Running Through Tiger Land

My sister and her family always go to LSU games at the new Tiger Stadium

My sister and her family always go to LSU games at the new Tiger Stadium

I had to run an 11 miler on Saturday. I was down in Louisiana visiting my brother Sammy who is a professor at LSU. Friday night I was trying to figure out an 11 mile course around the LSU Lakes but I didn’t want to run laps. I wanted to run one large loop. He suggested that I run around the lakes once but then meander through the LSU campus for the rest of the run.

I woke up Saturday to a dense fog. I couldn’t even see the street in front of me while I was driving. I was disappointed because I know these Louisiana fogs. They don’t dissipate early. I ran out of the little park on Stanford which was already teeming with runners at around 6:30 AM. It appeared as if the ducks and geese were floating on the fog. I couldn’t even see the water. My dog and I ran on the street to the left of the lake and ran toward the edge of campus over by the Commuter Parking Lots. We took a right down a street with student apartments and condominiums appropriately named Parker Drive – I assumed it was named Parker because of the parking areas.

The fog lifted a little around the field that surrounded the commuter parking area, and we ran down some sidewalks and over a bridged creek. The silhouettes of Live Oak trees surrounded me, enveloped in the light fog. Those trees always remind me of a “tree of life” because, in my mind, they so aptly represent the path of our lives. When they are young, their branches grow up and out, supporting all kinds of life like squirrels and Spanish Moss. As they age, and they do live a very long time, their branches get heavy and touch the ground, some of them becoming deformed because of their weight and the grip of gravity. As they get more and more gnarly and old, they collect more Spanish Moss, but it seems as if they never die. I’m sure those very same trees were there when I was a girl.

I ran over by Mike the Tiger’s new enclosure. By this time, the fog had completely cleared. When I was a kid, we visited Mike the Tiger (I’m not sure which number) in his little concrete cage with metal bars. As a girl, he (or she) looked so huge and exotic. That large predator with gigantic paws would pace his enclosure and stare you right in the eye.  I was so excited this time to see that a modern enclosure held him captive. He has elements of his own natural habitat to entertain him while Tiger fans and their kids come to gawk at his prowess and grace. Mike was not out in his enclosure when we passed, so I didn’t see him, but my dog did. She smelled him, and that’s much more graphic to her than seeing him with her eyes. She sniffed nervously and looked for this massive creature which I’m sure she could only sense was something to be feared.

Map of LSU Campus

Map of LSU Campus

I was amazed at Tiger Stadium. When I was growing up, Mama and I would accompany Daddy to the football games. The stadium was much older. I don’t know when they built the new one, but the signs of modern marketing are all over it. Names of families adorn the gates, evidence that somebody with that name made an enormous contribution to the athletic program. Daddy was a sportswriter and would report to the Press Box early and stay late, so Mama and I would watch the band come in, walk around campus and go see Mike. I remembered looking up into the old dormitory that was a part of the old stadium. It had to be a boy’s dorm because the ceilings were filled with posters of Farrah-Fawcett in that red swimsuit and Playboy centerfolds. I used to wonder if I’d ever look like one of those girls and if some boy one day would like to look at me on his ceiling.

farrahI was surprised to see that the school of Journalism was right behind the stadium. I thought it was a bit ironic that my passions so much parallel the passions of my Dad. He made a living from writing about sports. After a long hiatus, I have rediscovered a passion for writing and running. The fact that I was running by that building, composing this blog along the way made me smile a bit. I used to fantasize about going to LSU when I was a girl, dreaming about who I’d be when I grew up and what my life might be like. But, I knew that I wouldn’t go there. Financially, we didn’t have the money for a big school. My parents had three others after me that had to be educated, and our breadwinner was a sportswriter. Although that lifestyle is attractive on many different levels, it doesn’t pay very much until you get into the upper tier jobs that not too many sports wags ever hold. LSU was the only college campus that I roamed, so it was the one that stuck in my mind when I thought of going to college, and I was already told that a college education was non-negotiable.

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Some things looked the same to me. I remembered the Indian Mound, the Parade Ground and the new Student Union that isn’t so new anymore. The placard outside said it was built in 1964. So, when I called it the “new” Student Union, it was only a few years old. A student today would laugh at that name. I’m sure the Live Oak trees that I passed as I ran were the same ones that I passed as a little girl, and I couldn’t help but remember her and her dreams of becoming a clarinetist in the LSU band on one Saturday and of being an LSU Cheerleader the next week. Sometimes I dreamed of being the girlfriend of the quarterback and eventually, I dreamed of being a sportswriter. None of those came true, but what did come true was that I was able to run through the campus and feel energized on a foggy day by the same dreams that little girl had not so long ago. But, this time they weren’t dreams, they were memories. I wonder if those old Live Oak trees feel the same way when they see the people that walked by them long ago pass another time, but this time older, a little more gnarly and weighed down by the grip of gravity.

Categories: Louisiana

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