Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9:49 a.m.
How the mighty have fallen.
Okay. I was never that mighty. And I haven’t fallen. The last time I fell was on the sideline of the Clinton High School spring football game in 2017.
On Tuesday, I merely wilted.
On the practice fields, a half mile or so from Wilder Stadium, the current Red Devils were hosting a round-robin scrimmage of pitch-and-catch (7-on-7, it’s called) that also included Laurens, Daniel, Emerald, Ninety Six, Union County and Woodruff.
It was hot. It was humid. All I had to do was stand around, take pictures and chat with players and coaches. I’m old. At the end, as Andrew Webb was talking to his team, I looked into the players’ eyes and realized I was worse off than they were. I interviewed the Red Devil coach. Then I walked over to the next field and interviewed the Laurens coach, Chris Liner, and then I looked off in the distance. Heat waves twitched between me and my truck, which was up a hill, across a road, maybe 200 yards away, and I realized the last time I was this exhausted, and this hot, and this dehydrated, was also when I was on a different practice field, in this town, 43 years ago.
Mistakenly, I thought such days were over.
Oh, I trudged up that hill. In the old days, it was a rule that I had to jog up another hill, and I couldn’t take off my helmet, and at the top of the hill, the rest of the way to the locker room was slightly uphill, and many were the days I was just as parched, just as exhausted, and, in 1975, I’d had less water than Tuesday because, in those days, they thought water might give me cramps. In fact, before I showered, I swallowed a fistful of salt tablets because, in those days, they thought salt would prevent me from getting cramps.
Much has changed, the most pertinent being that I am old and fat and no longer play football but write about it. The sole progress is that I write about it a good bit better than I ever played it, which isn’t necessarily saying much.
I got back to the truck. The interior made me think of a live volcano. I pushed a button that opened the windows. I cranked the truck and its air conditioner. It took a while to get up the energy to drive.
When I got home, water sure tasted great. It took a while to get up the energy to write.
I processed these photos, which were better than I thought possible because I do much better taking photos by looking through the camera than by holding it away and shooting via the video display. Looking through the camera had been impossible because the humidity had turned the viewfinder into a fog. Then I wrote two stories, one about the human drama of the athletic competition and another about Laurens’ summertime workouts in general. I had already written such a story about Clinton.
I’ve written faster in my time. Many nighttime sporting events come to mind.
Eventually, I felt fully recovered, shaved, took the day’s second shower, and headed up to Laurens to write about City Council in action. It was cool. The only problem was the air conditioner made it a little difficult to hear what people were saying. A minor annoyance. It was much easier than feeling faint as my mind processed the events of farflung games of catch.
I’m not as good as I once was. In fact, I’m not even as good once as I ever was.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.
The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.