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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

It May Not Be Good but It’s Cold

Updated: May 23, 2020

By Terry M Pace (2000/2020)

One of the joys of my life was growing up with so many good friends. And as goofy as most of us were, once in a while a ray of light shown from heaven and one or the other of us revealed a deeper, wiser side of themselves even if they didn’t mean too!

For example, one hot August afternoon, it seems to me in mid-day in between two-a-days high school football practice, a group of us rallied around a not so great of an idea, but it was the best idea we had. As usual, the group was simply a collection of friends who happened to be at the same place at the same time and I’ve no better explanation than this for why I recall who was in on this escapade and I am probably forgetting someone who was there and remembering someone who wasn’t, such is my memory.

It seems to me, this story unfolded in 1973, before my sophomore year of high school, making my friends and I 15 or 16 years old. Friends who jump out in my memory the most from this time, by first names only are: Ken, Lamar, Larry Don, Scott, Tommy, Willie Don, Bobby, Marty, and Brady. It is very likely that my brother Ricky may have been along on this thievery as well? Everyone please forgive me for my momentary forgetting if I left someone out and please also forgive me if I am calling you out as my friend and it’s a little embarrassing to you now! I know I could make a very long list of everyone I considered a friend in those days. What a richness to have known you all!

Now sports were the big thing most of us spent our time on. Another big activity for many of us was our FFA (Future Farmers of America) projects – raising pigs, sheep or cattle for livestock shows and learning about agricultural practices and sciences. Hunting was another favorite pastime we often did together and cruising around town was how we spent our evenings. One stop we often made around town was at the local pool hall, where as likely as not we would get kicked out for the night after cutting up too much for a couple hours. However, all of us worked, most of us were farm kids or worked on farms for someone else or had other jobs, especially during the summers. So, not all was play.

On the sports side, I was on the lower end of skill among my friends and I hung with them athletically only out of fanatical effort that stemmed from enjoyment of sports and insecurity about being the smallest one of all my friends. So, this August of my memory I would have been getting ready to start my Sophomore year of high school. In sports that year, I was a JV football starter at either QB or safety. I enjoyed playing QB the most and had worked out all summer to be in the best shape and as fate would be, just a couple days before preseason practices started I was working on the farm one afternoon and we were moving a main line of irrigation pipe, when I said the word “wait” and my brother heard “push.” If you have ever moved and connected a line of pipe with manual hitches to hold them together, then you know what happened next. He pushed the pipes together and my finger was sliced between the ends of the two pipes. I came up cussing and slinging blood all over thinking my finger was cut off, but thankfully it was only deeply cut.

My dad grabbed an old rag from the pick-up and wrapped my hand tightly, unhitched the pipe trailer from the pick-up (leaving my brother the tractor and trailer to finish the work by himself, not an easy one-person job) and dad drove me the 8 miles or so to the emergency room in town. I’m unsure what all they did but the bottom line is I had to wear a metal finger brace that kept my left ring finger straight at all times.

Thankfully I am right handed and though I had to wrap my left fingers up, I could still take a snap and hold the football (painfully) and attempt to thrown with my right hand (attempt to throw is about all I ever did). The pipe incident was one of the things my brother actually apologized to me for over and over and I think really did feel bad about. So, I forgave him after enjoying a little bit of guilt out of him. I went on to have a lot of fun as a JV player and varsity practice player that season, running scout team QB and getting smashed a lot. Among my friends, they all had success in their playing days, but athletically as I recall, my friend Bobby was always the top QB, short stop/second base and point guard. Brady was the shooting guard and star pitcher/third baseman. Marty was the all district split end and track super star. What a joy we had in those days as teammates and friends and I have more sports stories I hope to tell.

FFA and livestock shows were probably even more fun than sports. And while sports certainly can teach valuable moral and life lessons, raising one’s own animals, being on the line for their lives and showing them competitively in the midst of a group of friends is a blast and a great source of life responsibilities to learn from. My friends Larry Don and Scott are the two guys who were in FFA with me and that I think most about from our FFA days. Though Ken and Lamar were constant companions and helpers also. Most Saturday mornings we were all working with our animals and very often we were helping one another out with some project, cleaning or building pens, medicating or exercising the show animals or who knows what all. This same sophomore year, I was lucky enough to win Grand Champion Barrow (pig) of the Hockley County Livestock Show. Yes, there was also a lot of hard work done my me and help from my friends. I won about $2000 in prize money and recall feeling so grown up taking my family and friends for a steak dinner and paying the bill! The rest of this money went into my college savings and helped pay for my freshman year of junior college.

Another activity most of us enjoyed was hunting. Basically we hunted whatever game bird that was in season – dove and quail or pheasant mostly. But in-between time, whenever we wanted we would go rabbit hunting. We all knew every field and pasture in the county and where we could hunt or not. I think most often of Tommy, Ken and Lamar as hunting companions though I hunted with many others. We often took my dad’s late 60’s model Chevy pick-up, cherry-red with a large (350 or 420) V-8 engine. This was maybe the favorite vehicle I have ever driven and I loved to act as if it was my own! And on a few occasions raced it and won! Going hunting was more about the fun of being outdoors on the land, under the weather whatever it might be and with friends. We were all experienced with guns as they were just a part of our cultural lives from the very beginning and as often as not we didn’t find any quarry so we sat around and made up targets and just competed in shooting against each other. When we brought home actual quarry, the game birds were always cleaned and eaten by us (often cooked to perfection by Tommy's mom) and the rabbits were always eaten by the farm dogs. There are several hunting stories that I also hope to tell someday.

This just leaves cruising around town and playing pool as major activities with my 1973/74 friends. Most folks who grew up in a smaller town or even larger cities in some places, probably recall finding a group of friends and just driving slowly around some known circle of roads where you waved and honked and yelled at other cars of friends out cruising too. Every once- in- a- while stopping in an empty parking lot to change cars or groups of friends or to just hang out and talk all together. Even better, going through the local drive in and getting a cherry coke! I recall cruising with all these friends and so many more, but of those listed here, Willie Don comes to mind most readily when I remember cruising. He could be friends with everyone and no matter who you were with he liked them and always was the best at helping everyone else get along and have happy times. If Willie Don was along, you just knew you were going to have a happy evening.

Often on Friday or Saturday nights we began our pre-cruising escapades at the local Levelland Pool Hall. We of course played pool, snooker or 8 ball mainly, told lies to each other, laughed a lot, chewed tobacco, got very silly and loud and thus in enough trouble we were often asked to settled down or leave for the night. But we had so much fun, jawing and playing 8 ball with whoever came in.

To give a sense of the flow of our lives back then, and how ordinary small-town kids we seemed to be, a typical weekend in those times for us, might be: play football on Friday night, cruise till midnight afterwards. Saturday morning we would be up early working with our FAA livestock (or just working). Saturday afternoon most of us had a paying or family job we had to be doing. Saturday night some of us might have a real date, taking a girl out to eat and to see a movie in the big city of Lubbock about 30 miles to the east. Most of us, most of the time, would just be cruising our local drag, enjoying tall tales, laughter and music or even enjoying our shared depression at not having a girlfriend or about having no clue what else we wanted in life. Like so many of you, I have cruising stories to tell if I am ever brave enough!

Our frequent pool hall stop was included on these cruising nights, where old Mr. Minter would get fed up with us and say things like “you boys settled down or leave or I’ll have to kick your asses, and don’t think I can’t do it!” All the while wagging his finger at us (sometimes a slight smirk at the corner of his mouth), sending us into uncontrolled laughter and banter with one of us mimicking him and saying his words right back at him (which usually ended all smirks). But, on Sunday morning most of us were usually in church. We all typically had a traditional family dinner on Sundays and then it was common to use Sunday afternoon as our hunting time, especially during the fall and winter. We would gather up around 2:00 p.m. and hunt until near dusk around 5. Sunday nights were usually family times once again (and homework if absolutely necessary).

One might wonder just where could any real wisdom come from with a bunch of small- town rural 15-16 year- old boys who spent their time in pool halls, cruising town and working on farms or in the oil patch? Well it actually was present fairly often, yes usually in disguise, and though wisdom might even rain down, most of us were not ready to stop being so silly or risky just yet, even when we knew better. Perhaps, I better claim this only for myself after-all (but if I get anyone in trouble tell me to cease and desist)?

Though my memory may be off, this is the group of friends I recall all being together on the fateful day this pearl of wisdom was revealed to us. As I began to say above, it was a hot August afternoon and we needed something cooling to do in between two-a-days football workouts. We were not allowed to go swimming so the best idea we had was to raid a watermelon patch and try for some good ripe sweet melon. We all piled into my dad’s red Chevy pick-up with most guys in the truck bed, and headed for a near-by watermelon patch of a local farmer friend. I recall we thought it might not be seen as “stealing” if we were caught, yet I also remember I felt what we were doing was not really alright and we might get in trouble if caught. The field was a commercial patch, not just a personal patch and we had not asked permission. So, in its own way, the extra guilt and fear made the event more daring and so perhaps more memorable.

The watermelon patch was full of beautiful light green good- sized melons. On such a hot West Texas August afternoon, there was a strong breeze, plenty of white cumulus clouds making shapes across the blue sky with the temperature around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most area fields were deep green with knee high cotton. Despite the pastoral beauty around us, vision was deceiving as the wind felt like a blow torch! While one of us took turns standing watch for anyone who might catch us, the rest of us started hunting for ripe watermelons. Sadly we were simply a couple of weeks too early for this particular field to be ripe. As we sought with dejection to find at least one melon that might be ripe, it was then that Brady looked the rest of us straight in the eyes, face dripping with juice and a big ol’ grin on his face, and said “fellows, it may not be good but it’s cold!” At that we all just dug in! Eating out fill of the coldest if not sweetest melon I can ever recall. We all went home filled and happy to sleep it all off till time for evening football practice.

That’s it, one of the most profound words of wisdom, supported by all great religions with an eye toward encouraging us to be thankful, even when life is not easy, to still be thankful, for whatever is good, for the glass being half- full, for the struggle and experience of life itself, including the hard or sad parts. This stolen hot August watermelon patch wisdom just came dripping out of Brady’s mouth and somehow the brilliance of it struck all of us who immediately adopted “it may not be good but it’s cold” as our own version of this profound human insight.

Many religions or theories of human nature have focused on the power of one’s thoughts to shape much of the actual realities in one’s life. For example from the Old Testament, is Proverbs 27:7 – “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is…” Thoughts and words matter. The content and focus of our thoughts and our words impact how we understand the world, what others listening to us may think about the world and what actions become possible for us to attempt or to justify. Another powerful example from the New Testament is Philippians 4:8 – “Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

In a somewhat different manner Buddhism has a mindful approach to life and the world. In Buddhism it is honest and realistic thoughts and observations that influence our lives, actions and ultimate peace. Though suffering is a core tenant of wisdom, the focus on suffering alone is not the point but it is to be enlightened through suffering and transform suffering into grace, love and beauty as steps along the pathway toward greater life and greater wellness.

Contemporary psychology since at least the 1960’s has pursued the idea that our thoughts form a foundation for our emotions, words, decisions and actions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on this core idea and we have hundreds if not thousands of research studies from biological imagining or chemical studies of the brain and body under certain thought conditions, to full experiments to naturalistic observations and stories that affirm the power of our thoughts.

But, many scholars and careful observers have also noted that optimistic thinking alone can be destructive. It can be belittling to simply tell others that no matter how sad they may be or how hard the loss or worry they face, that they just need to “chin up” and “all will be well.” Reassurance when well earned, fitting with reality, sought by the receiving person and well timed in non- imposing language may be very helpful. However, if immediate, callous or casual and based on uninformed or biased information, such optimistic comments can be cold, judgmental, offensive and just unhelpful, often further distressing or alienating to the sufferer. So, be optimistic, but be aware of when and how to share such views as the world is also full of real and complex suffering.

I’ll step back a way in my own history and give my own doctoral dissertation research a shout out. The study completed over 30 years ago now and published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology looked at both emotional and cognitive process changes as a result of brief CBT for depression with college students. Bottom line, the students in therapy improved significantly on both emotional and cognitive measures following their therapy compared to a matched waiting list control group. CBT focuses on how thoughts may have gone astray and be overly pessimistic and negative when someone becomes depressed and improving these thoughts, in less extreme and more grounded observations and ideas can be very helpful to improving depression (often reflected even on brain scans). In my study, I also looked at memory for linguistically equated lists of positive and negative words and the speed with which participants recalled positive and negative words. Those receiving the therapy and demonstrating improvements in depression, showed a reversal in their cognitive processes, where they now remembered more positive than negative words from equated lists (attention) and they recalled seeing positive words faster than they recalled seeing negative words (thinking or processing speed). My research is just one tiny drop in the bucket of research the world over using many methods and populations to find similar results. Our thinking matters, our thinking can also be changed (though its not easy to do and we have to want to make changes).

So, within a balanced view, “it may not be good but it’s cold” or finding the silver lining in the clouds can be one important means to improved life outlook, coping with stress and achieving goals. How often have I reminded myself of this wisdom through these words over these many years? Once in my last year of college I was working as a ditch digger and many days getting ready for that job I had pessimistic thoughts, but recalled Brady dripping with melon juice and so thought “well it may not be fun, but I have nice bosses and the pay is good.” This didn’t take all my negativity away, but it sure diminished it and helped get me out the door and on my way. Another such memory comes from one very cold and late winter night when I was a graduate student. I recall sitting alone in our living room chair, my wife long asleep and thinking “I’ll never get all this reading done.” But right afterwards I thought, “I may or may not get all this reading done, but it’s important, often interesting reading and this is why I am here, so negativity won’t help me much now.” I went on to read and read and read! Finally, I remember when my wife was going through treatment for breast cancer and things were rough for us all. One night I remember, feeling tiredness and bleakness all around, and I recall thinking “I can’t do this. I can’t stand to see my wife suffer and I can’t sleep, so I can’t work and I can't take care of the kids if I’m this tired. I feel hopeless and don’t know what to do.” But somewhere deep down came Brady’s words “it may not be good but it’s cold.” For me then, this meant “things may be hard now, but the doctors are giving us good reason for hope.” Or “if this gets too hard remember you have people you can ask for help,” and so I did. Calling several family and friends and being so thankful despite our suffering, we had help on the way! It may not be good, but it’s cold. After many difficult months, Elaine recovered and has been cancer free for about 12 years now!

So think of a bunch of silly high school boys out stealing watermelons on a hot August afternoon. Imagine us busting melons in hope for our dream melon; red, ripe, sweet and cold! Finding no ripe melons and getting only the cold part given to us, but there was old Brady, juice dripping all over his face, mouth full, mumbling as happy as could be to the rest of us: It may not be good, but it’s cold! That changed everything. Our sullenness turned to laughter and our remorse over the lack of sweetness turned to joy over the cool relief we could still enjoy.

How I hope that all of my old friends and each new reader here, will find their own versions of this story and use it in your daily life. It won’t take away all of your worries or pain, but it might help you see a broader or different picture, show you a few more options, suggest someone to reach out to, maybe a different perspective entirely that makes you laugh or smile, gives you a glimmer of hope and gets you a little bit of needed sleep and through another night, or just strengthens you to abide the passing time.

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