So the rest of that summer (2017), I mostly practiced in my backyard with that pole Brian loaned me.

It started getting so hot at Sunday afternoon practice time, people were saying deer corn was popping in the feeders, so I figured I’d just work on those grass take-off drills for a while at home. I’ve lived in Texas all my life but I’m still not a big fan of 100-degree heat.

I did go down to New Braunfels one day for a private lesson at Lone Star Pole Vault, a club owned by Kris Allison, who coached Bubba and is a great guy and an excellent coach. Kris and I have become good friends, as well.

Anyway …

I forget exactly when it was, but right around this time, Bubba decided to move from California to Austin. We met one day shortly after that for lunch at the Monument Cafe in Georgetown and he told me he was going to start training at Kris’ place and I should come along. So I did.

The next Sunday, I got up at 6 a.m., drove down to Austin (an hour from me), got in Bubba’s car, and we headed 45 minutes down the highway to practice pole vault.

I was more than a little nervous about the whole thing, from what was I going to talk about on the ride down there and back — not to mention practicing with a world champion pole vaulter. Remember, I knew Bubba from way back when but he is four years older than me, and we were never really friends when we were kids. I was friends with his younger brother, Bill, and sister, Vicki, and our parents were friends, so I knew who he was, but we never hung out or anything like that. I don’t think we ever even had a conversation.

Turned out, I had nothing to worry about.

Bubba is, shall we say, an excellent conversationalist and I mostly just sat there, nodding my head and saying, “Uh-huh,” once in a while as we cruised down Interstate 35. At practice that first day, the last thing he had me do before we packed it in was clear my first bar, a major milestone for a newcomer.

When he set the bar at a whopping 4 feet, I thought, “Well, this is kind of silly.” I even asked him if I could just run up there and jump over it without using a pole.

But guess what?

I ran and jumped and cleared that 4-foot bar, sitting barely above the landing mat, and it felt great! I was so excited.

And so it began.

That was October and every Sunday for a year we rode down to New Braunfels together, practiced vaulting. I learned so much, and met a bunch of other Masters vaulters who also practiced on Sunday morning. Jane and Cyndy and Frank and Jorge.

And in the process, Bubba and I became life-long friends.

More later.

Remember … it’s never too late!