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Biff America: Fast and pious

My old man used to say the only things you can believe in the newspapers are the box scores. His contention was that anything written or reported on was, at least in part, tainted by opinion. The scores of sporting events are undeniable.

That being said, I don’t know if my observations of that day are accurate or just a result of head injuries and overactive imagination.

One thing I do know is that a guy my age should not stare too long at a girl’s high school track team.



My bride and I were traveling in our small RV in northern New Mexico, biking, hiking and bathing infrequently. We were hoping to camp at a romantic spot, nestled in the pinyon pines. 

Our current rig is the fifth generation of our full metal tents. All things considered, it is fairly buffed. We have heat, running water and a bathroom small enough that you can sit on the toilet and use the sink, while also taking a shower. We discovered the aforementioned camp spot decades ago when our then-rig was a 1983 Dodge van with bad brakes, sticky steering and an engine that smelled like burnt hair. 



Before we headed out to camp, we stopped for lunch at a nearby tourist town. We had time to kill already knowing where we would be sleeping and hoping we’d have the place to ourselves.

At the adjacent table were eight tanned and athletic young gals. They all had matching shorts and shirts. Though I mentioned high school, they might have been in college — all I know was they were younger than some of my clothing.

Ellie and I were sneaking peeks at the group speculating on the roles of the various athletes. They all looked similar — fit, tanned and healthy — but some sat quietly, eyes down, while others were animated, laughing, nudging their neighbors and gesturing wildly. Now, obviously I might be totally wrong, but some of the gals looked happy while others seemed awkward and uncomfortable.

Nature or nurture? I have no idea, but I will say, confidence is a gift not always earned or deserved. Like Lefty Gomez declared, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

“Stop gawking at those gals.”

Ellie was right, I was staring. Though it wasn’t for any prurient purposes. I was just trying to understand the diversity of human condition and disparity of self-worth genetics.  

An hour later we pulled into our secret spot. As usual, we had the place to ourselves — at first.

We were sitting in lawn chairs reading when the first truck of young guys passed by. Soon after, four more vehicles, equally full of dudes, followed. Our fear was it might be a bachelor party that would keep us up all night.

We were disappointed. Since the pandemic, it seems many of our favorite free camping spots have been discovered. We decided to take a walk and check out our neighbors. We reasoned if they saw that there were a couple of old fogies sleeping nearby, they might be more respectful. We walked down the road to where they had set up camp.

There had to be at least 20 kids who looked to be in their 20s. Like the track team, some were laughing and lively, others had their noses in books. Deciding to take the bull by the horns, I walked over, smiled, and asked, “Is this some sort of a bachelor party? Will we need ear plugs tonight?” 

One guy who appeared slightly older got out of his lawn chair and said, “We are all from Blessed Heart Seminary. I’m Deacon Paul. This our last weekend before classes begin. At year’s end, all of these men will take their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.”

We could not believe our luck. My first thought was, unless there was an exorcism on the menu, it would be a quiet evening.

I did tell the good deacon that I also was well aquatinted with poverty and chastity, since I worked in Breck in the ’70s.

I talked for a while with Deacon Paul. I was raised around priests, brothers and nuns. I had attended a few ordinations, and though I’m no longer a practicing Papist I’m glad I once was. Honestly, I was happy to know there are still young men (and women) going into the vocations. Better them than me.

It was a quiet night. I guess no demons needed to be expelled. 

Lying in the camper after dark, I kept thinking about the odds of encountering two such dissimilar groups only a few hours apart. 

Humans, what we all have most in common are our differences. …


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