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Long Haul Covid Train

Chapter Two – The Beginning: School, Art & Softball

If you’re just tuning in, you might want to start at the actual beginning, with the Long Haul Covid Train Intro, which tells the story of how my wife Linda and I celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary in a covid ward in a Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hospital. You might want to check out our wedding photo, which accompanies the article and never fails to catch attention. Here’s the second installment in what I hope will become a weekly exchange with other Long Haulers, covid or not, and those who care about them.

Create Art & Essence: closing sale, June 2020

The first impact the Covid-19 pandemic made on our lives was in March of 2020, when the board of Liberty Classical Academy, the private Christian school where I’d been teaching middle school humanities for 15 years since retiring after 30 years of public school English, decided we would go to at-home Zoom classes. This wasn’t the disruption it might have been for my previous school district parents because in the University model LCA followed, students were with us two or three days and homeschooled the rest of the week.

At first, we thought we’d resume in-person classes by April, then May, and finally, going along with what was happening in school districts across the country, we conceded we’d have to finish the year online. My students enjoyed it (except for the most “social” of them, who missed the interaction). I quickly established a structure for our classes, and, though the impact of the classroom was missing, most of the students did well and some, who found a school setting distracting, flourished.

As for my sideline job and full-time love, broadcasting high school sports for KMTS in Glenwood Springs, that came to a complete halt. We had just wrapped up basketball season, but there would be no spring sports. There was talk of resuming baseball during the summer, but even the fall sports were radically affected by what was rapidly becoming a full-scale pandemic.

Our family business, “Create Art & Essence,” a “paint and sip” shop in downtown Glenwood Springs was also a victim. In the summer of 2018, our middle daughter Jennifer left her teaching job in Alaska, bringing our only granddaughter Joslin home, and with my wife Linda, began what we called “the shop,” hosting date nights, bonding events (such as the Glenwood girls basketball team), elementary after-school classes, and traveling to a local senior center and for an outdoor painting class to the historic Colorado Hotel.

Thinking we’d reopen soon, we posted signs at the shop and online with phrases like “temporarily closed,” thinking county restrictions would ease as the number of Covid cases declined with the warmer weather. But it became evident that the social distancing mandates wouldn’t permit us to have enough students to afford our monthly rent.  Our landlord was understanding and had reduced the rent by half through April and May, but, as the inevitable became clear, we reached an agreement to conclude the lease, which had another 18 months to go, in June.  He even allowed us to keep our inventory in the shop while we conducted online sales. We took tremendous losses on our nearly new supplies, furniture, and infrastructure, but by July, “Create” was a family memory, and Jennifer had taken another teaching job in Alaska.

In August, our school began to gear up for a return to in-person classes, which we started in September. Whenever any student or teacher had a Covid contact or case, that class would quarantine for ten days, but the rest of the school continued as usual. I was enjoying my second year with this particular group of students. They’d joined my eighth grade class as seventh graders the previous January when their teacher had to leave for a family emergency. The irony of that scenario would come full circle in January of 2021, but that’s getting ahead of the story. The governing body for high school sports in Colorado (CHSAA) sent convoluted directives that reshuffled the usual fall sports throughout the year at each district’s discretion. So, some schools played a fall football schedule and others chose to play after basketball season. The schools we covered went with the latter, so my play-by-play partner Ron Milhorn and I wound up covering girls softball for the first time in our 22 seasons together.

The Ronster (right) visiting in Topeka, Kansas, after our move.

(In a letter Ron wrote me when it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to continue broadcasting, he presented some “unofficial stats” since my role as color analyst included extensive stat keeping:  “1,650 games, 400,000 miles, 350 pounds of fries, along with ten first place awards from the Colorado Associated Press.”)

The revised high school sports schedule would next feature shortened girls and boys basketball seasons, but before they began, my broadcasting career would take an unexpected turn, so after all those football, basketball, and baseball games, my final turn at the mic was Basalt girls softball.       

The Basalt Midland Fast Pitch Championship Softball Team
(Back row: Rocky Blake (2nd from left), Maurice Gillming(3rd from left), Jack Jabbour(3rd from right, black hat); front row: Dennis Strupel (far left, bats) all lived in the No Name Canyon house where Jack & Linda met.)

This was a little ironic in that when I first came to the Roaring Fork valley after concluding my stint in the Air Force (again with the irony: my first stay in Kansas was whenI was stationed at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas), I spent several years playing competitive fast-pitch softball with the Midland Bar team from Basalt. I could spend a chapter on that colorful team, which included several of my No Name Canyon house roommates. Most were construction workers, who’d roll up to the field, six packs slamming around an open-doored jeep, sober up by about the third inning, and take us to the quarterfinals of the state championship. Of course, there was also the time we were playing in a tournament in Grand Junction, CO, when the police stopped the game and hauled our pitcher off the mound and to jail on drug charges. 

Nothing quite that dramatic happened as we covered the Basalt team’s season, but I had no foreshadowing that my two decades, plus, broadcasting career had come to an end.

Next Week – Chp. 3: Disrupted, Derailed, and Damaged: Covid Strikes

Tune in next week for chapter three in my journey on the Long Haul Covid Train. Thank you to those who’ve subscribed. I’m trying to figure out how you can comment, and, I’d love to hear from any of you who manage to find these ramblings.

5 responses to “Long Haul Covid Train”

  1. Well, well, well. Zipping through 50 years quickly. I would argue. Anyway, I could comment once I “like “ the post.

    Like

  2. […] weekend was remarkable. Folks came from the West coast and the East. My brother, Jack, came from Kansas with his electric wheel chair and oxygen condenser contraption. We are Boomers. […]

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  3. […] my brother DM’d me: “Judge is pressing.” I […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] New York Yankees are in their usual spot, positioned to make a run at a world championship. So is my brother’s team, the LA Dodgers. However, the Dodgers weren’t always from Los Angeles, California. The […]

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  5. […] with his daughter-dog Frog and they had nine puppies – “eight black and one tan.” My brother wrote a song about them. I was able to find homes for them all. (The tan one first.) Except for the […]

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