Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pendleton Blanket

My adopted sister, Patti died unexpectedly a few years ago. She was taken in the prime of life. Poisoned and tortured by modern medical treatments, she fought valiantly to live. All of us who loved her were devastated by the cruel swiftness of the cancer, the brutality of modern medicine, and the way she was ripped from our lives.

Patti was a pejutawin, a medicine woman. Many who came to her for healing, some with the same forms of cancer that took her life, are alive today. Long before she was ever ill, she told me many times she knew she would be one to help from the other side after she died. I have no doubt that she knew what she was talking about.

Patti was a tall woman, with thick brown hair to her waist. She laughed freely and easily and was generally a gentle person, but, no one dared to mess with her. She was fearless in everything. She met prejudice against Indians head on, and woe to anyone who crossed her children. I admired her courage and the strength of her character. She was a warrior in every way.

Patti and her youngest son came to visit us right after we moved to Spirit Creek farm. She was sleeping on the sofa and I had just turned out the light and settled on the cot across the room. I have no idea what happened, but the cot simply collapsed beneath me, dumping me head first onto the floor. We could not stop laughing. It was as if we were teenagers at a slumber party. It was as if we had always been sisters.

Something she took great delight in, something that made her belly laugh, was my fear of ghosts. While I think I am fairly courageous, things have happened that were deeply frightening because they are not supposed to be possible. While she laughed long and hard at me, there was always a note of sympathy in her laughter. She was simply my best friend.

The Monday after her funeral I was back at work. I was the last person to leave the building. I was trying to accept that she was gone, still trying to cope with the loss. Finished for the day, my mind was free to turn fully toward the sad new reality of a world without Patti in it. I was deeply missing her as I stepped out the door.

The fall weather had turned cold, with a biting north wind even though the sunlight was still strong, gracing the downtown buildings with a golden glow. What I thought was a white-haired Indian woman wrapped in a beautiful turquoise Pendleton blanket immediately caught my attention. She was looking directly at me as she came down the sidewalk. It was such an unexpected sight that I doubted it was a real person and stared intently as I got in my truck. Instantly, I thought of Patti's laughter if I could tell her I saw a ghost in broad daylight in downtown Topeka!

It was not a ghost but a real person, and I had been rudely staring. It was an Indian man and he came right up to the truck window. He was wearing shorts and a thin shirt, so it was good he had the blanket.

"Look here. Look at this." he said, indicating the blanket. It was a beautiful blanket and I admired it.

He told me he was Kickapoo and lived on a reservation north of town. He was not expecting me to know about the reservations. He asked for money and I gave him what I had, which was not much. We chatted for a little bit but it was so cold, I asked if he was warm enough. He answered by indicating the blanket again with a grin, which made me laugh. Anyone would be fine with a blanket like that. I offered him a ride but he was "just going a ways up the road". It was too cold to be walking so I assured him it would be no problem to give him a lift wherever he needed to go. He did not want or need a ride. As he was turning to leave, he reached through the window and patted my arm. "You take care of yourself, Sister."

He walked off toward the south and I pulled away toward home. A flood of emotion washed over me. It felt as if I had just received a message from Patti, delivered by an old man in a turquoise Pendleton blanket.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Uncle Jerry

As a child, the biggest hero in my life was my Uncle Jerry. He is my father's youngest brother, only a few years older than me. We played together as children until he became a teenager and outgrew playing. That did not diminish my hero worship of him.

Jerry was always doing something amazing. For starters, he was not afraid of snakes. My father was afraid of snakes and I inherited that fear. One year Jerry built a laboratory in the haymow of Grandpa's huge barn. He had jars of snakes and lizards and other creepy things preserved and sitting in rows. While I was genuinely repulsed by the jars of icky things, it merely enhanced Jerry's bravery in my eyes. He was an expert snake hunter, catching the largest of snakes. I stood back, fascinated and horrified whenever he handled a living snake. He was braver than Superman and that is a fact.

He was handsome, athletic and looked out for me sometimes. Once, when I was very young, I was bundled up and watching Jerry and his friends digging around some large rocks on the hill above the house. It was cold and gray. I soon grew tired and needed to sit down. My uncle took off his own glove for me to sit on. Even at my tender age I was impressed with such chivalry!

In front of the television after school spontaneous wrestling matches would break out or bucking bronc riding. My little brother and I loved to wrestle and play, and could never get enough of that rough housing with Jerry.

My uncle was an athlete who won State in high school wrestling. In those days you truly were the best wrestler in the state in your weight class because there were no classifications based on school size. He won over the best of the best and was indeed the Champ.

At the height of his local fame for being a champion, he came down from the high school one day and found me standing in line in grade school. He had a message to deliver from Grandma. As he walked away (on water) the kids wanted to know how I knew him. I proudly announced that he was my uncle.

"Jerry ****** is YOUR uncle?" one of the kids asked incredulously.

I already suspected it but then I knew. I was a stigma and an unfortunate smear on my uncle's shining fame. I only hoped my shy, pathetic existence down in grade school was so insignificant that the fact he was saddled with me as a relative would be easily overlooked. A guy can not choose his relatives, after all.

He also played baseball. I recall with clarity how carefully he would shape and crease his ball cap before a game. I would watch his graceful fingers working on the ball cap until it was just so. He was the most handsome guy in the world in his ball uniform and his spikes clicking against the sidewalk was the coolest thing ever!

There was always something awe-inspiring happening in my uncle's life. He had a parakeet named Mickey he taught to wolf whistle and speak. I think the little yellow bird knew some tricks as well, adding to my uncle's miraculous status in my young eyes.

Another fantastic thing about my Uncle Jerry was comic books. He owned a ton of them. If he was reading them, then I wanted to read them, too. I inherited the comic books my Uncle Jerry no longer wanted and I diligently read and re-read them. That is how I discovered Jerry was braver than Superman. Well, maybe he was merely as brave as Superman. (Not even Uncle Jerry could fly or stop a speeding bullet.)

Jerry hunted arrowheads and with his usual excellence he pursued that interest with great success. He had an impressive collection of arrowheads, spear heads, Quivera knives - all sizes, shapes and colors. I have found only one arrowhead in my life. It was in Grandpa's cornfield. It was a dark gray war point according to my uncle. Even to my inexperienced eyes it was a fine piece, symmetrical and finely worked but a corner was missing. Jerry told me it was such a fine piece that he would put it in his collection even though it was broken. How could I argue against that logic? If Superman wants your arrowhead then you give it to him.

By far the most fun I had as a child was playing tag on the horses in Grandpa's cornfield with my uncle, our cousin Ronnie, and my little brother. We should have known better but tearing up and down the rows of tall corn on the horses was just too much fun. Those were some carefree days.

My uncle was funny, patient, and tolerated my little brother and me tagging along in his life with good grace. When I look back, he tolerated us with remarkable good will. I do not know many teenagers now who have the time or patience with younger kids.

I still admire my uncle. He made a good life for himself far from the corporate world which makes him a true hero in my eyes - bigger by far than even Superman. He is self employed, raising hogs and cutting timber and any number of other things. I always look for clues and signs of my father in my Uncle Jerry. I see there are some common characteristics for the men in that family. Jerry lost his big brother when I lost my father. Jerry knew my father only a few more years than I knew him. Surely, my father also possessed some of those Superman qualities. Maybe my son inherited a few as well. That is what I hope.

My Uncle Jerry is still funny, still handsome, still my hero.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Common Excellence

Every year I buy hay from my neighbor who lives about a mile down the road. He bales the best brome grass, in small square bales. It is more difficult to find those small, human being-sized bales all the time. Most farmers put up the huge round bales that require heavy machinery to handle.

I start haying my horses in late fall, when it begins to get cold. That means I go to the barn, break open a bale of that quality brome grass hay and place several flakes in two places, at least 75 feet apart, in the horse pasture. Through trial and error, I have discovered the minimum distance required between the two hay servings to prevent Ginger from chasing Annie back and forth because Ginger tries to eat both servings. (What a snot!) I also know exactly how much hay to put out so that there is none left on the ground when I go back to feed them again.

I love the ritual of "throwing hay" to the horses. The bales I get from my neighbor do not accidentally break open. They are heavy bales, which means the man who sells this hay provides quality and quantity. When I open the bales, the faded grass on the inside smells dusty and green. Hay makes everything smell good. There is nothing in my life that reminds me of my parents and grandparents more than hay, stacked in the barn. All of them, parents and grandparents, are gone now and sometimes I deeply miss them. Even when I am not consciously thinking of my family when handling the hay, their memories are permanently linked with everything to do with it. Sometimes it seems as if Grandpa is there in the dark winter mornings, enjoying the fragrant scent of hay, listening again to the lulling rhythm of horses eating.

I marvel over the amount of knowledge, man power and machinery it takes to supply my horses with this quality hay every year. I have had to move a significant stack of bales twice - "significant" being relative to ME, not to some of the ranches and farms who feed hundreds of animals. I had some experience handling bales growing up, so I know how to manage them fairly efficiently but I practically killed myself moving a large stack of bales - twice!

When it comes to handling hay, I am a flagrant rookie compared to my neighbor. He stacks the bales into my barn single-handedly each year. I always offer to help. He is too polite to say it, but I would be a huge hindrance to him, and no help whatsoever. Not only can he stack one hundred bales in a shockingly short amount of time - significantly less than an hour - he also knows how to stack the bales so it is safe and easy to use throughout the winter. The stack does not lean or tip. It is safe to get to the top of the stack and work my way down. I have tried to learn his technique, but he is a master. I am thankful he is willing to stack the hay into my barn. He adds a ridiculously small amount to the cost of each bale for this service, and I am utterly grateful to pay it.

There is an art, skill and knowledge to "putting up hay". A farmer has to know when to cut the hay, when to bale it, how dense and how tightly to bale. If it is not baled tightly enough, the hay does not keep well. If it is baled too wet, it spoils. All of this has to be done in timing with all other crops, weather, and responsibilities on a genuine farm. I am somewhat awed by that knowledge and skill.

I worry sometimes what I will do when my neighbor retires. Will there be a younger man in the area willing to put up the small bales for someone like me who owns only a couple of horses? Will any of the young farmers know how to stack the bales with such expertise? Will they even deliver the bales in the first place? Will I be forced to buy a couple of those huge round bales and set them out in the pasture at the beginning of cold weather? I would miss the ritual of using the steel hay hooks to pull down bales. I would miss breaking into them for a dusty breath of summer. I would miss the silent presence of my grandfather at those early morning feedings.

My grandfathers baled and handled literally tons of hay in their lives. They grumbled, just a bit, every year when it came to haying. Picking up hay bales is hot, itchy, work - hard labor, actually. It is work for younger men. And it is endless. It is the drudgery of farm work, the way dishes are the drudgery of housework.

Yet, I think a man would be satisfied seeing his barn full of the hay he baled and put up himself. I think the heat and dust and itching skin would be immediately forgotten once that last bale was stacked. I wish my grandfathers were still here to tell me what they knew so well, to tell me all about the common excellence needed for successful farming. They were genuine farmers - like my neighbor.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Backwards Farming

Ginger's barn, pen and sun shade the first year the big blue stem appeared.

I began my "farming" backwards, sort of.... First, I found the house on six acres. I bought the place for the land and not the house. Now I jokingly tell people I "live in a van, down by the river". My little house is almost that humble, certainly nothing to brag about.

Next, I purchased an additional twenty acres east of the original six acres. It had been farmed and there were no fences. It took several seasons but eventually, I managed to buy the seed, rent the equipment, find someone with a tractor and the time to plant it all back to native grasses. There was a government program aimed at restoring prairie. I should have received a 70% return of all the costs. Due to weather delays and missed communications, the return was significantly less. No matter. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when at last the seed was in the ground.

I had plans to eventually get a horse, but I was far short of realizing that dream. It would take years for the prairie to grow back. But, there I was, minding my own business, at home on my humble little acreage of unborn prairie, when one winter morn, I got a call about a horse. I had no pasture, no fence, no barn and no business going to look at a horse. Foolishly, I went "just to see". She was a pretty little red Quarter Horse with one white foot. Childhood nostalgia overwhelmed me at first sight. The owner wanted room for a different horse and wanted a good home for this one. I should have known. I agreed to buy the filly Ginger if they would keep her until I got a barn and a pen.

After researching pole barn costs, and looking into other options, I found a local builder to build a small "barn". It consisted of a small storage area, two deep stalls open to the south - one for the horse and one for the hay. That builder directed me to a local guy selling fence panels for a round pen - panels I could actually afford. The barn would be built as soon as the builder could get to it. In the meantime, I could build a round pen and move the horse that spring. I bought a stack of lumber and two big sheets of plastic lattice and called my brother.

I set up the round pen, and my brother came up to help me build the sun shade. I had no idea of snow load or wind shear, so I did not attempt to build a real shelter, afraid it would fall on my new horse at the first puff of wind. The shade is still standing five years later, so we apparently managed that task well enough for two old bikers.

When the shiny new round pen, about 80 feet across, was up and the sunshade built, I brought home a 50 gallon water tank and a block of salt. For the life of me, I can not recall where I kept my first bales of hay but I think I stacked them in the back porch. Eventually, one fine March day, Ginger arrived. She was brave, only knowing she was at a new place without her stablemate, Mac. We led her into the pen and closed the gate, and she was home. By the end of April the new barn was built, and that is where Ginger lived, in her big round pen and barn until the prairie grew and was fenced in. The horse before the barn.

I also hoped to have chickens "some day". And that too became a case of the chicken before the pen. I had no chicken house, no chicken pen but that did not stop me from buying baby chicks last spring. While they were growing, I was busy building a coop. The pen entirely encases the chickens in double fencing - my effort to keep them safe from the local wildlife. It is an eyesore, but out of sight of both the public road and all neighbors. It is close enough to the house that I can watch over them, and so can the dog. Even though I have seen a bobcat, in broad daylight, within a stone's throw of the pen, so far the chicken flock remains alive and well. I know they are a huge temptation for every predator. Owls at night, hawks in the day. Coyotes, bobcats, raccoon, opossum and snakes would also like to eat my chickens. Poor peeps, they live in blissful ignorance.

Chicken coop and pen in the early stages.

I do not understand why I love those chickens. They are not good pets. They can not recall that I handled them gently every day since they were peeps. They do not return the affection in anyway. But, the variety of muttering and clucking as they are scratching and busy about their day is deeply comforting. The crowing of four roosters is a bit jarring and most definitely spoils the peace. But I like looking out and seeing them busy, scratching about, or perched on the chicken tree I built for them. I especially like to see the fluffy broad bodies of the cochins. They make me laugh with their matter-of-fact chicken society. If someone gets a peck for being too close to another who outranks him or her, there is an indignant squawk, but apparently no hard feelings.

What truly makes me laugh is the foot stomping, sideways River Dance the cochin roosters do. They hold their wings out and rapidly stamp their feet, moving sideways toward whichever chicken has breached the social decorum of the pen. There are three cochin roosters, and they do this little dance around one another and their other flock mates at feeding times, or any time there is a disturbance of the peace. They do not fight one another, just this little silly dance - like a boxer throwing empty punches for effect. They are truly brave little guys when they attack me, or more precisely, my red work coat, but when I chase them, they turn and run away as fast as their little feathered legs can carry them, their bottoms waddling like strange little troll beings, squawking in great alarm and panic. I believe this rapid retreat is where the insult "chicken" originated.

They are goofy and funny and can crane their necks and head in almost any direction. The funniest thing of all is how much they remind me of people, all craning their necks toward anything curious or out of the ordinary. They squabble and squawk over bits of food that are often not even edible, just a twig. Humans would do better if they could conduct their society more like chickens - taking no offense for being reminded of who is boss - standing your ground until it is clear a retreat is in your best interest - staying busy - early to bed and early to rise - and all roundly cheering in celebration whenever someone lays an egg.

I do not know what my next farm project will be. Chances are, I will not be prepared beforehand.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Heart in High School Football

My son on the right, his senior year on his home field.

(This was written four years ago.)

Firmly entrenched in middle age and set in a routine hammered out from long years of working and handling my responsibilities, I sometimes forget that life is nothing if not a constant lesson of heart. Every Friday evening when my son's high school football team takes the field, I am powerfully reminded.

My son is a senior, 18 years old. He has played football in public school for six years and it has been quite an education for me. I was bewildered when he brought home all that equipment for the first time in seventh grade. I had never seen all the secret pockets and foam pads or knew there was actually a belt for those pants. Who knew those pants were supposed to fit so tightly that they jeopardized his future ability to father a family? I want to know what purpose that belt possibly served!

His first helmet was dutifully worn around home per Coach's instruction to "get used to it" over the weekend. When my son complained of a terrific headache, I discovered that the helmet was many sizes too small. He was wearing a child-sized helmet instead of a normal size. I had to help pry it off his head. His ears were red for hours and my confidence in a great first season was not so high right then.

The mini-helmet incident was just the beginning. Waiting each evening to drive my son home, I enjoyed watching the junior high team practice. I did not know that mothers are not supposed to be within a mile of football practice. It is strictly a man's world out there. The mere glance from his mom can drain a guy's fierceness, cause him to lose face, possibly interfere with his football mojo. Practice is where every mother's son is torn down and reassembled into a lean, mean football machine and the process is not pretty!

It was his freshman year when I learned of the unspoken taboo against mothers watching practice. Arriving early with nothing better to do, I walked out to watch. I soon became aware that every guy on the field was looking my way: players, managers, coaches - a sea of Y chromosomes staring at me. Later, my son told me that when I was noticed on the hill, someone growled "Who the hell is that?!" I have strictly observed the taboo against watching practice since. No problem.

I have always enjoyed football but I am no student of the game. I know only the most obvious and fundamental things, so my son did not learn the game of football at home. He had to learn it the hard way - at the mercy of the coaches and by much error. Despite this, he did all right. It was fun watching his junior high team play the great American game of football, just like the big guys.

Those first few seasons, I did not worry (too much) about the dangers of football. The guys were young, well coached, and not particularly strong yet. Each successive year, the boys grew bigger and stronger, the tackles harder, the stakes higher. I have watched my only son play varsity football with my heart in my mouth most of the time. Every crushing tackle heard all the way in the stands, every face mask violation, each time a player is slow to get up, I feel like crying. After every punishing tackle, I ask myself why I have allowed my son to play such a dangerous game.

The first play of the first game of his senior year, my son flew down the field at kick off, turned the corner, launched himself at the ball carrier, and fell motionless to the ground. In a sea of uniforms, a mother tunes in on her son. She knows which legs are his, which helmet, which arms. When he did not get up, when his legs remained absolutely still on the ground, my mind played a trick. I was searching for his number in the group of jerseys standing back from the one on the ground. I kept thinking I saw his number in those standing jerseys, though I knew he was on the ground.

I stood frozen in the stands until his girlfriend's father walked me out to where my son lay face down on the field. The EMTs were rolling out the stretcher. I was steeling myself for the worst. As we drew near, I saw the coach was holding my son's head immobile. I went into a state of emotional shock. Walking into the huddle of people gathered around, I could at last hear my son. He was cussing, insisting he was fine and they should let him up and get on with the game. I almost fainted with relief. He had been knocked unconscious for a period of time, and sat the rest of that game out, much to my relief.

Whether I like it or not, injury is a normal part of football. My son played most of his sophomore year with a painful back after a bruising tackle in one of the first games. He has played with sprained ankles, swollen the size of grapefruits. He has played with a fever and congested lungs. He has practiced in searing heat, and played in the bone chilling rain and wind. Yet, football is what he chooses to do.

An indelible memory of my son is one of his first varsity games against the league champions. As the quarterback was shouting the count, my son went in motion. As he confidently ran along the offensive line, an unexpected moment of clarity hit me. Long accustomed to my son's athleticism, for a fleeting moment I saw my son's physical grace and confidence with new eyes. Was that truly my boy out there? I caught a glimpse of the man he is destined to be, there in the lights of an ordinary high school football game. Lessons of discipline and courage learned on the high school football field will take him a long way on his road as a man, wherever that road leads.

Playing football he has learned things he could not learn anywhere else, at least not as efficiently nor as effectively. I have cheered his efforts to master the self-discipline the sport requires. He has learned respect, restraint, teamwork, and how to stay with something until the end, bitter as it may be. He knows what it feels like to win, when all that personal effort pays off. He knows what it means to rely on teammates and trust a coach.

A boy needs to have a certain amount of athleticism to play football, but most importantly, he must have heart. It is the main ingredient for playing good football. My son's school is the smallest in their league. This year, when the seniors at last know how to play with expertise, when they are strongest and most confident, their team has the smallest number of players in the league. At game time it is evident that most other teams have twice as many players. The odds are always against my son's team. The city newspaper publishes computer generated power ratings always showing my son's team as the underdog, often by an embarrassing margin.

Most of the varsity guys have to play offense, defense and special teams, with few exceptions. Despite excellent effort and smart football, in the third quarter, due to unavoidable fatigue, the other teams grind them down. Yet every Friday night every player takes the field with great heart, still believing they can win, against all the odds. The only two wins of the entire season were in overtime. Somehow they were able to dig down deep. They do not give up. If hard work and heart were all that is needed to win games, our boys would be champions. Those two overtime wins were as thrilling to us as any NFL victory. We know the efforts our boys have made to win against the odds and we are fiercely proud of them.

It is probably no accident that "odds" rhymes with "gods". As a parent, you come to believe in the football gods. It is common knowledge that Satan coaches a certain team in our league, and they were crushing our guys. The score was forty-two to six at the half when a main circuit breaker caught fire, shorting out the field lights and ending the game. It was a true football miracle. We knew the opposing coach would allow the score to reach humiliating numbers rather than give our boys a fallen warrior's honor. Our boys did not deserve a whipping like that.

Each successive season, I have admired my son's maturing athleticism. He lifts weights and has grown strong. He is magnificently physically fit. He is not a big man, but he runs with a speed and grace that take my breath away. At the end of the game he still finds the same willpower and speed he had in the beginning. It is his heart that drives him long yards down the field at top speed in the fourth quarter, though he has to be exhausted.

Perhaps even more admirable in my mind is the grueling practices he endures, the endless number of repetitions in the weight room week after week. He starts practice in August, well before school starts. The idea of hell was inspired by the August weather in Kansas. Football practice can not be fun by any one's estimation. A football player has to be motivated by something other than fun. Camaraderie, forged by enduring the same grueling conditions of practice and drills, may be some motivation to play. Taking the field dressed in your school's colors might be motivation, but that is a mere fleeting moment of glory before the brutality begins.

My son does not readily share either the details of his life, or his feelings. The details of his football experience I am most interested in, he deems too unimportant to discuss. I have never heard an answer from my son that adequately explains to my feminine mind why he wants to play football. I assume there is something uniquely masculine about the entire football experience and I am resigned to the fact that I will never entirely understand. But I can venture a few guesses why he, or any boy, plays football. I believe a boy plays football because it takes a certain amount of courage. It takes courage to just try out for the team. It takes courage to play knowing there are guys who will crush you like a worm. It requires a lot of courage to take the field against a team that outclasses you in every area except heart.

I think a boy plays football because he thrives on the physicality of the game. He can feel himself getting faster and stronger. He wants to be the best athlete he can possibly be. There are moments of personal triumph in the game - a flying tackle, a juke to the inside that results in long yardage, a perfectly placed pass, a fingertip reception. The game itself offers up those pristine and rare moments of perfection. Every athlete strives for that moment of perfection, regardless of age or expertise. Indeed, every human being strives for those transcendent moments when it all comes together and something perfect happens.

Of all the thousands of high school athletes who play football for their schools, few get the chance to continue their football careers. It is disappointing, maybe bittersweet, when an athlete truly loves the game, the competition of football and all that goes with it, when the last game of his senior year is truly the end of competitive football. And even then, football offers one last lesson, that is to say farewell gracefully.

It has been exciting and fun to watch the games for six years, though heart breaking at times. There have been moments of thrilling triumph. There have been amazing interceptions, lucky calls, crucial tackles, kick offs returned for touchdowns, and efforts made on sheer heart. There have been many instances of damned good football. I have enjoyed my son's football career and I think he has too. I have admired his commitment to play to the best of his ability, even when his best was not good enough. I will miss those heart-stopping moments when his best efforts were spectacular and triumphant. I will miss the first arrival of the uniforms at home, and going for new football shoes with him. I will miss the anticipation of watching him play. I will miss the excitement of the games, and participating in the emotional fortunes of his team. I will miss seeing him go in motion, carrying the ball, crossing the goal line. I will miss my son.

Thank you for six great seasons, Son. You played with grace and heart, and I am glad to have been along for the ride.

Post Script: My son ended his football career carrying the last touchdown of the season. In a league with a team that placed second in 3A State football, he was named All League Defensive Back. Much to my relief, he turned down all offers to play in college.