Doc had gone to Stanislaus State College, at the time a small college in the California state system. Now it had university status in a little town called Turlock, located 90 miles south of Sacramento in the central valley. The central valley became prominent to Dale’s generation by the old cowboy TV program, The Big Valley, where the matron Barbara Stanwyck ran her ranch. The San Joaquin Valley where the TV program took place is part of the “Great Central Valley” which is made up of The San Joaquin Valley in the south and The Sacramento Valley in the north. Together this “Great Central Valley” is hundreds of miles long from north to south.

So when people would ask him where they could find Turlock on the map, and why he went to school there he would say, “Turlock and San Francisco and Sacramento make a perfect ninety-mile triangle, ninety miles south of Sacramento and ninety miles south east of San Francisco. Why did I go? Just by accident I read a bio on the new track coach out there. I read that as a Kenyan long distance runner he used to train in the Lake Nakuru National Park. I worked there in the Turlock area the year before, on a senior high church mission trip and fell in love with the town. It’s small-ish size appealed to me even though it had a good sized population. It had a small town ‘feel’ even though it housed a state college.

“After I had been there for a few years I realized that I could write my Doctorate under this coach consistent with my passion: long distance running. And who’d of thought that my doctorate would be Jumping the Steeplechase Water-Jump.”

He would then add, looking around as if to tell a secret, “I ate at a fast food restaurant that I had never seen before: Jack-In-The-Box. It had greasy tacos that the more I ate, the more I wanted. Margie thinks they’re disgusting … but I love them. We don’t get out there very much, but every time we go to San Francisco I take her for a romantic dinner at Jack-In-The-Box. Two tacos for ninety cents. It’s the most inexpensive romantic dinner in San Francisco.”

Once when he told that story in front of Margie she chimed in, “The only reason he calls it romantic is because that’s his justification. Believe me there is nothing romantic about it.”

Mark S Mirza