He stood about 6 foot 2.  About halfway through the 10 miler,  he told us that soon, we would feel like we could jump over the moon.  I thought, yeah, right, and just kept pushing on.  When we got back to campus, it was time to drop the packs.  After such a long march, as soon as the weight came off, it felt like I was going to float away, like I could jump over the moon.

Fast forward 32 years.  On a cool Friday morning in late March, I got to Shawhan’s house about a quarter to six.  John Shawhan stands about six foot 2.   If Ah Sam was all Army, Shawhan is a Heinz 57 mixture.  There’s  a bit of Kentucky Wildcat, a bit of civil service, a bit of musician, a bit of mechanic, a bit of grill cook, a bit of redneck, a bit of temper, and a bit of evangelist rolled up into a Christian that gives more to the community on an average day than most of us give on our best day.   We left Shawhan’s house about 10 of 6 and headed to the hunting club, about 40 miles away.   About 5 miles from the hunting club, we stopped to eat breakfast at the Short Stop Café about 7 miles east of Macon on Hwy 57.  I had a western omelet with grits, sausage, and toast.  It was the best omelet I have had in years.  About 10 of 7, we headed on to the woods.   As we headed out the door, Shawhan turned to the waitress and asked, what’s for lunch?  Fried chicken was the answer.  Shawhan raised an eyebrow, gave half a grin and half a nod, then headed out the door.

Once we arrived at the hunting club, we quickly got geared up and headed out.  Shawhan told me we were going to walk a bit to get back where we were going to hunt.   I had no idea what was in store.   I have not been to the gym in about 8 weeks.  I had started some medication that had both zapped my strength and caused some congestion.   As we started mile 1, I noticed that  Shawhan’s  pace was a bit more brisk than I had anticipated it would be.  I am slightly under 6 foot tall, but Shawhan’s stride let him gain about 8 inches per step, and before long I was 30 feet behind, and he was pushing on.  We stopped at a small clearing after about a quarter mile.  As we neared the clearing, a jake and 3 hens crossed the road in front of us.  We tried to call them in, but they had already spotted us and moved on.  By the time we were about half way through Mile 2,  Shawhan stopped, turned around, waited for me to catch up, and asked,  did you here that? I stopped and tried my best, but all I could hear was the wheezing noise as I tried to catch my breath, and my racing heartbeat.   I asked, are we there yet?  He replied that we would be there soon.   We pressed on in to Mile 3.  That is where I started seeing double.  That was ok, though, because the way I was feeling, I knew someone might have to carry me out, and it would be easier for two to do it than one.    We did stop, and I was ready for the break.   I positioned myself near the clearing while Shawhan was about 20 feet behind me in the woods.  I sat down and got quiet.  The last thing I remembered was Shawhan starting to call some birds in using his Kentucky coffeewood scrape call.  The next thing I remember was Shawhan standing about 5 feet in front of me in the edge of the clearing asking what was wrong with the turkey that had passed in front of me a few minutes before.  I don’t think he believed the story about compassion, especially after he said it was extra hard to call the turkeys in with all the snoring going on.   He had one of those grins on his face that told me I was in for some serious ribbing in the near future.  With that, we picked up and pressed on.  It was towards the end of Mile 4 that we got to the power line.   There were patches of green and deer stands as far as you could see in both directions.  We walked about 150 yards along the edge of the power line clearing and watched as a gobbler and 5 hens crossed the clearing about 200 more yards in front of us.  We backtracked about 50 yards down the hill and crossed the clearing.  We went back towards the turkeys about 200 yards then got into position and Shawhan started calling.  No luck with getting them back across the clearing.   After about 20 minutes we crossed back and moved along the edge of the clearing to the crest of a hill.  We spotted them again, and once again they were about 150-200 yards away.   I was able to snap some pretty good pics with a cheap camera.   At that point, it was about 11 a.m. and time to head back.  I asked Shawhan how far we were from the truck and he said about 2.5 miles.  So back we go.  I had gotten a little rest, but I was still worn out.  Shawhan acted like he was on the back stretch at the Kentucky Derby.   As we moved in to Mile 5, I managed to gather enough breath to ask if any of the walk back was going to be downhill, because the walk had all been uphill to that point.  Where was the runner’s high?  Where was the second wind?  I trudged on, did my best to keep pace, and for some reason, the song Big Bad John kept running through my mind.  Onward we went.  As we pressed through Mile 6, my life was passing before my eyes.  My family while I was growing up, adventures from my Beebe High School  (AR) days that I swore to keep secret, college, the police academy, the Air Force, my kids, my friends, and Gayle all had their place in the parade as I watched Shawhan push on and wondered where his energy was coming from, and where mine went.   Just over the next hill he would say.  After the third hill, I began to catch on.  I also began to plot whatever revenge I might have the strength to pull off provided I survived the day.  At this point, about all I had the energy to do was whine about his pace all the way back home, after we got in the truck.  I didn’t have the breath to do it now, and if I did whine, now, he would just speed up anyway.  We pushed on.   Shawhan’s pace leveled out right as he said we were in the home stretch.   I wondered how many more hills that was in his language.  Finally, I started to see things I recognized, like the shooting range, some gravel piles, and finally, off in the distance, Shawhan’s white, 4-door, long bed,  diesel Ford pickup truck.  Every now and then, a second, matching truck would be visible.   We finally reached the truck, dropped all the gear, and I worked on trying to stop the wheezing noise I was making.  After about 20 minutes of lying flat on my back, I was as back to normal as I was going to get that day.  A short while later, we headed home, retracing our steps back up Hwy 57 to the Short Stop Café.   I was ready for lunch.  We both gave the fried chicken we had been told about earlier  a test drive and it was great.   After a good lunch, we continued back to Warner Robins.  I recalled the 10-miler from my youth.  Jump over the moon—-not today.   I was so worn out from this walk that I couldn’t even jump to conclusions.   Despite being worn out, it was a good day.  Breakfast and lunch with a good friend, a long walk out in nature, some good pictures, and the chance to escape the business of everyday life, even if only for a few short hours.   The nice thing about having your life flash before your eyes is that it gives you a chance to remember all that you have to be thankful for.

William (Bill) Vaught is a 1979 graduate of BHS and a 1984 graduate of UALR.   I retired from the Air Force in 2005 and live in Warner Robins, Georgia.