Every time I’m out on the bike trail between 7 & 8 in the morning, I see some familiar faces. There’s one man in particular who always walks the same stretch – no matter what day of the week, I see him. He walks with a bit of a bounce to his step…. like he’s just happy to be out enjoying some exercise. And he always, always has the loudest, most cheerful good morning.
I saw him this morning on my way north as he was heading south and we exchanged our typical “good mornings” and “beautiful days.” I decided that if I passed him again after my turnaround, I was going to stop to introduce myself. I went on my merry way for a few more miles, turned around and saw him up ahead. As I neared him I almost chickened out “This is so out of character… are you really going to ride up on a stranger and just introduce yourself?!?” But I pushed those thoughts to the side, took a deep breath and shouted out “Coming up on your left and I have a question for you!”
I slowed down to roll alongside and told him that I enjoy seeing him out whenever I’m on the trail: “I’d love to say good morning by name. My name is Barb, what’s yours?” He stopped, extended his hand and said “It’s so nice to meet you Barb, my name is Louie. No one ever stops to share their names even though us regulars see each other all the time. That’s real nice of you. Real nice.” I thought that might be it but he started to talk. So I shifted gears and rolled alongside him for what turned out to be fifteen minutes of delightful conversation.
Louie worked for the steel mills for 44 years and the day after he retired he started walking on the trail. He now walks five miles every day “rain or shine – even in the snow.” He’s 69 years old and will turn 70 in November and is grateful every day that he’s healthy and active enough to get out.
I now know he’s a Colts fan and one year shortly after Christmas he found a brand new money clip with a Colts logo on it on the trail. He carried it with him for a week and asked everyone he saw if it was theirs but it wasn’t… and it had less than $10 in it so he didn’t report it. Every time he gets it out of his pocket it makes him smile.
He has a brother who just retired from being a mailman and this spring he helped him move down to Florida. He misses him. He has a niece in the area, another in Nashville and a third down in Florida.
He asked about my family and how long I’ve lived here. He’s a “region boy” who grew up in Whiting. He joked that I was probably a little shaky and nervous about sending my oldest to college in a few weeks but that I shouldn’t be because it will be the best time of her life.
When we got to his car, he extended his hand again and said he’s looking forward to seeing me on the trail again soon. “I’m excited to be able to call out to someone by name. I sure hope I don’t forget it but if I do feel free to smack me on the head as you ride past and shout it out – that will make sure I remember.”
Me and my new friend Louie… I’m looking forward to talking with him more and I’ll be sure to ask what he thinks about the Colts when the season starts.