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Closing lines

For the most part, I'm not much of a morning person on the weekend. Generally it's a time to sleep in and not worry about getting any place in any particular hurry. Which is why taking any part in Saturday's marathon surprised even me.

For the most part, I'm not much of a morning person on the weekend. Generally it's a time to sleep in and not worry about getting any place in any particular hurry. Which is why taking any part in Saturday's marathon surprised even me.

Then again, who can turn down a breakfast buffet featuring a variety of breads for toasting, bagels, muffins, a bloody Mary or a spirited coffee? That was the spread at a friend's house on Eighth Street South in Fargo, or mile marker 1.75.

A group of 10 or so adults and two small boys gathered to cheer on runners, and stuff our gobs with powdered sugar doughnuts.

One person held a sign that read "Welcome to Brrrr-go!" mounted on a child's high chair tray. The rest of us just yelled in between bites, sips and early morning yawns.

We all expressed our admiration for those who had to wait in the sleet outside and hit the streets with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. To keep warm on the boulevard, some of us jumped in place, clapped and waved frantically, while others lined our pockets with toasted English muffins (the perfect size for hand warmers) and our throats with Irish coffee.


It's difficult to say who benefited more from the shared energy - the runners or our group of hardy supporters. Certainly those competing in the marathon felt our encouragement, especially the fact that one of the homeowners had dug out a volume of "Jock Jams" to test the limits of organizers' invitation to make some noise. Likewise, a few of the women appreciated the opportunity to let loose their inner cheerleader.

"Woohoo. Go number 164. You can do it... Looking good 803. Keep up the pace... 799, he's our man, if he can't complete 26 miles, ummm, I hope someone can! Woohoo!"

For the men in our group, however, cheering bordered on being a contact event. In particular, one hockey dad-in-waiting chased down joggers, yelling at them as they passed by. Instead of pep talks, he gave the athletes the drill sergeant treatment.

"Keep those knees up, boy! Breathe through your nose, maggot! You call that running? I've been through 12-step programs faster than you! You are a disgrace to sweat! You don't deserve Gatorade!"

When he felt his drink start to spill or simply lost interest, he pulled up and shouted after them, "Yeah, you better keep running!"

Next year we'll keep him on a leash.

Actually, his berating warmed my heart. I don't usually experience such abuse after 8 a.m. More often I get it earlier in the morning, mostly around 2 a.m.

As a 14-year regular at Ralph's Corner, I heard my share of the great cries to get late-night revelers out of the bar. Some may have been offended by the verbal abuse throughout the years, but I've come to appreciate it as ribald art form, like graffiti.


It started with the classic, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here," but flowered into declarations unprintable in this paper.

"Get out. You can talk outside ... Shipley, tell your drunk friends to get the hell out of here ... Let's go, girls. Shipley, this means you!"

Those were some of the more polite ones, and that was just in one two-minute stretch.

Personally, my favorites were dealt by the tag team of Aaron Nygaard and Bill Beattie. The tandem started by asking politely, then demanding patrons leave. When that didn't work, they hurled insults that would've made a cat-calling construction worker blush. If that didn't work, they wouldn't be averse to throwing cups of water or snapping patrons with dish rags to get them to move.

I missed the heyday of Dylan Onefeather, however, whose colorful cries were a sort of anguished poetry. Onefeather died in 1987 of diabetes-related complications.

"Let's go," he'd yell. "My girlfriend's at home having sex and I want to be there."

Rumor has it, that girlfriend still has his leg, though I'm not sure if it's the real appendage or a prosthetic.

Sure, I'll miss Ralph's and the early morning abuse, but I won't miss waking up smelling like cigarette butts and stale beer. Who knows, maybe I'll become the kind of early morning riser who runs the marathon next year. I'll just make a point to take a detour around mile marker 1.75 and the hockey dad on the leash.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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