Today, I am a published writer. Just like old times.
Check it out online at News-Leader.com. Here's the print version for you to enjoy (which will hopefully compel you to buy 10 copies and mail them to your relatives):
Before I knew the column inches I had available to me, I wrote a longer version of this, and I've been asked to share it. So here it is:
Summer means different things to different people. For me, it’s about searing heat. A scorching sun ruling the sky with no clouds to disturb its reign of radiation. Temperatures so ridiculously high that every thinking cell in your body is physically shoving you to the nearest air conditioner.
As if. I’ll take the heat! The hotter, the better.
I grew up in south Louisiana, where sweltering heat is a way of life right up there with Mardi Gras and cheering for the Saints. Every fond summer memory I have — playing sports, jumping on a friend’s trampoline, sitting outside for 30 seconds — is awash in perspiration. Down there, as they say, the four seasons are almost summer, summer, still summer and football. This has always been my favorite season. If, at the end of the day, my head is throbbing out “that was fun” in Morse code, I know it was time well spent.
All summer long, my brother and I would play Home Run Derby in our front yard. Or play hide-and-seek with our cousins. Once, we re-enacted the movie “Stand By Me,” except that our version was entirely us drinking from a canteen. We were too thirsty to bother with the rest of the scenes.
When the school year began each August, I’d sweat right through my brand-new clothes — and through my backpack and halfway into my textbooks — stifling any potential of being suave. This tendency to have pits of sweat marring my best shirts is why I have a personality today.
Living in Springfield has given me a new appreciation for summertime, because there’s something here called winter. It’s a time to be indoors and huddled under a blanket. I’m having none of that.
When summer strikes, there’s no doubt as to whether I’ll be outside. The only question is, will I bike, swim, play football or run? Cycling usually wins out, because there’s no better way under the sun to get moving. And sweating.
The Ozark Greenways trails are my personal escape. We’re lucky as a community to have them. One of my favorites is the Frisco Highline trail in north Springfield. It’s a 70-mile round trip from the Springfield trailhead to Bolivar. I’ve never done the whole route — my personal best is 52 miles. I’m an underachiever, I know. But distance isn’t the point; having fun knows no pace. Whether you’re on your bike or on foot, it’s refreshing to be out on the trail in the summer.
For nature lovers, picturesque foliage and the soothing sounds of nature abound. You’ll pass through scenic communities unblemished by strip malls. You might even find your new favorite restaurant or picnic spot. Natural shade is plentiful for those who like the outdoors a bit cooler. And, if you’re lucky, you might see a jet descending toward the airport runway. Or, more accurately, feel it.
These days, it’s often tough to tear yourself away from the Internet or your smartphone. But this is the best time of year to do just that. Not only is hitting the trail beneficial to your body and brain, but it’s also a chance to meet people and enjoy some of the best natural resources in Springfield. Pack water and sunscreen and make an afternoon of it.
Whether I’m alone or with friends, that long, winding path of the Frisco Highline Trail is an instant road trip. Nothing clears my mind quite like it. After a healthy ride, everything else is no sweat.
And just to show you I'm dedicated, take a look at my face:
It's a hard-knock life.