In what has become the new normal, I received another punch to the gut this past week. It was a not-so-gentle reminder that the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.

This has become more or less standard operating procedure as Old Man Time marches onward but this particular event unnerved me pretty good. Before I give you the particulars of this incident, we should delve into a little background.

I’ve always loved to participate in sports. If it involved a ball and keeping score I have done it. However as the years have chugged along, it became painfully obvious that some of those things I liked to do were going to have to fall by the wayside.

As one example I quit playing basketball with the young whipper snappers in my early 50s. When it got to the point where I put my best move on them and they were still standing right in front of me smiling, I knew the end was near. It did not help matters that I was routinely the last one chosen when the game began. I also gave up recreation softball when a fly ball that I was in hot pursuit of, hit me in the foot instead of the glove. I took these things as signs that it was time to gracefully retire before things spiraled completely out of control and my legendary status as a multi-sport star was tarnished beyond repair.

I have continued to play golf but it too is currently on the endangered species list after a particularly painful outing in which I caught a severe case of the shanks. For those of you unfamiliar with golf, “the shanks” is not a disease that can be cured with a shot of penicillin but rather a swing flaw that causes the ball to careen nastily off target – and usually into thick bushes from which there is no escape. It’s also highly embarrassing. Generally however I have my good days and bad ones playing golf but the bad ones are beginning to outnumber the good thus this sport may also fall by the wayside.

It’s kind of annoying to be getting on in years. I can tell that age is definitely taking its toll. I’ve even begun to resent the swimsuit issue in “Sports Illustrated” because all those pictures don’t leave much room for articles to read.

But I digress – on with the story.

The point is that there aren’t that many sports left but I’ve continued to enjoy walking and hiking to help keep my blood pumping and stay in some decent semblance of physical condition. Regrettably this form of exercise may also be in jeopardy.

Not too long ago I decided to go on an ambitious overland hike on the Forest Service land across from my house. I boldly struck out over the hills, ditches, creeks, and all the rough terrain there was to offer. It was kind of like one of the old explorers – going where no man had gone before. I was looking for undiscovered country so to speak.

It was a mistake in judgment – a huge miscalculation. An hour later, after climbing up the sides of numerous steep ditches on my hands and knees and fording creeks, it occurred to me that fatigue might be setting in. I knew this because I was sucking air in big gulps and to make things worse I didn’t even know where I was. Normally the compass inside my head would keep track of little tidbits such as that but my brain function was about level with my exhaustion factor. I headed out for home in the wrong direction and wound up on a road that was several miles from the house.

To say that I walked on in from that point would be inaccurate. Those last few miles might best be described as trudging – a near death march perhaps would be a better way to define it. Anyway I got back and upon plopping down in a chair was immediately beset with foot cramps, backache, and sleepiness. All signs of having recently done something stupid. My wife laughed at me and told me later that when I went to sleep in that chair my snoring sounded like a plane going down. It took me three days to fully recover.

Giving up sports is tough and I don’t want to go gently into the night. It seems sad to just forsake them altogether so if anyone has suggestions for outdoor diversions that don’t require speed, quickness, agility, hand-eye coordination or stamina, shoot me a line.

Send comments to dar8589@bellsouth.net

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