Cindy Jo

Cindy Jo is a true small-town hero,
a high school athlete, agile and swift of feet,
a star in six varsity sports, although
it’s track she loves most, winning every meet.

Popular, smart, beloved belle of the town,
her future’s bright – still a junior in school,
offers from college track programs abound.
Cindy Jo takes it in stride, saying “Cool!”

In the last track meet of her junior year,
Cindy Jo breaks the state record with ease
in the 3,000-meter race; for her to hear
the fans chanting her name surely does please!

On the team bus on the trip home, they sing
and laugh, until exhausted, they fall asleep.
Hours overdue…all over town phones ring.
“The bus crashed down a ravine, rugged, steep.

The driver and some of the girls are dead.”
Among the survivors is Cindy Jo…
alive perhaps, but not all right. Instead,
spinal injuries end all that she loved so.

Doctors: “You’ll never be able to run.”
Cindy Jo: “I’ll run the 3,000 again!”
Ten months of treatment…track’s begun…
paralysis of her right leg…dreams end.

Cindy Jo stands in the infield, cheering
the track team members on, meet after meet.
“Coach, let me run the 3,000,” begging…
“No! It’d only be an ignominious defeat.”

The last track meet of her senior year loomed.
Cindy Jo pleads, cries until he finally gives in.
“You can run, although your effort is doomed.”
On the starting line she stands with a wide grin.

The gun sounds. The others leave her behind.
She lopes along with a rather unsteady gait,
dragging her right leg, her left striding just fine.
Other runners lap her – a race doesn’t wait.

She struggles on, trying to pick up her pace.
Lapped twice again, she’s a pathetic sight.
As the leaders speed pass, she falls on her face.
Suddenly, a teammate stops. “Don’t quit. Fight!”

Now runner after runner from every team
forgets the race to encourage Cindy Jo.
She struggles to her feet, as all the fans seem
focused upon her totally. “Go, Cindy Jo, go!”

The race is completely abandoned by all
the other runners, who now join in running
beside Cindy Jo. She suffers fall after fall,
but bloody and battered, she keeps on going.

Lap after grueling lap, the girls run together.
Soon people are coming down from the stands,
joining in the pack of runners, one after another.
The true meaning of her effort each understands.

Face scratched, knees and palms bleeding, panting
with exhaustion, Cindy Jo finally reaches the finish.
The crowd emits a mighty roar, applauding, cheering.
Men cry… their manly image these tears do not diminish.

The coach hugs Cindy Jo. “Well, you were right.
You can succeed in life. Don’t you ever forget it!”
To which Cindy Jo answers, “Coach, that night
only my body was crippled, not my mind, not my spirit…”

Harry Edward Gilleland      10.26.03    printer friendly