Youthful feeling is never too far away |

Youthful feeling is never too far away

Mike Vidakovich
Mike Vidakovich
Staff Photo |

“You remain the age you choose to be.”

— Picasso

June, July, and August.

Those three simple words are music to the ears of all school children.

In younger days, the long-awaited time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, filled with sunshine and frolic, was the only thing that made the previous nine months tolerable for me.

No more pencils and no more books. I always had very nice teachers, so I can’t throw in the part pertaining to dirty looks.

I used to try to get out of the last day of school every year by pleading with my parents to let me take the good folks at Glenwood Elementary up on their offer of letting you skip the last half-day session by bringing in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to your teacher the day before, and your report card would be put in the mail.

Nothing doing. If school was in session, my parents would drag me there if they had to.

I always wondered if my mom had some medical-school training in her background because she was so adept at knowing when I was faking illness in order to avoid the halls of academia. If the thermometer showed no fever and there was no sign of blood, my mom threw back the bed covers and said, emphatically, “Get moving!”

As much joy as the last day of school would bring, what always put a damper on it was the dreaded trip to Leo Langley’s barbershop for my “summer haircut.”

It was more like a scalping.

Mom would hand me 75 cents as I walked out the door for school, and instruct me to stop by the barbershop on the way home. The only saving grace in the matter is that my head did stay cool for most of the summer, although a bit sunburned in places, and Leo Langley was one of the nicest men you could ever chat with as you mourned the showers of blonde hair falling to the floor of his shop.

Little League baseball was always the highlight of my summer. From ages 8 to 14, most days were spent at the Sayre Park field with my buddies. We had very good teams each year, and the goal was always to advance to the district tournament in either Rifle or Meeker.

All good memories, except for the district game when I was 10-years-old.

We were in Meeker and trailing by a couple runs in the middle innings. I hit an infield grounder and tried to stretch a little too much in hopes of beating out the throw to first. I pulled a muscle in the back of my leg and couldn’t pitch the rest of the game. Coach Harlan Spencer let me try shortstop, but I was done for the rest of the day. We lost, and I spent the entire month of August feeling like I let my team down.

I still think about that game.

As I got older, and my baseball career was a thing of the past, summers were divided up between the old tennis courts behind Glenwood Springs High School, the gymnasium inside the school, and the Sayre Park basketball courts.

I would ride my bike into town in the mornings and play tennis for a couple of hours with my friend Alice Alexander and an older guy who practically lived at the courts named Robert “Jake” Jacobsen.

Jake taught me the game of tennis. We would play for hours, with him showing me the fundamentals of the different strokes and the strategies of the game. The footwork and conditioning involved with tennis were a natural boost to me with my main sport which was basketball.

From the tennis courts, I would head for the Fireside Inn Steakhouse where I was the lunch-shift dishwasher. The lunchtime job was perfect for me because it didn’t interfere with my evenings of practicing basketball.

Summer open gym at Glenwood High was memorable not just for the great basketball games, but also for the legendary ping-pong games I would have with Harlan Spencer.

Spence and coach Bob Chavez would alternate weeks opening the gym. They were both great men to spend a summer with. Chav would lift some weights while keeping a keen eye on future hoopers at the other end of the gym. He would even jump on the trampoline that was set up in the far corner of the gym from time to time.

When Spence was there, though, I would constantly challenge him to games of ping-pong and H-O-R-S-E. He was a master at both. I don’t recall anyone ever defeating him in those days, and there were some pretty fair shooters who came through those halls as Demon cagers.

When the gym closed at 9 p.m., I would get on my bike and ride home under the stars and moon. Getting up the next morning, I was ready and eager to do it all over again.

As I look back on those times, I marvel at the boundless energy I possessed. I don’t really remember ever being very tired at all. Now it seems like a monumental undertaking when I have to get out of bed for my 2 a.m. pee break. And I usually worry about the possibility of pulling a muscle on the way to the bathroom.

Things sure are confusing in this life when your mind wants to be one age but the body dictates otherwise.

That’s OK. Metaphorically speaking, the first step to the bathroom is always the hardest, but I plan to keep on taking it as long as I’m able.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.

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