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Tractor and field

“Being on the track team will get me in better shape,” argued my teen-age daughter. I replied, “The boys are already taking second looks at you, I don’t want your shape any better! Besides, why would anyone want to run in circles unless they are doing their taxes? In track you fight the wind all day and come home with a sunburn.”

I really did want my daughter to join track, but I know from being a parent that kids will only do what they think their parents don’t want them to do. I had to make it sound good.

“The track area will be swarming with teen-age boys and girls wearing shorts and tanktops. They can’t possibly be in every event, so they’ll probably make small talk and try to make friends with the other athletes. Doesn’t making friends nullify competitiveness and school spirit? And, isn’t the American way of measuring things good enough? I mean, who around here measures distances in meters? Weird, they measure the footrace events in meters, but the pole vault, long jump, and shot put are measured in feet. What is a shot put? They last time I shot something trying to run away, it stayed put. Is throwing the shot put actually preparation for throwing a sinker in baseball? If society didn’t have a black market for stolen poles, then you wouldn’t need a vault for them. Instead of pole vaulting, I’m smart enough to simply use the stairs. Isn’t the discus just a very heavy frisbee? No way is our dog dumb enough to try to catch a discus in his mouth. Officials use a starting pistol; a real pistol would get faster starts. Isn’t running hard enough without putting hurdles in the way? A guy could get seriously hurt if he misjudged those by a few inches.

“And that high jump thing ... only time I’ve seen that in real life is when Bo Duke goes over the hood of the General Lee; are you going to hood-slide over a Mack truck? I guess the broad jump could come in handy if you come across a rattlesnake. The triple jump only works if you really know where the submerged rocks are when you’re jumping across the creek. What is the difference between a dash and a run (a dash of salt and a run of bad luck)? Medleys and relays are for people who can’t make it by themselves. Does it really take four people to carry a little baton? If track is such a healthy sport, why do the concession stands sell candy and other junk food?”

My daughter is no dummy and she was catching on to me. “Dad, you’re weird.” She smiled and stuck her tongue out at me. You know something? She should be good at track. I took the bait and took out after her. I chased her out of the house, over the yard’s retaining wall, jumped high over the surprised dog, launched over the car hood, and into the straight-away down the street. She was laughing, and I was fighting for air. I think that I actually succeeded. I think she’ll stay in track for the rest of her high school years.