Of Monsters and rainy southern summer nights
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
We went to the tractor pull Friday night, Max. You girls stayed home with Mommy – which it turns out meant going shopping and for milkshakes.
You and I met my longtime friend and triathlete Bruce Coleman and two of his grandsons down in Chappel Hill, TN. It was raining when we left the house, so we grabbed two ponchos and threw them in my truck. You starred out the back window as we drove occasionally asking questions about the tractor pull and other questions like:
“Dad, is bigfoot real?”
“The truck or the monster?” I asked in return.
“I don’t know buddy. No one knows for sure, but there are people who like to say they’ve seen him,” I said.
“Do you think he’s real?” you asked
“I don’t know, bud.”
“Do you?” you persisted. I wasn’t sure how to answer, because I’m not sure I’ve ever really considered my position on Bigfoot, Nessie, aliens, or any of the sort. So I answered with another question.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think he’s real.”
“I’ll be he’s nice though,” I said and turned the radio back up.
The rain picked up as we arrived in the small town, but the crowd was already forming and police cars had the intersections controlled as they motioned traffic. We parked at a country gas station and walked to the small field where the tractor pull would happen. Bruce, his son in law, and his grandsons met us a short time later. There were a lot of ponchos, and more camo outfits than I’ve seen in a long time. I love taking you to things that are intensely southern. No matter how successful or well-traveled you may become one day, the South will always be your roots.
For the next two hours we sat in an intermittently driving or drizzling rain, eating soggy hotdogs, sipping Mello Yellow, eating cow tails candy and cracker jacks, talking about Indiana Jones, and watching tractor pull highlights on a big screen. Occasionally a man came on the PA system with an update.
“Folks, we’re gonna wait until 8:30 and then decide if we’ll be able to pull tonight. Thanks for your patience.”
You and I laughed while we listened to Mr. Bruce’s stories and got wet.
At 8:30 the PA man came back on.
“Folks, it’s up on 8:30 and the rain ain’t stoppin. We’re sorry, but we can’t tonight. If ya’ll will come back on Sunday at 2pm we’ll honor your tickets.”
Sorry we hiked back through a now muddy field, said goodbye to Mr. Bruce and family, and headed back to the truck. We walked together in the rain, holding hands, straight through puddles, wet to the knees, hooded ponchos down over our eyes, flashing lights illuminating the small town in red and blue – and then finally back into the darkness of the country store parking lot where my truck was the last one still there.
“You look like a Jedi in your poncho, dad.”
“You do too!” I said.
“I’m glad we didn’t bring the girls, dad” you said. “They would have been cold in the rain.”
“You’re right, buddy-boy. This was a night for tough-dudes like me and you.”
I buckled you into your car seat and then shook out our ponchos before throwing them into the front seat floor board. Once in the truck we sat there in the darkness for a minute together – I was absorbing the fact that we had fun even without the actual tractor pull. A couple of Jedi’s in ponchos.
“I’m sorry the tractors didn’t pull. Did you have fun anyway, Max?” Iasked.
“Yeah, dad,” you replied. Silence and dark. I glanced back at you. Your hair wet. The collar of your darth vader tee shirt wet where the poncho let a little in.
“Are monsters real?” you said.
“No, they aren’t.”
“Why don’t grownups believe in monsters?” you asked.
“Well, we’ve been around a long time, I guess. I’ve never seen a monster. Nana and Papaw told me there aren’t monsters. Do you think there are monsters?”
A few seconds of silence as we pulled onto the dark road headed home.
“Maybe bigfoot.” you whispered while starring into the dark countryside.
I love you,
Sat: scaled back my ride and did 30 hard miles, including a time trial climb up Theta
Sun: ran 14.5 miles