Author Archives: Carl Dunlap

About Carl Dunlap

Ceramic Engineer, Story Teller, Health and Wellness. Like:

Sweet Brown’s Basketball Team

Title:   Sweet Brown’s Bison Middle School Basketball team.

HOST Starley:   Sweet Brown had never lost a basketball game she coached for this 10-12 year old age group.  It was the only age group she ever coached.  She inspired this age.  They would play very hard, smart and together unselfishly.  Sweet Brown was always in a hurry but extremely thorough and competent with her instructions.  As many of you may already know she never had a lot of time.   The kids always listened closely when she coached.  They trusted and liked her.

They even learned to trust and share the ball with each other.   Each kid learned to play each position in case a teammate was hurt, did not have their grades, had a funeral to go to, was grounded, or sick and could not play.  With this Sweet Brown knew all too well not to trust the kids or the referees.  It was, what it was.

Host Starely:  This year was more special for her because her own twin boys, the boy’s younger uncle and all of her nephews were old enough to be on the team.  She intended to give them all nicknames.  There was sweet pea, sweet tea, sweet potato, sweetness, sweet dream, sweet spot, bitter sweet, sweet tomato, sweet and sour, sweet bread, sweet emotion, sweet child, sweetheart, sweet inspiration, sweet kiss, sweet leaf, sweet love, sweet memories, sweet nothings, sweet revenge, sweetie, sweetie pie, sweet thing, sweet tooth, sweet vermouth, sweet Georgia Brown, sweet Jane.

Host Starely:  Sweet Brown never got around to actually assigning them the names. There were too many good ones and she only had 9 players. Plus, she did not have time for it.


Interviewer asks:  Sweet Brown,  can you tell us what happened?


Sweet Brown answers:   SO, well, so…..IT WAS THE END OF THE FOURTH QUARTER. WE WAS DOWN BY 2 POINTS AND ONLY 12 SECONDS ON THE CLOCK.  I thought we was ok.  I was thank’in overtime. I was losin my voice like that girl Lauren Chitis lost hers, you know, cause I was yell in to my team.  “No time for this, no time for that.  Lord Jesus, please!!  ATHAWAY!   ATHAWAY!    ATHAWAY!      SHOT!    GET BACK!     WATCH BEHIND YOU!      LOOK UP!     TWO HANDS!       GRAB IT!    HURRY UP!       FOLLOW YOUR SHOT!       GUARD HIM!       ARE YOU TIRED!    TRAVELING REF!        COME ON REF!   You know. That kind of stuff.

Interviewer nods okay but asks:    What does Ot-tha-way mean Sweet Brown?

Sweet Brown answers:  “Spacin”.

Interviewer:   Looks in the camera confused then looks back to Sweet Brown.

Sweet Brown:  You know,  “Spacin”.

Interviewer:    Can you use it in a sentence Sweet Brown so the audience can know?

Sweet Brown answers:   Get o-tha-way Jordan! when Davion is driving into the basket.

Interviewer:  nods her head up and down and ask for more,   And?

Sweet Brown says:   “WELL,  I turned back around from gettin me a cold pop just in time to see one of my players (Jerome) launching another redicu-lass 3 pointer. Not just any 3 pointer!  It was a “NBA” 3 pointer!” That ball went so high it just missed the rafters and skimmed the bottom of the championship banner hangin way up yonder…(she points up)  the one we won lass year!!!  So, that was one thang, but then  I saw my Bisons, (God luvs’em), watching the shot from downtown ….flyin thru the are….. and not blocking out fIrst….. fix’in to get after the rebound!!!

Sweet Brown takes a deep breath moans and continues:   I thought  “oh lord Jesus!!!……. it’s another turnover!!!”.  “WE GONNA LOSE.” “OH JESUS, WE AIN’T SUPPOSE TO LOSE”  “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THIS!  I grabbed for my chest and I hollered real loud for a time out and the ref wouldn’t give it to me…… “the ball STILL wasn’t to the basket yet”…..”can you believe THAT”….I said, with my eyes closed tight and looking up Jesus, I’m comin to be with ya…, I opend my eyes and I was still here….Then,  I yelled this time as loud as I could at my team…….the cold pop had fixed my throat……


Sweet Brown drops her head slightly, sighs real hard and says:  “BUT IT WAS TOO LATE”.  “The shot done dropped in and hit noth’in but NET.  I hoped I wasn’t hav’en one of them Charles Boney (Bonnet) episodes.  The cords was smokin.  The fans ran onto the court screamin for joy.  Praisin the Lord.  I had to leave the area cause you know  I got Charles Bronson chitis from the smoke (covers her mouth and clears her chest with a cough)when my house burned down last month.

Interviewer: keeps holding the  microphone up to Sweet Brown nodding. So it was over?

Sweet Brown says:  oh lord Jesus the clock ran out the las 3 seconds.” “I just dropped to my knees, folded my hands, bowed my head, closed my eyes and said thank you, thank you,  sweet Jesus!” A MAN!!!!!

Sweet Brown looks into the camera smiling, winks her right eye and says: “Every BISON  got time for that!!!”

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Stolen Green Bike

The new bike had cost her $75.00.  It was only 3 days old. She had mowed a lot of lawns to earn that much money.  30 lawns to be precise.

Joanna was 10 years old and had just done 11 chin ups in the Willis middle school gymnasium in Delaware, Ohio. Delaware was her new home. she counted in her head and 10, and one to grow on, eleven, she thought.  She was a Yankee now.  Her side won the war.  Life was good.  Willis middle school was old, dark, dingy and a cold place though.  She was taking the test for the President’s physical fitness award for sixth graders along with the rest of her class.  All of them were older by at least a year.  The entire country had to take the comprehensive test.  It was 1967, and the first year after she had moved from Holly Springs, Mississippi were she had been born.  It was the age of the cold war with the USSR and the hot war with Vietnam was raging.

The test lasted for 4 weeks.  A classmate of hers named Rudolf had told her not to do more chin ups than him. Rudolf was easily 14 years old but held back due to learning difficulties.  He was a man-child of sorts but not a real mean guy, but very athletic.  He had a few girlfriends and one of them was carrying his baby.  He looked a lot like a mini Joe Frasier (World Heavyweight Boxing Champion) to Joanna.  Life in public school.  You had to love it.

Joanna was joyful and unhappy both at the same time because she thought Rudolf might try to put the hurt on her (not injure her) for doing one more chin up than him.  She was right.  He walked up and punched her in the arm and sternly told her not to let it happen again.  She was making him look bad he whispered.  Before he hit her she lied to him and exclaimed fearfully that she heard he had done 12 chinups. He asked her privately if she could have done more then.  She lied again and said no.

Joanna went home that day and finished her homework.  Her arm still ached.  She rummaged through her shelves in her bedroom and pulled out her older brother’s Charles Atlas manuals intending to get stronger over the next many months.  Very strong.  So many of these classmates were 2 and even 3 years older than her.  She decided to be strong enough so that when these guys tried to bully her they would think twice, first.  Her favorite exercises in the manual were the push ups (dips) between two breakfast chairs and the sit ups with feet under the couch while watching TV.  She would eat everything she could but would never gain weight.  She kept growing stronger, taller and skinnier by the week.

The ad in the newspaper(Delaware Gazette) she ran to get lawn mowing work was very successful.  She had 17 lawns to mow each week during the spring, summer and fall.  She shoveled snow in the winter.  She was on the summer swim team and played all the sports in season.  Joanna liked having her own spending money but all of this activity on top of her paper route and home chores kept her from gaining any weight.  She rode her bicycle everywhere she went(no hands Charley they called her), including to school and the bank where she paid her loan each month for the brand new $140.00 lime green Lawn Boy lawn mower.  She paid $10 dollars a month on the 18 month loan her Dad co-signed with her.  It was paid in full early.  She saved some interest expense.

One warm spring afternoon she had all her lawns mowed for the week and after watching a track event at the local college football stadium she came out to get her bike and go home.  Oh Man, her brand spanking new 5 speed Schwinn bike had been stolen.  It was less than a week old.  Hell no, it was less than 3 days old.  She walked home with steam coming out of her ears and asked her parents if the homeowners insurance would cover it.  Her Dad said to go look for it first and that the insurance deductible was $100.  The bike new had cost her $75.00.  He told her they had not meet the deductible yet.  When she finished her obligations that Saturday morning she borrowed her brothers red one speed bike (it used to be her bike) and went to search for her beautiful olive-green five speed bike.  She had bought the bike with her own money.

She brought a friend of hers that lived next door with her to help search. His name was Bobby.  He was a year younger but a scrappy little guy and an only child.  His parents owned an office supply business downtown and his Mom was very young looking and beautiful.  Not long into the search through a distant lower-income neighborhood an eighth grader named Duncan came riding up to them on her new bike.  Joanna became enraged and said “Hey that is my bike, did you steal my bike yesterday?” Duncan denied it was hers. He quickly said a cousin had given it to him that morning. Joanna was revved up pretty high by now and said to him that it WAS her bike and to give it over right NOW! She was new to town and had no idea about Duncan’s reputation as a tough guy.

Duncan became silent for a second and then said Joanna would have to fight him for it.  Joanna said I am one step ahead of you.  Walking right over to him and began punching him even while he was still on the bike.

Bobby left the scene yelling back that he was going to get the police or fire department, somebody, anybody.  Bobby knew about Duncan but did not take time to inform Joanna of Duncan’s reputation as a real bad Ass.  Joanna kept on Duncan but yelled back and told him to get the ambulance or coroner for Duncan.  Duncan and the bike toppled over.  Joanna saw the bike fall and the new scratch on the front wheel fender appear. Duncan must have seen the anger in her face.  He left the scene without the bike.  Most thieves and bullies are cowards, she thought.

Joanna had at least 4 miles to ride. She was riding her brothers bike and trying to guide her new bike with her left hand when Rudolf came walking up to the cross walk from another direction.  He lived in the neighborhood close by.  She stopped him and asked him where he was heading.  He proudly said he was going to track and field practice with the high school junior varsity.  The high school was three blocks from her house.  She asked Rudolf sarcastically if he knew how to ride a bike?  He said “seriously”? with a grin.

He secretly respected Joanna because when he hit her that time in gym class she had not cried or reported him to the principal.  She had not even rubbed it out.  Joanna was feeling fearless due to some temper coursing through her body from her confrontation a few minutes earlier.  She asked Rudolf to ride the old red bike to her house and walk from there to the High School.  He was glad to do it.  Just then Bobby rode up as Rudolph was getting onto the saddle and exclaimed in frustration to Joanna, “not again?” he moaned.   Joanna explained everything to Bobby and quipped to Rudolf that he better not wreck it!

All three of them road to Joanna’s house with Rudolph privately thinking to himself along the way that even he would not want to fight Duncan.

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3 minute fiction

Meggie lay crumpled to the floor after being told never to touch the shoes EVER again.  The outcome was never in doubt to Joanna.  Marge was a Bitch.

Meggie closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.  At the last second she turned back and went to put the book safely away into her swim locker.  She and Joanna had been in the locker room studying after school waiting for swim practice to begin.  She spun the combination lock, yanked on it a couple of times for safe measure. She turned to walk back but stopped for a just a second to compliment and admire the cross-country senior state champion on how cool her track shoes looked.  Before Meggie knew it she was slammed up against the lockers, crumpled to the floor and told never to touch the shoes EVER again.  Meggie looked a little like a veggie just laying there shielding her head with her arms.  Then Marge added insult to injury and kicked her in the leg.

Marge glanced over at Joanna with a smile and a wink and called little Meggie a “stupid little freshman punk”.  Joanna saw it all happen and  never changed her expression or moved a muscle.  She kept leaning against the locker room wall, arms folded, letting herself once again be seduced into conflict by another bully.  With a calm face she heard herself reply to Marge “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size”?  Joanna took in a deep breath and stayed motionless leaning hard against the locker room wall and waited.  Since kindergarten Joanna was always stepping in to help the underdog.  She had never been able to control the impulse and stop herself.

Marge’s smile faded into contempt as she quickly walked over to Joanna and smacked her very hard in the side of the head with her fist.  It didn’t hurt.  Hitting Joanna was her second mistake and picking on her smaller younger swim teammate was her first. Her third mistake was stepping back from Joanna after hitting her only once instead of 5 or 6 times.  Even that many punches would not have helped Marge.

Joanna calmly removed her glasses as they were sideways dangling from her nose by now and rained down on Marge numerous punches all over her body but mainly head shots.  Marge was tough though and she weathered Joanna’s storm and started attacking and pushing back.  Joanna smiled and thought she had a live one here.  She was calm, as always, as they fought from the locker room, into the bathroom, through the showers, back again into the locker room and then around again into the bathroom.  Joanna never blinked and gave as well as she got.  Once Marge pulled back for a second time Joanna smoothly stepped closer and landed two straight technically perfect punches one in the chin and one in the eye. Bam! Bam!  This all happened in less than 5 minutes.  It seemed longer to Joanna.  It always did seem longer for Joanna.  It was a little like an out of body experience each time she got in a fight.

Marge was staggered and dazed but steadied herself by holding on to the bathroom room sink and waved her open hand at Joanna saying she wanted to stop.  Joanna, true to form, showed Marge mercy, and left to go to swim practice with Meggie without ever saying a word.  The next day the entire school was a buzz about Joanna an eleventh grader, the new girl in school, beating the crap out of Marge and how it had been long over due.

Fast forward three years later Meggie and Joanna (home from college for the holidays) were watching HDTV in a sports pub  when Marge on the other side of the room began to stare their way.  It was truly a memorable moment when Marge came up and asked Joanna if she  remembered her.  Joanna only answered “yes”.  At the time Joanna was known as a person of fewer words and more action.  Marge reminded Joanna  “You really kicked my butt good that day and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, I just wanted you to know that and say no hard feelings ”.  Joanna grinned and said “That’s good, glad I could be of help”.

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Broken Hand

The pinky finger knuckle on her right hand throbbed like the dickens.  It was sheared off inside. Afterwards Arnold carried her books between classes for weeks until she got her cast off.  Here’s the story.

Joanna was attending the 7th grade after a busy summer of mowing lawns, small watercrafts at the reservoir, Ohio State summer basketball camp, swim team and ten-day trip back to her home town of Holly Springs, Mississippi.  She had lost but recovered her new  5 speed Schwinn bike.  The summer went by in the blink of an eye. Three weeks into the new school year a few of Joanna’s summer stories were circulating around school and she was getting quite a reputation.

There was a guy named Arnold that decided to prove to everyone in school that he was the toughest guy.  In between 8th period and the last period of the day Arnold stopped Joanna under the stairs and pushed her up against the wall. He had decided she would be a great person to start on in his quest to be the toughest guy in school. Joanna had beaten Duncan in a fight over the summer so beat her and he would be the toughest.

He thumped her on the top of her head after asking her the question “don’t you remember why I am going to beat you up?” “Think Joanna, think in that thick skull of yours”! he said loudly.  This is random Joanna thought to herself.  The thumping stung and after the third knuckle thump she had had enough.  Even though she knew it was not an original thought, probably something his abusive Dad did to him at home, the thumps still hurt and enraged her slightly.

During the thumping, Joanna was thinking about what Mr. Wally had taught her about fighting bullies when she was a very young girl at the age of 4.  She decided to sucker punch this guy while he was still talking and running his mouth.  He should be fighting not talking she thought.  She began her barrage and knew before she advanced that she was not going to stop hitting him until he gave up and cried for his Mama or he overpowered her.  It would be one way or the other.  She felt pretty good about her chances since she had fought her fair share of rounds with her older brother and various cousins male and female.  She had beaten Duncan earlier that summer, too.

She kept her eyes wide open and on him. It happened surprisingly quick and Joanna found herself in control of the fight and Arnold curled up in a ball on the floor covering himself with his arms and begging her to stop.  It took 30 seconds tops.  She knew she had to teach him a lesson, so for good measure she hit him very hard while he was down and covering up, in the back of his head.  She heard something crack and this huge pain surged through her knuckle above her little finger on her right hand. It looked bad because the knuckle swelled up so fast and big.  It hurt like the dickens and reminded her of one of those throbbing hands on the old Popeye cartoon.   Then in less than a minute it went totally numb.  No pain.  Weird, she thought.

Joanna showed her parents the hand and said it really did not hurt that much.  It was still numb by the time she got home an hour later.  She explained about the fight and then Sherry Soderholm came over from next door and told what she had seen.  Her eyes were wide open as she retold the scene she had witnessed.  Sherry had bug eyes but they were very pretty.  Her Dad commented as he passed through the kitchen “What”s this gonna cost me now? he grumbled”.  “Did you win the fight?  Are you suspended from school?”  As usual he showed little empathy.  Did he break those new glasses I just finished paying for? he asked.  Nobody spoke as he left the room.  everyone went back to staring at the grapefruit sized knuckle.  Joanna’s little brother came in saw the hand and ran to his room to get his handy Kodiak instant camera.  He kept repeating sincerely “that is huge and that’s not right, Mom.  She needs a Doctor.” He knew they would not want to take her to the Doctor because of money.

Joanna went on a weekend girl scout camp out and when she came back Sunday night the knuckle was still the size of a golf ball.  Monday morning her mom called the Doctor set the appointment and went back to bed.  Joanna rode her bike to the Doctor’s office with one hand to get it checked.  It was not only broken it was sheared to the point where it would require a pin to hold it all together and a soft cast. Once healed the doctor explained they had to slice the knuckle open again and removed the stainless steel pin and then stitched it back again.

There would be two separate insurance deductibles of $150 each.  Her Dad was not happy.  Two weeks after the last operation the 7 stitches were taken out for free by her Dad with no nova-cane. This hurt more than all the other stuff combined.  “As Joanna bit hard on the stick her dad repeated under his breath  “no more deductibles.”   After a few minutes and a few curses said out of earshot from her Dad,  Joanna was ready to go 110%.  The whole thing took 10 weeks to fix.

Arnold carried her books between classes for weeks until she got her cast off. During that time Joanna had  played basketball with her left hand.  It lead her to become virtually ambidextrous.  Everyone knew that Arnold was nicer to everyone in the school and secretly had a crush on Joanna.  They all said Joanna had literally beaten the DEVIL out of him.

During tryouts the basketball coach let Joanna make the team knowing that the cast would be off in time for part of the regular season and the playoffs for sure.  They never lost a game that year and it was in large part because Joanna could dribble and shoot equally well with either hand. The coach gave Arnold a blue ribbon to show his appreciation.  Arnold turned out to be a good kid.

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Defending a Friend

He broke away from his Basketball teammates who had been restraining him and rushed towards Joanna. His face and eyes were full of distemper and total confidence.   A little history on Joanna and the situation leading up to this event is in order first.

It was now the fourth day of a mega snowstorm which had paralyzed not just the town Athens, Ohio, but most of the county and southern Ohio river valley.  It was 1979.  There was no internet. There was barely cable TV.  No one had cell phones.  The snow was beautiful and abominable at the same time.  The campus radio weatherman predicted more of the same Sunday.  Everyone on campus that Saturday morning had varying degrees of cabin fever and depression.  Misanthropy ruled the morning.  It was a “real drag, man” as everyone said back in that time.

The weekend cafeteria chefs could not make it in to get the breakfast brunch buffet prepared.  The best anyone got was milk, orange juice, coffee, muffins, donuts, bananas, Cheerios, toast and jelly.  No bacon, sausage, blueberry pancakes, eggs to order, biscuits, gravy, cheese grits, roasted potatoes, and creme brulee french toast.  The kids were bitching loudly and they were very spoiled.

Most of the students, professors and townies were staring out their windows, their faces mashed against the glass, pondering what they could do for some stress relief.  They could only drink so much beer.  The drool from the corners of their mouths stained their shirts.  Their hand-prints could be seen on the windows by anyone walking/sliding by the building from the sidewalk.  Big trucks spreading salt and plowing snow were buzzing the streets.

Joanna had just finished cleaning the 9-story College Inn, a co-ed independently owned dormitory for junior and senior University students only.  She had her own key to lock out the elevator and a master-key to every room in the building.  The manager trusted her completely.  It did have some worthwhile perks: a free parking space 50 yards from the front door, for instance.

This Saturday, she found the TV rooms located on each floor unnecessarily messy.  She started at 7am and this day it took the full 4 hours to get the job done. Most times it took 1-2 hours. This time though the regular cleaning staff of the Inn were stranded at home due to the inclement weather and had not cleaned the place since Wednesday.

The temperatures outside were dropping even more, which meant more tortuous ice on the streets and sidewalks and even more salt tracked indoors.  “Shit!” she grumbled.

Down the hill and across the bridge, the indoor intramural sports facility offered shelter from the storm via physical exercise classes and sports competitions of endless choices.  You could just show up and pick your game.  In so doing, the facility was instrumental in adding another memorable chapter to the archives of Ohio University lore.  This story would be recounted at future alumni reunion gatherings for decades to come.  There would someday be a statue of Joanna in front of the new intramural facility the University had recently built.  She was legend.  A hero of sorts.  Even past Alums like Mike Schmidt, the famous third baseman that made it to the Major leagues with Philly;  Matt Lauer, the Today Show host; or Maya Lin, the architect that designed the Vietnam war memorial in DC had nothing on her.

Here’s what happened…

Joanna and her basketball posse had left the College Inn after eating Saturday brunch, shivering under their coats and scarves, as they shuffled down the frozen icy sidewalk to the intramural sports gym.  Once there, they proceeded to do what they did on most weekends: play pickup basketball games.

(An interesting and relevant side note about Joanna was none of the other teams ever realized they were playing against a girl.  Joanna had always preferred it this way. She was handsome and thought of as a pretty boy at first glance.  Joanna had strong, long legs and defined shoulders. She was tall, skinny, muscle toned, and flat-chested.  Joanna’s calf muscles were sleek and her ankles were small sporting size nine feet. She never wore makeup and did not need it.)

Gym rules had it as full court, no time clock, the winning team stayed on the court and played the next five players waiting.  Games were played to 15 points, had to be won by 2 points or more, and all made baskets counted as only 1 point.  There were no refs, no shooting fouls, no three-point line and no one could foul out of the game.  Joanna’s team was on their fourth game with no defeats.

The group of players Joanna’s team was competing with had a hot-headed, alpha male bull on their team that appeared to be a wrestler, bodybuilder or weight-lifter type.  Who knew, who cared.  He called every cheap picky foul, cheated on out-of-bounds calls, and whatever else he could dream up to get an edge.  Due to his physique, aggressive manner and loud mouth, he was a little intimidating to say the least.  He was not very tall.  A Napoleon complex maybe?  Regardless of that, he was obviously accustomed to having things his own way.

As the game progressed, Joanna kept telling her team not to argue his plays or calls.  It took some restraint though, because they were beginning to verge on malevolent.  On one lay-up, he stood under the rim so her teammate had no place to land safely.  On a breakaway, he called time out to stop play so the easy basket would not count.  When Joanna’s team blocked him out for a rebound, he would literally lift a player off the floor and sling him to the side.  Even so, she kept saying to let them have it, we will win anyway.

The only reason the game was even close was due to this one guy taking full advantage.  No matter how flagrant his foul was or ridiculous his call was, Joanna insisted on letting his team have the ball.  Joanna was letting him get away with everything.  She was that confident in her and the team’s play.

Now, Joanna seldom shot the ball, but she was the maestro play maker on offense. She could see the game unfolding somehow.  She just had the knack for seeing a pass before it happened.  She would take a shot now and again, just to keep her defender honest. The rest of the team aggressively moved around without the ball, knowing if they got open, Joanna would always spot their every nuance and make the pass.

To be on Joanna’s team, players committed to block out on both offensive and defensive boards for rebounds and to always take the open shot, no regrets.  It didn’t matter if they missed, because they always seemed to get the second or even third opportunity due to their superior rebounding.  They played under absolutely no stress, knowing everyone had each others’ back. It was so much fun.  On any questionable call, they always offered to let the other team have it. They believed they would win anyway.  Seldom, if ever, did they sit down because of a loss.  They just got tired after 2 or 3 hours.

The game was dragging on.  (A little like this story.) After 30 minutes or so, the score was 23 to 22 and Joanna was getting annoyed.  Most games ended 15-11  plus or minus.  This guy was pushing just a little too far.  Secretly, she was thinking he needed his butt kicked.  Just as she finished the thought, he sent her flying across the floor for the fourth time. She was taking her sweet time getting up.  “Watch it, you son of a bitch!” is what Joanna heard as she glanced up in time to see one of her teammates shove the guy in her defense.  The jerk immediately perked up, leaned forward menacingly and her friend backed down.  Joanna didn’t hold it against her friend.  This teammate was mouthy, smaller and not a fighter, and extremely frustrated by this hot head, who was powerful-looking and ready to rumble at the slightest provocation.

Instinctively, in less than a nanosecond, Joanna’s adrenaline surged.  She could feel herself about to red-line.  Ever since she was little girl, she could always deal with someone bullying herself just fine, but her friends (and even complete strangers) were another story.  A rage emerged from somewhere deep inside and would take over, and she lost all sense of fear or self-preservation.  In the blink of an eye,  Joanna had hopped up and thrown the basketball 30 feet overhand,  hitting the guy perfectly in the side of the head.  Stunned and rubbing his aching head, he turned away from her cowering teammate.  He saw a blur approaching quickly.

He immediately zeroed in on Joanna through his dazed eyes as she sprinted cat-like smooth and without any reservation to meet him face to face.  Slap!  Joanna unloaded a humiliating open hand across the guy’s face and at the same time firmly growled “Show me yours and I will show you mine!  She was totally out of her mind.  “We may not see eye to eye but you are getting ready to hit me in the fist with your face!”  The guy was startled and didn’t immediately comprehend what was happening.  She kept on without pause, “Go stand over there at the foul line and practice falling down while I go put my glasses in a safe place.”  The guy began to move back from the verbal assault.  Joanna began to throw in some fake punches with the rant, making the guy instinctively flinch.  “Grab ME and you might not be able to let go!  You’re going to wish you had stayed in bed today!  Somebody go ahead and call a doctor.  This guy is going to need a DOCTOR, YOU HEAR ME!”  Joanna’s face was beet red and spittle was flying from her lips.  Her teammates had never seen Joanna like this but had heard stories and gathered to pull her back.  “Let me go!” she snarled.  Joanna was virtually levitating off the court as she struggled forward.  “You better ask yourself if you feel lucky PUNK!” she continued, freeing herself and now squaring up to him intending to actually fight.  “I am going to knock you into next week!” “Come on!!” she pleaded.

Before Joanna could make good on her threat, teammates from both sides had joined in to break it up. Joanna’s team succeeded in pulling her back, and the others were pleading with their knucklehead partner to let it go and just finish the game.  No one wanted to give up the court this early in the day.  Joanna begrudgingly agreed, “That’s fine.  You’re too SHORT for me to fight anyway, sissy”.  She knew what she was about to say was wrong, but she was still livid and couldn’t help herself.  She really wanted a piece of this guy, bad. “You’re short, just like your temper and your PECKER.” The whole place heard it and moaned.

He took the bait.  Tearing through his t-shirt, he broke away from the teammates that were holding him back and rushed Joanna.  When he was within reach, he launched a huge roundhouse aimed for her head. Perfect, she thought.  He was surprised when Joanna swayed backwards and slipped his round house punch. He was sure that it would be the only punch he would have to throw.  As his bare knuckles grazed her neck, Joanna could feel his knuckles unclasp the 24-karat gold chain that held her beloved St. Christopher medallion.  It was a cherished gift from her older sister. The jewelry slid across the floor and under the bleachers.  You could’ve heard a pin drop after that.  Joanna noticed the quiet hush that had fallen over the gym and could suddenly feel the eyes of all the gym on her.  Let’s do this she thought.

So, literally hundreds of people had frozen speechless for what was about to ensue.  Most couldn’t believe the balls of this tall skinny kid taking on this Goliath.  They were sure Joanna was going to be murdered, but some would say after the fight that they saw a strange twinkle in her eye that made them think twice and watch anyway.  At first most watched with one eye only. Their faces slightly grimaced.

There was never a doubt in her mind that she would win the fight.  She knew she could beat this guy.  She only had to keep her feet and not let him get a hold of her.  If he did, she knew he’d over power her in that type of fight.  That couldn’t happen.  She decided that boxing and an occasional strategically placed kick would be the best plan of action.  There was plenty of room to maneuver, and she took full advantage of that by constantly backing up as he rushed in with flurries of punches and jabbing him with her left when he left an opening.  Joanna dodged, weaved, and bobbed over all 6 regulation size basketball courts.  In a close boxing ring, he may have stood a better chance she thought, but not here.  She knew it would take some time this way, but it would be easy, and she was in great shape.

The fight lasted 10-12 minutes easily. Maybe more.  The bull would blindly rush in, trying to take Joanna out with a strong hay maker and Joanna would keep herself just out of reach, peppering him in the face with her lightning fast left.  Each hit left tiny, stinging cuts; blood began to trickle down the guy’s face halfway through.  Joanna would only throw head shots.  That was her specialty: straight jabs with a twist of the wrist exactly upon impact, so quick the naked eye could hardly see it happen.   She learned this from watching her hero Cassius Clay fight larger opponents on TV as a middle school kid.

Towards the end of the fight, the bully developed a steady bleed from the nose and lip and had a couple of loose teeth.  His right eye was beginning to swell and it was affecting his vision.  Joanna was barely sweating.  He never landed one punch on Joanna.  Joanna did not like pain.  God knows he tried; he probably threw over a 100 powerful punches, all striking air.  Had he kept his eyes open instead of squinting them during each swing, he may have had a better chance of connecting.

Joanna continued to backpedal, backpedal, and backpedal, waiting for him to tire and drop his guard so she could finish the fight.  He dropped his fists for a split second to gasp for air and survey the situation, and she got her chance.  Joanna, as fast or faster than a high-speed shutter camera, took the opening and kicked him sharp and hard above the belt into his gut.  She just could not make herself kick below the belt no matter how mad she got.  She heard the wind rush out of his lungs.  He flexed his stomach and tried to hide his grimace with gritted teeth, but she knew, (and he knew she knew,) he was injured.  Injured bad!

Even so, he kept advancing.  Joanna  couldn’t believe this guy was still standing, let alone coming back for more.  She wondered whether this monster would ever quit, but quickly shook that idea out of her head. He started it and she would finish it.  This was her fight and she had already dealt him a lot of punishment.  Patience, she told herself.

She employed the same technical stratagem for another few minutes, and waited for another opening to present itself.  When it did, she left nothing to chance and gathered her left hook all the way from the floor and powered it precisely under his chin.  She saw his head jerk back violently; sweat flew from his deformed, pained face.  Not wanting this to go any longer, she leaned in to finish him with a quick, hard straight right cross, but stopped herself, pulling her punch at the last second.  He had collapsed on one knee.  She showed him Mercy. It was just her nature.  Joanna almost laughed out loud.  Had she known he had a glass jaw earlier, she would have jacked him up sooner.

Joanna steadied her eyes and took a deep breath, tingly  from the rush of winning the fight.  As she focused, she was quickly reminded that she had an audience. The entire gym’s occupants: basketball players, swimmers, weightlifters, ping-pong players, gymnasts, janitors, gym rats, had watched the fight and were amazed.  One by one, they slowly began to clap and cheer.  By the time the bully had stood up, the gym was a roar of applause and loud chatter. Joanna could feel the goosebumps and the euphoric rush throughout her body.

The bully shook out the cobwebs and stood up.  Embarrassed and apparently humbled, he mumbled,  “Let’s just finish the game.”  Joanna had had enough activity for one day, and told her teammates she was leaving. She had laundry to do, a paper to write that was due on Monday, and she had to work the early Sunday cleaning shift at the Inn.  Her blood pressure rose again momentarily when she thought of that 6’9” guy that lived on the 7th floor. He better not spit on the elevator wall again or he will be next!

The storm passed.  For many weeks after the fight, Joanna could not walk on the campus to class, the library, the cafeteria, the College Inn, her favorite bar, without this person or that person telling her what a fantastic fight he had fought.  They would say they were so sure when it first started that he was going to get his butt TOTALLY handed to him.

She always grinned and said thanks in her lowest soprano voice.  Joanna loved to watch them walk away shaking their heads smiling, then stop in shock as it dawned on them that HE was actually a SHE.  Holy Crap!! Wow, no way!

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Colley Bay

Carl knew very well,  pulling on the reins of Colley Bay even with a large bit in her mouth would NOT have helped to slow her down, so he kicked her for more speed.  Maybe she would get tired and stop before they reached the next town.  Bahalia, Mississippi was 5 miles up the road.  It was fine with Carl either way.

Here is some background information you might find entertaining before reading about the main event.

Carl was from a small town.  People were very fond of  him and others not so much.  Carl was always pretending to sign autographs.  He was always trying to sign this and sign that.  He would offer to sign everything. “Hang on to this.  It will be worth something someday” Carl always said.  His imagination and optimism was huge.  At the time, however, he never dreamed forty years later he would become as famous as he did.  The name Carl became the name writers used in the movies and commercials that was always picked on or made fun of.  He was fun to pick on for some reason.  Carl always gave a great reaction but wasn’t really bothered. People could sense it.

Even as a young kid Carl listened to the Beatles music and also loved Elvis Presley.  Hardly any kids his age were into rock and roll.  The parents in his day did not approve of Rock and Roll but were helpless to stop it from becoming popular.  They sure tried though.  His family did not have a color television but the family did have a reliable AM radio.  Carl watched the westerns Gunsmoke, Rawhide and Bananza when he was invited to friend’s house.  He loved them all.

He was an extremely complicated kid. Carl was aware of this and was okay with it.  He learned early on that he could not please all the people all the time.  He was known to be a kid that defended weaker kids and was very high-strung and got in lots of fights.   He had learned how to fight from an older man who worked at his Dad’s brick plant.  Carl always won but showed mercy to his defeated opponent.

He had a wide variety of interests and would try most anything once.  His friends were varied.  They  were athletic, very smart and some were troublemakers.  Friends of Carl were young, middle-aged, senior citizens, male and female.  He attended the First Baptist Church every week. He loved singing the hymns very loud with his friend David.  His Sunday school teacher liked telling the story about the time Carl used a curse word twice when she called on him to say the prayer.  He prayed ” Dear God! please stop the damn rain before the damn brick plant washes away. Please help those less fortunate than us. Bless the snacks we are about to eat.”Aman”

Carl had one thing that he really disliked and that was hunting and killing animals.  He went hunting once with his dad on their farm and he got a sick stomach when he shot and killed a squirrel and a bird. It was just not his thing.  His Dad was disappointed but to his credit he did not insist he become a hunter.  Carl was not a picky eater and would eat anything except beets.  He had a huge appetite and ate a lot of food.  He was athletic, competitive, very tall and skinny.

The school classes that week were finally over.  Carl arrived home around 4 pm on Friday.  He decided to put his books away and placed his grade card under his bed for safe hiding.  The scores were 1 A, 1 C-, 3 D+’s and an F. The F was in conduct. The A was in Math.  He always got an A in Math.  He just automatically understood math.  He helped some other kids in class with Math.  The teacher said nothing when she saw Carl out of his desk once again but explaining Math to a fellow student.  She was always amazed at his contradictory behavior.  He would be sitting on top of a kid smacking him one instance and then helping a little girl up(dusting her off) after accidentally knocking her into the dirt on the play ground another.  Later in life Carl learned that the teacher actually started taking notes and wrote a paper for her masters degree in kid psychology using Carl as her subject.  That explained why Carl and his Mom seemed to run into Mrs. Stone so often when they were not at the school.  She observed him in many different settings.  Carl just thought great minds thought alike and said as much to her when they crossed paths.

Carl had improved his grades from last six weeks period(except in conduct) and was optimistic.  Carl liked to tell a great story and lots of jokes.  His teacher Mrs. Stone was just the opposite so that explained the F in Conduct, partially.  Carl thought his jokes were funny.  After all, everyone else laughed.  He saw Mrs. Stone suppress a smile a few times. He could see the smile in her eyes even though the rest of her face was stone cold.  Carl thought that was why they called her Mrs. Stone because she never smiled.   It made perfect sense to him.  Carl claimed she looked at Medusa too much.  The kids laughed.

On the ride home from school on his horse Shorty, (the tallest horse in town actually), Carl had decided to show the school report card to his parents Sunday night after church rather than be grounded for the weekend.  He had lots of fun stuff planned for all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  He would not ruin his parents weekend either he rationalized.  He knew his Dad would whip him with a belt until he Carl could not breathe for getting the bad grades.  This happened because Carl would refuse to cry so the punishment lasted much longer than it had to.   As always he would cross that bridge when he got to it.   So, he would wait to worry about that.

Now,  it was dark thirty on a Saturday evening and Carl a 3rd grader was just getting home and limping slightly.  He took off his keds tennis shoes at the back door vestibule.  Converse shoes were too expensive. The shoes started out that morning tide white but were light tan by the end of the day.  He wasn’t in trouble.  This was normal and within the family rules.  Carl made his way through his family’s small yellow brick house into his room that he shared with his younger brother.  His family did well but was far from being affluent.  His Mother wondered out loud as he walked by the kitchen, “You missed dinner again.” “You are a mess.”  “Did you have an accident riding horses today?” “Are you okay?” “Are you hungry?” “We had your favorite tonight breakfast for dinner if you want some.”  Carl answered, “ I’m fine, I’m not hungry, I got tackled really hard in a playground football game this afternoon by Margaret Sullivan’s older brother Pat and I got stung a couple of times by some hornets when Colley Bay decided to play steeplechase one more time and took a shortcut home through the woods.” “I might eat after I take a bath if that is okay?” he said.

Carl had been riding since before daylight.  The clock had displayed 4:30 am when she heard him leave out the back door that morning.  His Mom was a very light sleeper.   As always on Saturday morning, his mother groaned, rolled over and tried to fall back to sleep.  And as always, she did.

When Carl arrived at the small pasture located 500 yards north of his house, to his delight he discovered his Dad’s horse Colley Bay was standing next to the water trough.  Normally she was out in the middle of the pasture by herself and very difficult if not impossible to catch.  He carefully walked up to her and firmly grabbed her mane and slipped the bridle onto her.  He smiled and thought that the day would have some extra adventure and unexpected challenges.  Carl was in the mood for a little excitement most of the time. He thought “ I am wide awake NOW!”

So, even before lunch the horse had already taken Carl into a wasp’s nest twice and into a deep but slow-moving river, once.  The horse had also raced a pickup truck, without being asked.  And Carl watched Colley Bay kick a man square in the butt at the convenience store when the man walked up behind her and stopped. The man’s coffee and doughnut went flying up into the air and back down to the dirt parking lot. When he realized the man was okay he laughed out loud.  The man was ticked off to say the least and asked whose horse it was while he was looking straight at Carl.  Carl said ” Don’t know, I’m just sitting on him.  I have no idea”, but asked why he was standing behind a horse he did not know in the first place.  The man rubbed his butt and went inside to reorder and then got into his pickup truck and left a few minutes later. The guy kept shaking his head and adjusting his pants while he waited in line to pay.  When he came back out Carl was going to ask him if he intended to pick up his litter all over the ground but decided to leave well enough alone.  Carl grabbed the Man’s napkin from the ground, quickly signed it and offered it to the guy. The man ignored Carl.  Carl went over after the man left and picked up the coffee cup and sipped some.   He spit it out and said “shit”. He put the empty coffee cup in the trash.  Then he dusted off the doughnut ate half and gave the rest to Colley Bay. Carl laughed and called it the 5 minute rule.

As for the race with the truck on highway 78 , Carl had kicked Colley Bay for more speed rather than try to pull on the reins.  Pulling on the reins would NOT have helped to slow her down.  The driver of the truck had slowed down to pace them and after a minute or so yelled 35 mph out his window and then raced off smiling.  The driver was more impressed with the little rider than he was with the fast horse.  Carl wondered later if it was the same guy from the convenience store.  How I-Ron-Nick would that have been he thought? He was not sure who Ron and Nick were but he had heard his Dad mention them in similar situations.  Carl also wondered about the significance in (Sandy-Spider-and guide-her) sung in the National Anthem.

Anyway, Carl would go all over the city.  He would charge a cherry coke and grilled cheese to his Dad’s account at the pharmacy for his lunch. He would visit friends, play in football games, stop for a swim at the country club, be a caddy for nine holes to one of the golfers for a couple bucks and offer unsolicited advice on putting speeds and angles and club selections.  Rumor was that if Carl was your caddy you would knock 3 strokes off your score for nine holes.  Eventually, Carl would get $3 dollars instead of $2 like the other kids.  Carl would try and caddy for the men that cussed.  It was more fun.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  One of his sister’s friends, (an older tough guy football player,) wanted to borrow Colley Bay for a while to run an errand.  Carl said no but the guy insisted.  So Carl gave in and stepped back to watch the show.  It lasted about 30 seconds and the boy was on the ground rolling away in horror.  Carl turned his back so the kid would not see him smile.  Carl secretly liked the guy and did not want to have to hurt him in case he tried to rough Carl up some.  His imagination was always working overtime.

Carl never had a strict plan for his day, but the time always flew by.  This was fairly standard for his Saturdays and his summer vacation days.  He did not have a bicycle and he was already 8 years old.  Many of his friends did not have a horse either, so they were all even-steven as far as Carl was concerned.  When School was in session he rode his horse to elementary school most days, rather than take the bus.  As long as he had his horse he felt like he had some acceptable semblance of independence and freedom.

Carl lived 2 miles out in the country from the small rural town called Holly Springs in the state of Mississippi.  Population 7500.  It was one hour south of Memphis, Tennessee and 15 minutes north of Wall Doxey State Park. Ole Miss college was about an hour south in the town of Oxford.  It was 1964 and Carl had friends in both the white community and in the black community.  This was very unusual for this time when segregation was the norm.  The Blacks were not treated well and this always bothered Carl.  Separate schools, churches, movie theaters and entrances to retail establishments and separate water fountains, were just a few examples of things Carl knew about and thought were wrong.  His white friends were always mad at his black friends but Carl knew they had no good reason to be angry with them.  His black friends had the bare essentials.  Some had no plumbing.  They did have electricity at least.  His black friends were a lot of fun and seemed to be in a great mood despite their situation.  The blacks did the back-breaking work like picking cotton in the fields and stacking the bricks at his Dad’s brick plant.  Carl took a page from his black friend’s book in this area of his life.  A positive outlook and gratefulness could be any mentally healthy person’s choice.  All a person had to do was decide to choose it.

His black friend George Edward was socially awkward but a very tall good-looking kid.  He lived down the hill from Carl with his Grandmother.  George Edward’s parents lived in the projects of south Chicago. All the black girls around the area admired him. (Carl learned 20 years later that George Edward never married and he had four kids and many girlfriends).  The black boys picked on him when he was not with Carl.  They were jealous of George Edward and how handsome he was.  When Carl and George Edward were together no one messed with them.  Separately though was a different chronicle.  Stories for another time actually.

A large and deep clay quarry was only 100 yards or so from Carl’s backyard and beyond that was a brick manufacturing plant where his Dad was the general manager.  Big earth moving equipment, forklifts, bulldozers, dump trucks, large 2000 degree furnaces, tall sand mountains and a railroad were just a few of the awesome things Carl got to explore whenever he had the time and friends over to visit.  His imagination had few limits.  They played army, cowboys and Indians and hide and seek to name just three.

Carl really liked riding his Dad’s horse Colley Bay.  The horse was a mare about 15 years old and 15 hands tall. He rode his own horse named Shorty most of the time, but when he wanted to spice things up he enjoyed riding the unpredictable Colley Bay.  His Dad had gotten her real cheap.  Carl’s older sister could ride Colley Bay okay, but preferred her horse named Midnight.  It was solid black with a star on his forehead.  Midnight was very fast.  Few riders in town could race her and win.

For no reason at all Colley Bay would rear up and take off into the woods, bucking up and back down in a huge jerking motion and then for no reason just be completely normal again.  You could never be sure what her next move might be. She could decide to veer off the path along the side of the Highway 78 and stand in the middle of the road, staring at the oncoming 18 wheeler.  If she had her mind made up no amount of kicking, jerking of the reins or yelling would help.  It was better to just jump off and try to lead her back to the path next to the highway.  She stopped many 18 wheelers dead in their tracks.  After being detained the truck drivers’ comments ranged from “Seriously” to “Get the Hell off the road” and others not appropriate to repeat in mixed company.  Carl asked one driver once, sarcastically,  how to translate “Get the Hell off the rode” into horse language.  Carl said “just roll your truck up slowly and bump her a little and help me out here”. Carl said “I don’t have all day!  sir”. The driver just shook his head and laid on the horn.  It worked as Colley Bay shot off of the road and stood behind Carl.  Carl nodded appreciatively and then offered to sign his log book as he was rolling off.  The driver never looked back as he drove away shaking his head and grumbling.  Carl said “okay we will do that next time.”

Later in Carl’s life this experience with Colley Bay came in very handy.  After many years of a difficult marriage, Carl would finally realize that his wife Laurie was like Colley Bay in so many ways.  Carl would think however “I did not have to sleep in the same stall with Colley Bay”.

Once Carl came to this realization his marriage vastly improved.  Carl realized that he just needed to steer his wife as best he could and hold on for the ride when his wife decided to take a certain route.  It was impossible to stop her just like it had been with Colley Bay.  Carl knew he did not want a slow, predictable, non-eventful experience all the time.  It could be tiring at times though.  Progress at times would just have to stop to a standstill and that was part of the deal.  It came with the territory.

That horse Colley Bay would act very kind if she thought Carl might have an apple or carrot in his pocket. Then after she got it she would flare her nostrils and chase him out of the pasture.  She was a piece of work and had a lot of spirit.  There was never a dull moment when Colley Bay was around but you had better not drop your guard or turn your back or ignore her too long.

Trying to cinch the saddle on Colley Bay was always a challenge if you were able to catch her to put a bridle on in the first place.  She would stand still, then move some, hold her breath, then breath out, snort real loud, step on your foot, slap you in the head with her tale, raise up on her hind legs or nip your shoulder. Most of the time Carl did not bother with the saddle and just rode bareback.  The ride was worth it for Carl. Only two people rode Colley Bay regularly and lived to tell about it.  Carl and his Dad.

That horse was very beautiful and amazing to watch as she trotted, galloped and sprinted around the fields. If someone tried to lead her, it was not going to happen, ever.  If she was in a stall and she wanted out it was a sure thing that the kicking would not stop until you let her out.  There was no use in latching the stall door closed.  Colley Bay reminded Carl of the horse in the cartoon movie named Spirit.  She was very determined, fair and temperamental.

Two years later at the age of 10 Carl was told they were moving away to live in another State.  Carl knew he would have some adjusting to deal with and he a lot of concerns but also wondered what God had in store for him in this new City.  He wasn’t too worried.

He knew he would have a lot of autographs to sign before leaving but he was up for the challenge.
To be continued……..

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Ponder Bike Ride PG-13

Act 1

Blood was all over the fallen rider and all over the street. The bike was twisted like a pretzel. One cyclist was down and out of the ride, but getting up quickly with one arm bent backwards at the elbow joint. He made no sound. He was in shock. He was embarrassed. Joanna saw his anguished face and quickly looked away from the injury. She swallowed hard to keep from throwing up. She then walked over to the rider and yanked the arm back into the socket. No one else had the guts to help the poor guy. He insisted they all keep going. Her group had only started the ride 10 minutes ago. Feeling a little queasy, Joanna made her way back to her bike. She couldn’t help but wonder to herself, was this all a huge mistake or would they be looking back and laughing at this trip later?

After obeying the traffic rules, starting and stopping countless times under the city’s street lights, they finally transitioned their journey away from the bustling city and into the peaceful, beautiful, rolling hills of the North Texas country roads.

It was an awesome and sunny, 90-degree summer day. However, after cycling for an hour, Joanna found herself still patiently pedaling her bike but beginning to lag behind with the weaker riders, namely Diane and Floyd. It was the right thing to do. Her close friends from the swim team, their sole goal for the 50-mile ride from Big Dallas was to visit a sleepy country town famous for the Ponder Steakhouse.

Diane and Floyd were in great swim shape, but not so much in cycling shape. The other 40 or so riders, mostly alpha-male thirty-somethings, had gone on ahead and left Joanna, Diane, and Floyd to fend for themselves alone. They had been out of sight for some time now, but not out of mind of the three slower riders. “What is the hurry, anyway?” they said to each other. At 2 hours and 50 minutes into the ride, the lagging group hit mile 38. The rolling landscape made for a peaceful ride, and the slight breeze made it all the more enjoyable. No worries, no hurry. Heck, the steakhouse didn’t even open until 4:30 pm.

Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, a lunatic driver traveling at least 75-miles per hour, angrily laid on his horn and proceeded to crowd the girls off the two lane paved road and into the gravel. Joanna, who was a few yards ahead, upon hearing the horn looked back and witnessed it all happen. He could have easily killed them.

As was usual in these type situations, adrenaline instantly coursed into Joanna’s blood vessels, her temper burned, and her hearing faded. She knew all of these signs about herself and what normally happened next. As always, she was just as helpless to stop it. As the car passed her, Joanna settled firmly into her saddle, took both hands away from her handle bars, and signaled to the car that they were number one in her opinion with both hands, double daring them to stop.

It worked. The mean driver was observing the mayhem he had caused in his rear view mirror and smiling ear to ear. Seeing Joanna’s double (middle finger) salute, he slammed on the brakes, shifted the car into reverse, and backed his car toward them at an irresponsibly fast speed.   Joanna jumped off of her bike, realizing that the driver intended to run her down, along with her bike, if she did not toss it into the gravel and get herself out-of-the-way.

She was exactly right about the driver’s every intention to hurt her. As she side stepped, the car flew past, missing her by an eyelash.

The driver’s car screeched to another quick stop, shifted back into drive, and pulled up next to Joanna, the shifter grinding into park. Joanna, adrenaline and temper really hitting high, now became consumed with teaching this bully a lesson. She instinctively ripped open his unlocked car door, reaching inside to grab a hold of his hair and pull him out into the road. As she grabbed, she realized immediately that he had a military-style cut and thus, no hair to get a hold of. On top of that, his seat belt was buckled, AND there was a baby in the back seat. The driver’s wife was in the passenger seat screaming her head off, “Stop it, both of you. STOP!” Her voice had an irritating, high-pitched, eardrum-bursting quality to it.

“What the heck!!!” Joanna thought, but was still not thinking clearly at this point. She was still really angry and deep into that mental red zone. She stayed busy rabbit punching the guy with her left fist and trying to unbuckle his seat belt with her other hand. She knew it was wrong but she intended to get him out of the car no matter what it took. The driver thought of himself as pretty crazy, but this maniac now attacking him made him look like a kitten. Although a bit surprised by this reality, the driver was a fairly quick thinker. He yanked the shifter down, back into drive and squealed away. Joanna, with her bobcat-like reflexes, pushed back on the car with all her strength to get far enough away so that the left rear tire of his car would not roll over her ankle, foot or toes.

Joanna, still fuming, thought, “I guess this bully is gettin’ out while the gettin’ is good.” Simultaneous to this thought, Diane and Floyd had righted themselves up from the fields next to the road and were rolling up, yelling loudly, “What the heck just happened?!” The girls were a mess, picking grass out of their teeth, hair, ears, butts, and checking themselves for damage. Diane said, “Dang, my compact mirror got cracked.”

The incident had only lasted a minute, but to Joanna, it seemed to have happened in slow motion. Shock tried to set in, and Diane and Floyd both became silent. They all looked at each other and took a couple deep, calming breaths, trying to process and make sense of what had just happened. At that very instant though, the car that had squealed away stopped again, this time about 200 feet ahead. Apparently, things were just getting started.

There were no cell phones back then to call for help, and Diane and Floyd’s eyes became as big as saucers. Joanna’s brain, however, smoothly shifted back into survival mode. She secretly began to smile inside. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The driver was 6’5”, 260 lbs., an early twenty-something, wanna-be country cowboy, George Jones-listening, line dancing, boot scoot-in boogie-in, sorry SOB. As he emerged from the car he kept coming, coming, and coming—up out of the car. He was huge!

Once finally out of the car, he turned toward them, let out an Indian war cry, and began sprinting toward Joanna, screaming “Die”!!!!.



Final Act 2

Joanna thought, “Okay, after I beat him, then people can’t say I was picking on someone smaller than me.” The assailant must have figured Joanna was a boy, as she was tan, muscle toned (in a nice way), had a short hairstyle for the Texas summer, aviator sunglasses, and was wearing a Life is Good biking cap. She had missed her last lip zip appointment, too.

So, Joanna smoothly tossed her glasses over beside her bike, turned her cap backwards to see better, smiled slightly and rushed to meet him halfway. As they collided, there were only 3 spectators viewing the confrontation at this point: Diane, Floyd, and the driver’s wife. The bully’s wife came out of the car toward them, still screaming in that irritating high pitch. Joanna could see her approach in her peripheral vision. She came down the embankment, making straight for Joanna and her husband, who were now off the road and struggling in the grass and gravel with Joanna on top and gaining control. Joanna readied herself for her, but Diane, seeing the situation unfold, distracted the wife from kicking Joanna in the temple with her pointed cowgirl boots. Joanna also was pretty sure she caught a glimpse of Floyd up by the car, checking on the baby that had been left inside the car in its car seat. Joanna thought “Floyd, bless her heart”. Then she saw Floyd draw back quickly, holding her finger and whining, “She bit me! What is it with this family?”

When the two combatants (real “idiots”) came to a stop at the bottom of the rain ditch, Joanna squeezed her legs tighter and held on as the bully squirmed and wriggled but failed to buck Joanna off. Joanna kept one eye on the wife’s pointy shoes and proceeded to punch and rough up the man pretty good. She was treating the driver like she used to treat her older, bigger brother and his friends when they picked on her as a young kid. She was having a flashback, and was helpless to stop feeding her ravenous revenge.

Joanna knew she was in control with her position on top of this guy. He was gassed. But, she caught herself. She was remembering the baby in the car, and at least partially snapped herself out of her red zone state of mind.

Joanna leaped off of the bully, thinking she had made her point and the altercation was over. She pranced away quickly, making her way back up the road and to her group. Unbeknownst to Joanna, the bully had also risen to his feet and was now stalking her up to the road. At that split second, she felt him bearing down on her and turned to face him just in the nick of time. She flipped him over onto his back, using the bully’s own momentum, and they ended up in a similar position to what they had been in on the other side of the road. This time, though, he twisted violently onto his stomach. Not missing even one beat, Joanna simply put the man into a sleeper hold. She intertwined her legs into his and gently squeezed his windpipe, letting him know she had him. Then she let him breathe a little, while at the same time calmly but firmly whispering into his ear that she would let him up one more time, but after that she would not show mercy a third time.

Joanna kept thinking, there is a BABY in the car! My Gosh! When will this ever end? I can’t believe they hate cyclists this much. The driver relaxed, and she let him up for a second time. Joanna cautiously back-pedaled up the road, this time not taking her eyes off of him. The driver made his way up the hill, onto the road, and was still spitting and cursing, feeling humiliated. He leaned forward a little toward Joanna, their gazes met,  but the bully thought better of it, and instead, veered off in the direction of Joanna’s bike. He kicked it on down the embankment with his new fancy urban alligator skin cowboy boots. He hid the pain of his broken foot. But Joanna knew. She was entirely focused on his every move and expression however slight.

Joanna breathed in and said loudly and reluctantly, “You kick my bike, then I will KICK your car.” She started toward his car, intending to kick a huge dent into the side panel, when Diane stepped in and grabbed her around the waist, trying to hold her back. Joanna really secretly did not want to kick the car; the baby was in there. She yelled “let me GO” but then relented to Diane, but made it look to the driver and anyone else watching by then that he was very lucky Diane had intervened.

Joanna then looked around her for the first time since the altercation began and realized that there were at least twenty cars backed up on both sides of the road, parked, with their respective drivers outside watching the show. Even the cows in the field stopped eating and were watching in udder disbelief. One of the drivers closest to the action was still sitting in his car. He honked his horn and said, “Hey! I need to get through. I gotta get goin’.” Joanna turned and gave the hurried driver a stare and he quickly added, “…OR NOT. It’s fine. Finish up, take your time. I’m good, no problem!” He sheepishly smiled, waving his open hand. “Really, take your time”, he reiterated.

Finally, the driver and his wife got into their car and slowly drove off. The spectators grabbed their hats, returned to their vehicles and drove off as well. The fight was over and the girls had just wasted another 10 minutes of ride time. Joanna, Diane, and Floyd got back on their bikes and started toward Ponder once again.

They slowly meandered the rest of the 12 miles to Ponder, talking about what had happened, and mused if it really had happened. Was it all just an Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone dream? Diane kept saying over and over again how she couldn’t believe what had just happened. Joanna kept swearing under her breath and shaking her head. Floyd kept saying how cute the baby was and how it never did cry, even once. Joanna asked Floyd sarcastically if she changed the baby’s diaper, too.

When they pulled into the town, Joanna had a torn bike jersey, a few bruises and scratches, her bike was surprisingly unharmed, and everyone asked what had happened. “Where have you guys been?” they asked. Joanna quipped, “You should see the other guy.” Then Diane and Floyd proceeded to tell the story and all the other riders listened, some skeptical, some in horror, some laughing, some jealous, some in disbelief, and some in total astonishment.

Joanna sat there and listened to Diane and Floyd embellish the story, as if it was not already pretty good just the way it happened. Diane claimed the driver drove a big red Ford 250 Diesel pickup truck. It was actually a cranberry colored Pontiac 2-door coupe. Floyd claimed the driver was 300 pounds and 6’10”. Joanna rolled her eyes, sighed, took another bite of her hot medium rare delicious rib eye steak, and grinned. “I gotta write this one down” she pondered.

Story Teller—Carl Dunlap—

Writer–Carlton Dunlap–

See:……….it is about slower aging, better athletic performance and the best nutrition strategies.

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