Friday, July 13, 2012

Como Again?

Yesterday the temperature ranged near 90, but there was a nice breeze, and I was able to break free of my work and worries: What better to do than play golf?

We decided to play Como Golf Course, a rather constricted track in St. Paul, Minn. (Par 70, plays 5,581 yards from the middle tees, rating of 67.5 and a slope of 122.) To compound matters, we decided to walk it. (One onlooker was mystified why we wouldn't rent a driver cart. Hey, walking is healthy exercise.)

Now, Como is not flat. In fact, in winter they use (or used) it for skiing. (Wirth Golf Course, a Minneapolis parks course, does the same.) I have to admit, though, there were a couple of holes so steep I was pulling my cart uphill on my tiptoes to get to the next tee. You get a good calf muscle stretch on those.

To get an entire 18 onto the limited area of a city park, the designers had to do a little creative architecture. Tuck a dogleg in here, nip a fairway in a little there. If there's a steep hill on one side, flatten a little at the bottom: maybe someone will land there. Otherwise, let them hit with their feet above the ball.

How steep are they? My shoes were wellworn enough that when I plunked one high up on the hillside I decided to just drop another and let the first one evaporate, because I was afraid I'd slip and fall. (One wet morning a few years back, I spun a driving cart totally around and sailed down one of these slopes backwards, to the accompaniment of a lot of hollering!)

Overall, though, it's a nice course. Water on a few holes, trees edging alongside on others.

A few of the beginning holes run alongside the Como Park Zoo. The lion house overlooks the third green, and I pointed out that zoogoers could gaze at lions on one side and we old goats on the other. Every so often there'd be a roar, and not from any crowds.

Although I had started out only wanting to play nine holes, by the time we were partway through it I was anxious to go the whole way. A nice breeze cooled us down, and hitting the ball well heated us up. It cost us seniors $27 for the full boat. And a good time was had by all.

There is a plethora of elevated tees, and a few elevated greens as well.

If you're ever in St. Paul, take in the Como Zoo, the Arboretum, and Como Golf Course. It's just a few blocks from the state fairgrounds.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Run

As I talked about in my last post, my parents were always too busy to take the family camping. I dreamed constantly of camping and fishing as a 7-year-old back in the central California town of Hanford in 1950. I decided to go by myself, by folly. But I would need a pack, and they weren't the drug on the market they are today. As you can see from this picture from the 1948 Boy Scout Manual,however, it's simple to make something that could pass for a pack, even for a 7-year-old.

I didn't have a "flour or grain sack", but I did have a pillowcase stripped off my bed. Instead of a stone put in the corners to tie the string to, I employed marbles. I jammed in a blanket, some clothes, some matches, and I was ready to go camp.

On my way out of town, though, I realized I would need some food. So I stopped at the law office my mother worked at and asked her for some money.

"What do you need money for?" she said.

"I want to go fishing, and I need some food."

"Fishing." She took one look at my improvised pack and ordered me to go right home and go to my room.

The pillowcase returned to its place of honor on my bed, the blanket as well, clothes in the dresser, and matches back in the kitchen. I was grounded without dinner for my efforts.

Cycle forward to 1973. My father, a heavy smoker, was dying of lung cancer. The doctors in those days didn't tell the patient how sick they were, but they told close relatives. In our family, I was the only one who knew how sick he was.

Dad had been ill with a "cold" for four months. One day, my father asked me outright if he would get better. I felt he deserved the truth, and halting, I said no.

He looked at me with sad, tired eyes, and said softly "I just wish we had gone fishing more."

The next day he was gone, dead at age 56.