Sunday, April 6, 2008


I had dinner with Ed, the 12 second man, last night. I had never met Ed before. I wondered if he was disclosing things to me better left unsaid. What goes on behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors. However, Ed was not revealing his deepest darkest secrets to me. Rather, he was discussing the world record he held in penning.

No, this is not a handwriting competition. Penning is an event undertaken by those of us who fancy themselves as cowboys . Don't count me among that crowd. Ed asked me about my horseback riding skills. I told him that the last time of note that I had been on a horse was when I was about 9 years old. I was at camp and was riding in a stable. I fell from the horse, got my foot caught in the stirrup and spent the next few seconds being dragged through a succession of manure piles. It was an unforgettable experience in ways one would rather not imagine.

For Ed, getting on horseback was far from my world of manure and disaster. Who ever could envision a middle aged, Jewish man, spending his weekends competing to see who could herd and corral a steer as quickly as possible? That is the endeavor that Ed voluntarily chose as his escape from the rigors of his everyday life. On most weekend days, you can find Ed saddling up his now 16 year old horse and either practicing, or taking part in various events, in which the goal is to demonstrate how skilled you are in his unique undertaking .

Ed explained to me, in detail, the world he inhabited on Saturday and Sunday. The events were either solo, or 3 man, competitions. If it was a solo event, you and your horse waited behind a designated line. 20 steer were placed in an area in front of you, about the size of a football field. Each steer was numbered. At the other end of the field from where you and your horse waited, was a pen, with a gate open. Your responsibility, whether it was an individual or team event, was to locate your steer as quickly as possible, separate it from the rest of the steer, and herd it into the pen. Ed had become a master at this task.

Can you imagine going into an arena and those around you staring and whispering to one another "there goes the 12 second man"? For Ed, it is his badge of honor that he wears proudly. Years ago, Ed and his horse were ,on one special day, the best there had ever been. 12 seconds after Ed began his ride, it was over, the steer safely in the pen. The record Ed set that day still stands.

So while you and I try , in more mundane ways, to put aside the concerns of the week, Ed still gets up early on weekend mornings, gets in his car and begins the journey that will soon find him trying once again to become Ed the 11 second man.

I have recently been informed by one of my friends that he no longer can play in our weekend golf games, because he is now fully committed to his weekend passion of being a harness driver. Whatever happened to coin collecting as a hobby?

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