New Year’s Celebrations

©Mark K. Henderson, January 2014


The other day, Matt and I were off for a trot around the lake with Pupp and Lucy leading the way. We were surprise-joined by two other mutts that my dogs apparently knew. And so began a frolicking, rough-and-tumble run down the road. Then a few hundred yards ahead appeared a tan and white skinny pit bull, and the Gang-of-Four rushed to meet him. I’ve seen this pit before, and he’s okay, except on the doggie IQ scale, he makes Pupp look like Wiley E. Coyote, Super Genius. And trust me, Pupp ain’t the brightest candle on the cake if you catch my drift.

The initial encounter between the Gang-of-Four and Bonehead did not go well at all. But then again, I shouldn’t have expected anything different. It seemed kind of like a group of drunken humans happening upon a very sober acquaintance during their Bacchanal revelry. And I chose the phrase “happening upon” intentionally. I’ve seen it in real life, and Matt and I got to witness a similar “happening upon” between dogs, and with similar results. If any of you readers have ever been the sober recipient of a drunken gaggle happening upon you, I am sure you can empathize with perhaps the dumbest pit bull on the planet, regardless of your feelings about really dumb pits. Imagine poor, innocent (a.k.a. clueless) Bonehead returning from a solo morning of chewing on and wallowing in decaying hog carcasses out in the swamp, minding his own dumb, macabre business, when he is suddenly “happened upon” in a very physical way by a gaggle of four mutts all jacked up on frivolity and espresso beans, partying like it’s 1999. Naturally (word again chosen intentionally), Bonehead pit is gonna be irritable.

So, before anybody got kilt, I beat Bonehead back and sent him scooting the opposite direction from our party-in-running paws. News flash:  Pit bulls are dumb. And carrion-wallowing Bonehead might well be the dumbest of them all. Then again, maybe when he saw just how much fun everybody else was having, he had a change of heart; I have no idea. But, the bottom line is, he refused to go, and kept running up to join the gang. After I realized that he wasn’t returning to the fracas to kill, maim, and destroy, I gave up trying to deny him the desires of his heart which appeared to be joining up with our growing running party, now named the Gang of Five.

And so we ambled along our trek of merriment, and the group dynamic was the only change. It seemed to Pupp and Lucy that Bonehead’s decision to join up late should be meted with some sort of initiation ritual, and that this ritual should not end. Ever. It was like drunk people plying their sober buddy with copious quantities of people-make-crazy-juice to “catch them up” to the party level of the group, only in dog code that dogs seem to understand. They harassed, jumped, tackled, chased, rammed, jumped on, ran through, ran over, bit, tugged, pawed and clawed this hapless pit the entire eight miles! And when Pupp—who outweighs Bonehead by a good 20 pounds—seemed to tire of the games, Lucy—who looks like two or three good Bonehead bites—filled in the gap by attacking and harassing him like a WWII German fighter on a lumbering Allied bomber, or a sparrow chasing a hawk. It was hilarious, and all at full gallop.

As we ran along, I looked at this circus and imagined what we looked like to “normal” people:  Two dudes running with what appeared to be a misfit dog pound. But as it went, we weren’t done with our canine encounters. For example, one lady came out with these two little fur-puffs with legs and a yap-yap only to be surprised by a pack of what I’m sure appeared to be wild dogs. The Gang of Four all stopped at my command, but Bonehead wanted to see what these critters were. So, to the aghast of the lady with the fur-puffs, here comes a stinky pit bull at a gallop. I—not wanting to besmirch my impeccable runner dude persona I’ve worked hard to cultivate here in the Bluff—launched into full sprint to grab Bonehead by the stinky head and toss him off her porch before he could figure out whether the fur-puffs were breedable or eatable, all the while saying, sheepishly, “He ain’t mine…”

After a bit, we passed Keg’s house, and Keg greeted us with his baritone “Howdy”. Keg is a St. Bernard, and the Gang of Five wanted no part of that party—not even Bonehead.

Finally, we passed a trailer being visited by some kind of mini-Doberman that (a) made Lucy look like a giant Panda, and (b) made Lucy look like the biggest wuss in Moss Bluff. I mean this dog waded into the pack of mutants yelling at anything with paws or sneakers to get off her property or she was gonna chew everybody up and feed their pulp to cats.

The Gang-of-Four took heed and left this psycho alone. But not Bonehead! He runs over like the BMOC with a “YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME?” attitude. So Miss Mighty Mouse obliged and took a piece of him, right out of his dumb lip, and when he high-tailed it down the road, she proceeded to try to take some more pieces out of his haunches and anything else exposed on his fast-moving rear end as he exited stage left, even (spoken in Snagglepuss fashion), tail tucked squarely between his legs as he beat feet for safer ground. Now that kids was well worth the entire price of admission! But wait. Hold your seats:  This party got even better!

Further on down the road, we left the dirt road to make our last lake access. I don’t know who invented the rules, but, basically, there are no rules. It’s every man and dog for him- or herself; first to the water leaps. You can bite anyone, tackle anyone, knock anyone pell-mell A-hole-to-appetite—all is fair in a stampede. While my runs with the dogs are all fun, this part of the run, I think, is about the most fun dog and man can have together on a run. And this New Year’s Celebratory Stampede took hoot to a new level.

Pupp—nearly always the leader of the pack charging to make the Labrador Leap in full stride—got intersected early by the stinky, tan torpedo (a.k.a. Bonehead) leaving the trail to gold wide open for me and everyone behind me. Then, Lucy violated the dog-man running etiquette Rule #1 by crossing under my sprinting feet causing me to send her a-tumbling. But, in my Herculean effort to avoid making her a greasy spot, I went sprawling forward en route to an impending faceplant.

On the way down, I calmly queried my furry little friend whether she’d forgotten Rule #1. She responded rather matter-of-factly that when we crossed the demarcation line from running to stampeding, the rules changed. Just before impact, she reminded me of the “no-rules” rule as she scampered up my back, even before I’d come to a complete rest.

Now as I’ve said before, Lucy is smart. Of course, next to Pupp, one might think I was smart, too. But Lucy is real smart, and crafty, and devious! The instant I used the earth to decelerate, very rapidly, my rapid descent, I felt four paws and about 30 pounds on my back and then a cold nose and warm wet dog tongue and teeth nibbling me in the nap of my neck. It felt like when dogs bite for fleas; that’s what Lucy was doing to the back of my neck with me pinned face-down in the grass.

Yes, I am 54 years old, and yes, I am very, very ticklish, and YES, I will squeal like a schoolgirl when tickled. So this sensation had me screaming hysterically trying to buck her off or swat her off with my flailing arms when Matt seized the opportunity for the pass and thundered by. Down, but not out, using my deft football tackling skills—okay, maybe a lucky break as I was flailing my arms every which way—I caught his ankle as he went by and he went down like he’d been pole-axed. But, just as I was sprinting to my feet to re-take the advantage, Lucy—that devious bitch (she IS a female dog!)—grabs my hat off my head just as she goes flying off my back, and commences to run for the lake with my hat in her chops.

As we hit the bank of the lake levee, me in hot pursuit of the cap-nabber, just about to grab her, the Dumb & Dumber Duo thunder through…as in through us, doggie and man put asunder.

SPLASHDOWN! Pupp wins. Game over.

Or maybe not, not yet. Lucy knew that I was not going to be jumping in the lake since it was 40F. [Note to Yankee readers:  In East Texas, 40F is freaking cooooooold!] So when I spy Lucy back on her feet, she is full-throttle headed for the lake with my running hat. Did I mention she is devious? But quick-thinking caveman that I am, I grabbed a small sapling already cut down and spear-chunked it just before she made her final approach to the water. Bull’s eye! It stopped her just long enough for me to close the gap to grab her and rescue my hat before it went in the lake. Now that was a New Year’s Celebratory Stampede. Yee Haw!

Read more of Mark’s tales of running with tails & paws in his running humor book, Running, And Other Bad Habits!

Travels Abroad

©Mark K. Henderson 2013

I recently wrote an acquaintance who was returning from a lengthy international trip.  It went something like this:

I just recently traveled abroad, too.  I took a trip to Mason, TX.  I ended up exploring by the seat of my pants—on a wing and a prayer, so to speak.  I always say, exploring by the seat of your pantaloons will either kill you or make you stronger.  Or, maybe that was that old sourpuss, Freddy Nietzsche, who said that.  But whether it was he or me, whoever said it was correct.  While I did survive—as evidenced by this nifty little e-mail—I’m feeling strong as bull, as they say in Bulgaria…or someplace where such a phase is popular amongst them fereigners [sic].

One thing I learned in my travels afoot through the dusty country roads of eastern West Texas (or the far west Hill Country of Texas), under “…that hot August sun….” (as my music idol, Lyle Lovett croons; or, was that Robert Earl Keen, Jr.?  I forgot), even though it was only June, like the old bull in both their versions of that tune, I was lookin’ for a mesquite tree to hide under.

But the “mainest” thing I learned whilst running along dusty Texas dirt roads–eyeing a stock tank and wondering if I could head-butt a longhorn bull to get a spot at the trough as my water bottles were collecting dry dust on the inside–was that it sure is a heckuva looooong ways between ranches when you’re looking for water and it’s hotter than Hades and the buzzards are eyeing you smacking their lips…er…beaks, circling overhead.

I learned something else, too:  Just because there is a dot on the map in Mason County, Texas, with an actual name, does not mean it’s actually a town, or at least a town that has things we civilized East Texicans generally associate with towns such as—oh, I don’t know—stores, gas stations, or even running water, as best I could tell.

In an abstract, I was in a tad of a pickle.  Much to my good fortune and thanks to Providence’s divine protection for drunks and idiots—I being the latter—this minor misestimation on my part did not prove fatal or even require rousting Billy-Bob and Stringbean from their afternoon slumbers to go out and try to fire up the county emergency rescue vehicle and drive out to shoo away the buzzards from my partially clad, parched, dusty body to attempt an emergency resuscitation.  Yay, God!

And eventually, I had the great fortune and privilege of sitting on a West Texas front porch and visiting a spell with a fine Texas lady who was sweet enough to fill up my dusty bottles with cold water while I got to listen how her family had settled Mason County back in the 1800s.  Now who said adventures by the seat of your pants can’t prove to be a blessing?  I bet that Nietzsche feller never figured on that one.  Then again, he probably wasn’t a runner.

Well, I didn’t really mean to elongate that little diatribe, but it happens…far too often these days, I’m afraid.  Oh well.  Hopefully, this won’t be buried in a sea spam like “Get bigger ears, online…” and wind up as so many of my musings, on the proverbial cutting room floor of our virtual world.

I’m not really much of a betting man, but if I were, I’d lay a paycheck that you never once during your adventures ever eyed a watering trough while coughing up prairie dust thinking, “Hmmm, that bull don’t look that big…”  And, even if you had such a thought, I’m sure it would have come with a proper verb, but I digress.

To my readers, I remain,

Your fan,
Mark Henderson
Poet~Runner~Chef~Humorist~Unwitting Adventurer
Maidens Rescued; dragons slain.
Governments toppled or supported.
Flexible hours; reasonable rates.
“Action Figure sold separately.”

To read about more running adventures gone hilarious,order your copy of Running And Other Bad Habits today!


Ultrarunning = Pride? What’s Pride?

By Mark Henderson

Anybody who reads this title will likely already have a preconception of how this story should go—at least how you think it should go. Some of you who’ve spent hours or even days on the other side of that 26.2 number have already thought up a litany of ways ultrarunning can squash any pride a runner brings to the start line like a bug—well, after you got past your initial response: “Pride? What’s pride?” For the others who’ve never crossed that scary line into where you might dub “Crazyland,” you probably share very different preconceptions of how this little tale should play out.

Well, climb aboard, kids. Time to throw y’all a curve.

I first started thinking about this when I was asked to donate all, most, or even some of my fairly large pile of running shoes to a charity that ships the used sneakers of American runners to their runner brothers and sisters in Africa. My first thought was that this was a noble request from someone supporting a noble cause. My second thought following mere nanoseconds after the first was, “Are you freaking kidding me!?!?” The reason for this second thought is in no way based on selfish possessiveness of my stuff. In fact, I have spent the vast majority of my latter life shedding myself of most of my stuff through giving, losing, or just tossing. And, I am happy to report, I have finally gotten ALL the stuff that I own whittled down to where it pretty much fits in my pick-up. Need I restate? ALL my stuff! And, truth be known, that’s still too much stuff. But not the shoes, man. I ain’t given up the shoes.

Runnin ShoesAnd here’s why:  I wear them. All of them, and I have been for a very, very, very long time. And therein lies the rub. And the kicker? I am just too embarrassed to give my shoes to anyone—even to a shoeless brother in Africa who runs barefoot. Just the picture I imagine in my head of some poor schmo’ in the Sub-Saharan African continent eagerly opening a box from America to find…ugh…a pair of my shoes. The pain on his face, the tears of disappointment in his eyes—partly from the stench—I can’t bear the thought. A tire and some twine would be better than a pair of what’s left of my shoes. To say that my pile of shoes are far beyond their “rated life” is like saying that Minot, ND winters are a tepid cool. Yeah, I think I’ll just donate some shipping money or buy a new pair and give them those.

So, I wondered aloud to my ultra-dog running buds, Pupp & Lucy:  “Do you guys think I’m too prideful or too embarrassed to share my shoe blessing?” I realized that was a dumb question to ask dumb dogs who have just adopted the Al Davis motto of “Just run, baby. Run!” They just looked at me quizzically, probably hoping that whatever I just said didn’t mean that I was going to wimp out and call the run early. They’ve gotten funny about that lately. They’re just dogs, but they are guilt-tripping me into running more and more. But that’s a topic for another blog.

But I think that they would agree with me that the reason is not pride. You cannot be prideful as a runner of prodigious amounts of miles because, unless you own an oil well in your backyard, you just have to wear those puppies until they fall apart or rot off your feet.

It’s the same thing with my other running clothes. I admit, I own several pairs of RaceReady’s that don’t even have liners left. These are not the sorts of things you can donate to a charity unless you have no soul. But, I paid a lot of money for these bad boys and when I run out of the good shorts, these slightly overused versions keep me from getting arrested during a run. Or better, keep me from getting shot, as I don’t think the folks around these parts take kindly to streakin’.

I have Amphipod water bottles that are skinned up and scarred from taking the worst of the innumerable upendings in which I’ve unwittingly (and unwillingly) participated over the years these bottles have spent running with me.

And getting off the apparel and accoutrement vein for a minute, need I talk about actual running? Racing or training, ultrarunning quickly strips us of any prideful pretenses and breaks us down into cavemen and cave girls. Very primal. Except we have body lubes. But, even body lubes are used without the slightest prideful care. I’ve been running with enough zinc oxide oozing out of my shorts, through my shorts, smeared around my armpits, and yes, big white “clown nipple” dots on my shirt. That is so vogue!

We fart. We burp. We pee. We poop. We puke. We cram food in our faces like Cookie Monster, and never really care who’s watching—any of these activities. Whatever pride we brought to the party is like, “Pride? What’s pride?”     ©Mark Henderson 2013

Humor alert!  Mark’s humor quotient is 50% and falling  Hurry and order your copy of Running, And Other Bad Habits today before Mark . . .