Go on! Challenge that bully!


A friend and running fanatic (Partha) once told me a story about one of his friends (let’s call him Jake). Jake is one of those annoyingly gifted athletes — excellent at whatever sport he played. Needless to say, he routinely beat Partha at every sport they played. When Partha moved back to India and sometime after he’d run a couple of marathons, he had a conversation with Jake (who lives in United States and runs a successful physical fitness business) which went something like this.

Jake: “How’s it going in Bangalore, Partha? Are you up to any good or working on a beer belly?”

Partha: “Not bad. I’m into running these days. I’m really enjoying myself.”

Jake: “Ha! Guys with zero talent in any other sport take up running!”

Partha: “Actually I’m into long distance running – think ‘marathons’. In fact, I ran two full marathons in the past year.”

Jake (laughing and openly taunting now): “You know what? It’s the really slow runners that take up long distance running!”

Pic: courtesy paperbackswap.com

Not sure how exactly the conversation ended but knowing Partha to be the perfect gentleman, I don’t think he switched to French. I bristled with righteous indignation after hearing this story. Partha should not have taken it lying down. So I told him this doggone-never-give-up Sackett story from Louis L’Amour’s Lonely on the Mountain:

“Why, there was a man over at Tellico whupped  one of them boys one time. Sure enough, come  Saturday night, here was that Sackett again, and  the feller whupped him again. An’ ever’ Saturday  night, there was Sackett awaitin’ on him, an’ ever’  time he whupped that Sackett, it got tougher to do.  Finally, that feller just give up and stayed to home.  He was afraid to show his face because Sackett  would be waitin’ on him.

“Finally that feller from Tellico, he just taken out  and left the country. Went down to the  settlements and got himself a job. He was a right  big man, make two of Sackett, but it was years  before he stopped jumpin’ if you came up behind  and spoke to him. ‘Made a mistake,’ he said after.  ‘I should have let him whup me. Then I’d of had some peace. Worst thing a man can do is whup a  Sackett. They’ll dog you to your dyin’ day.'”

Are you a long distance runner with a ‘Jake’ in your life? Go on! Challenge him to race you in a full marathon! If he does beat you, you DO know what to do next, right? You have two choices:

  • [The ultra marathon way] Challenge him for a 50k race the next time. And if that fails, 75k then 100k. (you get the drift…)
  • [The Japanese Kaizen way] Challenge him for another full marathon. And keep doing it until you either beat him or he drops out.


Temper passion with wisdom, my son


Pic: courtesy paperbackswap.com

In Sackett’s Land (first of the 17-volume Sackett series) Ivo Sackett (father of Barnabas Sackett) giving some sage advice to his son…

“You will see many women, and often you  will think yourself in love, but temper passion  with wisdom, my son, for sometimes the glands  speak louder than the brain. Each man owes a  debt to his family, his country and his species to  leave sons and daughters who will lead, inspire  and create.”


How the West was Lost – Short Version


Pic: courtesy m3space.net

I grew up on a diet of  Wild West novels and a dominant American narrative that celebrated the victory of the white man against the native American Indian. It was always about how the West was “won.”

The turning point in my thinking occurred in 1996 when I was lucky enough to attend a lecture and solo performance by the legendary R. Carlos Nakai at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Nakai spoke poignantly about how the West was “lost” by the Indians. If the point had been missed by anyone, he played a set of brilliant scores on the native American flute, which transported the audience to the America of a few centuries ago. A few days after the concert, I had bought 3 of Nakai’s albums which included this masterpiece – How the West was Lost.

In the last few months, as I re-read the complete 17-novel Sackett series from master storyteller Louis L’Amour, an extract from Treasure Mountain stood out. I reproduce it below – the short version of How The West Was Lost (as recounted by Powder-Face, an old Indian, to William Tell Sackett).

Powder Face shrugged. “I know,” he said simply.

“We killed them and killed them and killed them, and still they came. It was not the horse soldiers that whipped us, it was not the death of the buffalo, nor the white man’s cows. It was the people. It was the families.

“The rest we might conquer, but the people kept coming and they built their lodges where no Indian could live. They brought children and women, they brought the knife that cuts the earth. They built their lodges of trees, of sod cut from the earth, of boards, of whatever they could find.”

“We burned them out, we killed them, we drove off their horses, and we rode away. When we came back others were there as if grown from the ground—and others, and others, and others.”

“They were too many for us. We killed them, but our young men died, too, and we had not enough young men to father our children, so we must stop fighting.”

And William Tell Sackett’s subsequent conversation with Powder Face reveals the American value system relevant even in the 21st century:

“Remember this, Old One. The white man respects success. For the poor, the weak, and the inefficient, he has pity or contempt. Whatever the color of your skin, whatever country you come from, he will respect you if you do well what it is you do.”

“You may be right. I am an old man, and I am confused. The trail is no longer clear.”

“You brought your people to my cousins. You work for them now, so you are our people as well. You came to them when they
needed you, and you will always have a home where they are.”

The flames burned low, flickered, and went out. Red coals remained. The chill wind stirred the leaves again. Powder Face sat silently, and I went to my blankets.