Last weekend I visited #2 son at Western Carolina University where he's enrolled in graduate school. It's my alma mater too. He ran track in high school and college, setting quite a few records along the way. Last Friday, though, I saw him in an entirely different light. He wasn't the kid who could run fast. He was Coach Puett. From the sidelines I watched as he instructed the runners about their pre-race warm up, directed a few helpers to set out cones to mark the course and greeted one of his students (he teaches health and physical education courses too) who'd come out to help and get extra credit.
The women's teams ran first and his team finished first. Then came the men's race, one like I've watched since he started running at age four. One of his runners went out strong and owned the race all the way to the finish line.
As I stood watching all the teams congratulating each other and engaging in the post-race dissection of their performances, one of the other parents came up to me and asked if I had a child on the team. I told her my son was one of the graduate assistant coaches, and when I told her his name, she just beamed. "My son is so excited to be working with Coach Puett. He's a phys ed major and told me he wants to be just like Coach after he graduates."
Talk about proud!
That made me doubly glad I didn't sell him to the gypsies when he misbehaved as a child. I don't know about the rest of you parents, but for me, parenthood was the most difficult job I've had. I had no training, save for a little babysitting. It was learn-as-you-go and the hospital didn't issue me an instructional manual or give me a card with a toll-free customer support line when they discharged us from the hospital. I really felt I was on a strict pass/fail system. Well, folks, I think I passed.
After he'd finished with his coaching duties, we had the weekend to ourselves. Since he is a real outdoorsman (must be a genetic fluke or something), I suggested we go to the Blue Ridge Parkway for an easy hike and a picnic. Here's proof I did actually hike.
And here we are at the top of the bald where we ate our lunch.
And if you look very closely, you can see a group of people on the next bald. That's our return route to the parking area.
The particular spot where we hiked is called Black Balsam Knob, named for the groves of balsam trees, which appear black from a distance. Sadly, these trees are being decimated by the balsam woolly adelgid, creating large areas of "ghost" forests. I was playing with my camera and only took a black-and-white version of this shot, but it shows a lone dead balsam tree.
Here's a grove of black balsams. You can see how they look black on the mountain in the distance.
And this is what it looks like when you hike into the grove. I felt like Gretl in the fairy tale and had this strange urge to leave a trail of bread crumbs.
At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with this -- blackberries. We also found wild blueberry bushes and picked those too but my picture was blurry. The berries were awesome, and as Bear Grylls would say, "filled with vitamins and minerals." Speaking of Bear, there's a MOAN-day topic for you.
Have you had a proud-as-punch moment with your kids? Tell us about it. We won't think it's bragging, just that you're a proud parent. And we'll pat you on the back too.