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Gary Borders: Sound of silence gives me one for the bucket list

Gary Borders
Gary Borders
Gary Borders

I walk three-and-a-half miles every morning, accompanied by Sam, our dimwitted but lovable poodle mix.

The alarm goes off at 5:30. I jump up and get out the door in 15 minutes, a half-cup of coffee and a large swig  of Diet Coke in my gullet to jumpstart my brain. I know that sounds gross, but it works for me.

I listen to Red River Radio on my iPhone while I walk to get a headstart on the news. Except for the other morning. No matter how many times I tried, I couldn’t make it work. I then tried pulling in KUT, the Austin

NPR station, but that didn’t work either. After about a half mile of fiddling with my phone, while Sam tugged at the leash, I gave up and yanked the earbuds out, irritated as many of us get when technology fails — even when

it didn’t even exist a few years ago.

The mourning doves were cooing softly, harmonizing with the tree frogs. I could hear Sam panting rather heavily beside me, something I hadn’t heard before. He loves our walks, is beside himself with excitement every morning as I put on my tennis shoes and grab the leash. But I guess the walk exerts him as much as it does me. We’re both getting a bit up in years, though I’m counting on the walks to keep me limber for as long as possible.

I had forgotten how quiet it is this time of morning in our neighborhood. For a time all I hear is the sound of Sam panting and my new shoes slapping the asphalt. I finally wore out the old shoes and am having a hard time adjusting to this pair, which make me about a half-inch taller. I could use the height, but it affects my gait. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like buying tennis shoes. I also don’t like spending money on haircuts or gasoline, considering both unwanted encumbrances on my bank account. It’s why I drive a hybrid with 185,000 miles on it and usually look shaggy — until my wife gently suggests perhaps it is time to visit the barber.

Sunlight was just starting to hit the crowns of the pine trees when I hear this strange whooshing sound.

Sam — a naturally nervous pooch, ducks and sports his usual alarmed look. The whooshing sound gets louder, occurring every 30 seconds or so. I am getting nervous as well. Is there a leak on an underground gas pipeline about to blow under our feet?

Then a hot-air balloon rises above the treetops and sails into the sky. The sound was the pilot firing the burners to make it ascend. I look up through a clearing in the trees and realize the sky is filled with a dozen or so balloons. This was the week of the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview. The pilots are lifting off somewhere close to our neighborhood. It’s a fine sight on a balmy summer morning.

My mom, who died three years ago at 81, took a ride in a hot-air balloon at the age of 70. I decided that morning while watching those colorful contraptions float along the breeze that I am not going to wait that long.

I turn 60 next summer and plan on taking a ride to mark the event.

If my earbuds had been plugged in, I never would have heard the whooshing, which means I would have never looked up and seen the balloons. That means I likely would have never made the vow to take a ride next summer. All because I couldn’t listen to NPR that morning, and had to settle for the sounds of the outside world.

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