A Fourth Alternate Reality
With editorial assistance from Dix and John
I'm back. Charlie wanted me to tell about my diving in Albuquerque, and I told him that he would have to give me the whole episode if he wanted that. He did.
I read back over the previous episode, and we really were sophomoric back then, weren't we? But as I think back over the silliness of that summer, the sex, the love; I'm not sure that we have ever been happier. The physical sex tends to dominate the story, but the happiness had more to do with being together, talking with each other, saying "I love you," than with touching, holding, sucking and tickling. But that was fun, too!
On Friday we cleaned up the cabin, made arrangements with the caretaker for the next few weeks, and discussed closing for the winter if we would not be able to get back after Nationals. Closing up was a new responsibility for Charlie as well as me. His parents usually stayed into the fall, while he returned to school, so they had taken care of closing. This year they were in Florida, where Dad was doing OK, but no better than that. Charlie had to take care of the cabin. Luckily, there was a man living nearby who served as caretaker and took care of the plumbing for closing (the biggest job with UP winters). He guided Charlie through the other things that had to be done.
We drove to Iron River, the largest population center in Iron County, for lunch, and to get some hardware needed to close the place down. We drove home the long way, through Crystal Falls, the county seat. Charlie knew the territory well, having spent a good part of almost every summer of his life in the area. But it was new to me, and he was eager to show me the places that he had known, and loved, since his earliest memories. To him summer meant the Michigan UP; cabin or camp, that's where he was. It was clear to me that this was a part of his life that I would be eager to share, and not just out of loyalty to Charlie-the place was completely loveable.
But we had to head for Minneapolis on Saturday. That meant heading for Ironwood/Hurley the twin towns on the Wisconsin-Michigan border very near Lake Superior. Charlie had a good story about Hurley-the Wisconsin town-told to him several years before by a summer friend named Carl back near Pike Lake. Hurley is a town of bars-a leftover from the days when it was a pretty wild lumbering and mining town. They claimed that there were more bars per capita in Hurley than anywhere. I can't affirm that claim, but when Charlie drove us down main street I didn't see much other than bars.
In any case, Carl's mother had died when he was a baby, and he lived with his dad about an hour from Hurley. Every Halloween, beginning about age 7 or 8, and continuing to about age 12, his father would take him to Hurley in some pretty well-done costume, with a big hat that could sit on a bar and hold money. Well coached by his father, he would march into a bar, yell "Trick or Treat" and toss his hat on the bar. Invariably coins and a few bills would sail into the hat. Carl would lift that and walk out. He was ready for either obvious demand, "Where's the treat?" (You're drinking it.) Or "Let's see your trick!" (You just did!) He seldom had to resort to either reply, but making the rounds of bars in Hurley usually netted him about $200, a princely sum in the 1950's for a pre-teen. It was a year's spending money! Amazingly, he never had any problems, but his father watched pretty closely from the barroom doors.
On the way home I did want to talk to Charlie about the sophomoric sex we had had over the summer. Of course, we didn't apply the word sophomoric back then. That is Charlie's term as he writes about it now. I think I used the word stupid back then, as in, "Charlie, did all of the stupid sex that I asked for this summer bother you?"
"Bother me? Of course not."
"You know, we were acting like teenagers."
"In case you've forgotten, you are a teenager-a very loveable one, but a teenager nevertheless."
"Don't remind me. Maybe I mean 'adolescents'."
"It was fun, sexy, loving, harmless, and wonderful."
"Thanks, Charlie. But what I really want to say is 'Thank you for letting me do all of the things that I would have done at age 14 and 15 if you hadn't been so far away. I missed those years."
"Don't forget, Tim, so did I. When I was that age I didn't even have a lover on the other end of a correspondence. I think we both enjoyed age 14 again this summer. I guess I should now say, 'It's time to grow up.' But to Hell with that. If growing up means missing the 'stupid' sex we had this summer, then let's not grow up."
Charlie really did know how to make me happy. I reached over and massaged his groin a little.
"That's my kid."
Back home, Charlie took charge of making all of the arrangements to get to Nationals. His first order was directed to me: "Practice like Hell; and leave all of the rest to me." I did. And he didn't tell me much of what was planned. But I had such confidence in his ability to know my mind, that I didn't even have the urge to ask him. I really did immerse myself totally in my diving; I spent twelve hours a day at the school pool. Charlie had arranged with Dr. Olafson for me to use it. The swim team had open practice about two or three hours each afternoon, and there was a community open swim from 6 to 9 every day. I was welcome at those hours, and did swim and dive some then. But I got most of my practice in other hours when I could be undisturbed. Carl, Carol, Hal and Sue provided lifeguard duty. The only rule being that they got to join me in the pool for the last fifteen minutes or so, and they always showered with me. I certainly didn't object to that! Amazingly, neither did Charlie, though he seldom joined us.
Dad had always taken care of trip planning for Nationals in the past. I guess I didn't realize that there was as much to it as there was. Twice they had been in Chicago, and we simply drove down. Now it involved a long airplane trip, and (I learned later) planning for a little vacation in the Southwest after the meet. Charlie decided that we (!) didn't want a crowd along, it would just be us, my two coaches, and Harry Jensen who had also qualified in springboard. Harry's father couldn't come this year, and was glad that Harry would be able to travel with our group. Charlie concurred with my insistence that Coach Nelson would remain my coach throughout my Olympic diving career, and, of course, Larry was now my coach as well-I wanted both to be there. So just the five of us would be traveling to Albuquerque.
Not long before the trip Lida called me on the telephone and wanted to talk. She asked if Charlie was home and could get on the line. I told her that he would be home around dinner time and we'd call her back. When he came home we called and got Lida at her home. She was very direct; she wanted to know just what chance of success Harry had.
I replied, "Last year he finished just barely in the top half. It would be a real long shot if he did enough better to qualify for the finals. He has to make 13 dives. I guess if you put together the best dive he ever had on each one of those 13 he'd make the finals. He can't win, because his dives aren't of a high enough difficulty level. But he could, just possibly, make the finals.
"You know he lost his mother to cancer about three years ago."
Tim replied, "Yes, I knew that; it's sad. He seems to deal well with it."
Lida continued, "I think so. Well, his father is a lawyer and a very big case is scheduled for a hearing before the North Dakota Supreme Court-he can't miss it. That leaves Harry all alone, except for you two."
"You should go with him, Lida."
"Perhaps you are right, but I don't think so this time. He needs love and support, but from you guys, not me. I love him, and he loves me. But his strength in diving comes from Tim."
We talked a while and Lida convinced me that was true. We talked about the Gang and the support Charlie and I drew from its members. We talked about it often being physical. Lida had said, "Harry isn't gay, but he is in love with you, Tim. If you can, love him back. You too, Charlie."
I said, "He won't be alone, Lida. Charlie, Coach, and I'll be there. We won't abandon him."
Charlie asked, "Do you have something specific in mind, Lida?"
"Yes. Can he room with you two?"
"You know we're gay. We aren't just going to be sleeping in the room."
"No! I never would've guessed."
"Be serious, Lida, and tell us what you're thinking."
"I've heard both of you talk about there being a little gay in everyone if they are willing to let it out. Harry needs to be loved in Albuquerque-not necessarily sexually. But I'm very willing and able to accept whatever happens in that room, as long as he goes into that meet feeling loved and supported. I trust you both completely. I don't mean that I trust you to leave him alone. I mean that I trust that anything you three do will be done in love and won't seek to undermine his love for me. You know we are planning to get married at Christmas, don't you?"
"I didn't know when, but I knew you were going to be married sometime. Does Harry know about this conversation?"
"No. I couldn't talk to him before I talked to you. If you weren't willing I wouldn't have wanted him to know anything about this-that would smack of a rejection."
"Of course Harry's welcome. We'll invite him to room with us and book a room with two big beds. One thing may, or may not, lead to another. But regardless, Harry will sense our love and support, in addition to yours, as we go into the meet. But you need to talk to him and make sure he knows that you are comfortable with whatever might happen in the room."
Lida talked to Harry. Charlie and I invited Harry to room with us. He had been hesitant at first, but had agreed-if only to save hotel costs. So the three of us shared and Nelson and Larry shared; we were covering all the coaches' costs, and they would not accept Charlie's offer of a single room for each of them. We kidded them that they could save even more money if they got a room with one bed. Besides, they were missing something. They agreed, but noted that it was their wives that they were missing.
Nelson Waters had always been Coach Nelson to me. But Larry had insisted from the beginning that I call him Larry. Nelson picked up the awkwardness of this when we were first all together in Albuquerque. He said, "Either I'm Nelson, or you have to call him Coach Larry."
Larry had responded, "He'll get thrown in the pool every time he calls me Coach Larry!"
Charlie had stepped in and said, "Tim simply call them Woodpecker and Peckerwood until they make up their minds."
Larry said, "That's OK by me, and I think the press-which will be hounding Tim-would love that little tidbit."
Nelson said, "You know, I never asked to be called anything. Tim just always called me Coach Nelson, which I think was entirely appropriate for a high school student. Now, however, kill the 'Coach', Tim. I'd love to be called Nelson now that you're no longer a high school student. No big deal. But I'll have to admit, high school students using coaches' first names turns me off."
Charlie said, "Names are a big deal, because they show respect. Respect for teachers, coaches, parents, peers, competitors-it's very important. I think that the respect that Tim has shown to all of those is the reason that he has been able to make his way in this world as an openly gay man."
I had to agree with Charlie; he really did understand. And, despite his kidding about Peckerwood, he did have great respect for these two coaches. We both felt honored that they would take their time to come with us to Albuquerque. That they had supported us as a gay couple-in the 1960's-was admirable, and not without risk to themselves. Had the gay-haters that demanded a school board meeting when Charlie and I came out won the day at that meeting, who knows who would have gone down with us. Certainly Dr. Olafsen, and probably Nelson Waters as well. In any case, Nelson and Larry they became.
At 19 I was no longer the upstart kid who won meets that he really wasn't entitled to win. I was now the man to beat-I was glad that I was no longer the boy to beat! But it was not a reunion of old friends for me. It was my fourth trip to summer Nationals. But I didn't routinely dive in the big national meets. I couldn't keep up regular schooling, serious gymnastics practice, and a national diving schedule. Regrettably this did not make me popular among divers, who wanted more frequent chances to compete against me, and beat me. Also, there was a pretty high turnover at the very top levels, so that each year I faced a different person for my closest competition. I actually knew some of the top coaches and officials better than I knew the other divers.
I saw this as a challenge, and really tried hard to get to know the other divers. The Olympics were two years away, and this was beginning to shape up as the group that would be competing for slots on the Olympic team for Mexico. That made for intense competition, but also the knowledge that many of us would be teammates in Mexico, and had to pull together while we competed against each other.
I sought out Coach Billings from Indiana University. I was sure that he would be at the meet, and of course he was. His first comment to me was, "Ah, Tim. My team's nemesis on the diving platform. Are you at least going to give one of my boys a chance on the springboard.?"
"Not if I can help it, and there's another diver from North Dakota competing on the springboard as well, Harry Jensen."
"That's worse news than I figured. Just don't tell me that Harry is as good as you. You know, Tim, I've never seen a diver do a better series of dives than you did that afternoon in our pool. If you repeat that, you'll walk away with two gold medals here with nobody even close. Boy, am I looking forward to Mexico City where you are for me instead of against me."
I told him, "Coach I'm looking forward to the same thing. You know, it really hurt to turn down the offer you folks made me. It would be great to dive for you, and on the super IU team. But life just pushed me in another direction. It makes diving and gymnastics practice and competition a lot more work, but North Dakota is the right place for me. But please understand that my decision was in no way a rejection of your sports program. I just fit better in a smaller university."
Coach Billings replied, "I understand Tim. And I think you are probably right. I wish that all of my divers had the courage of their convictions. Following the crowd isn't the best way to lead your life. But Mexico is going to be fun. None of this Tokyo stuff though. If you aren't at the trials in two years, I'm going to come after you myself."
"I just might let you-it might get me a free trip!"
That was on Thursday, arrival and practice day. That night the five from North Dakota ate together and then headed for our rooms. Harry was a little hesitant about coming to the room with us, but he managed OK. Once in the room he looked at the two of us and said, "I know about Lida's conversation with you two, and I can't believe that she said all that. She really is quite a girl; I'm lucky as Hell. But you two sleep together tonight, and I'll sleep in the second bed. I'd think I'd like to leave it like that."
I said, "That's fine Harry. We aren't hear to push you or urge you or anything. We agree with Lida that you shouldn't be alone tonight, the night before your biggest meet. And you aren't alone. We are here to give you love and support. In whatever form you need or ask. And we are going to carry on in the room and bed just the same as if you weren't here. I hope that doesn't bother you."
"I'm not sure what's coming, but it won't bother me."
Charlie and I headed to the shower together, and soon were settling into bed. Harry followed, and we noticed that he slept in pajamas. Then the light was out. The three of us talked in the dark for quite a while; Harry seemed truly pleased to have us to talk to the night before the meet. Slowly we all drifted off to sleep. Charlie and I were spooned together, but didn't go beyond our usual gentle loving and wiggling.
The next morning as Harry came out of the shower and dried off I came up and hugged him. I was naked-just ready for my shower with Charlie. I deliberately chose a time when we would both be naked. Not for the sexual implications, but because the closeness of two nude bodies cannot be achieved any other way. As I hugged Harry I said, "Thank you for being my teammate and co-captain this year. You have been a wonderful teammate, and your support of me has been just as wonderful. Thank you. Today, let's both show them what North Dakotans can do!"
Harry was in tears, and only managed to say, "Thank you." By the time I came out of the shower the moment was passed. Harry was dressed and ready for the day. I dressed and the three of us joined our coaches for breakfast.
I was eager to make friends among the divers from the other schools. We got along well enough, but no true friendships developed. The one thing that I wouldn't do was dive less than my best. And I can't blame the other divers for not being enthusiastic friends with the little kid (I was a full foot shorter than the tallest among them) who outperformed them on every dive. Yeah, I got two medals. OK, they were gold. And, yes, the newspapers did point out that the point spread between me and the second place diver on both springboard and platform was wider than it had ever been. I never again had that much lead over second place. My records for winning margins set that summer stood for over two decades. And now I know why Charlie doesn't write so much about his spectacular successes. Neither of us is very good at tooting our own horns.
My dives just felt good. Every one. I slid into the water with hardly a ripple. Feet and hands just naturally fell in the right spot. The twists just hit right on the nose. I can't explain it. I didn't try harder than other meets, in fact it seemed to me that I was hardly trying at all. It was just natural. Charlie and I have talked about what went right that summer. Was it our "four days" at the cabin? We don't think so. I think it was the culmination of a year of living with my true love. My year with Charlie was just so "right." My diving success was just the natural culmination of that year. It's not that life with Charlie was downhill from there; quite the contrary, life with Charlie seems to get better and better. But you can never repeat your "first time" and we would never repeat our "first year." That first year ended with the meet in Albuquerque and our vacation following. It ended on a fantastic high. God, I'm glad I didn't have to compete with me that summer. I was simply unbeatable.
Harry did have to compete with me that summer, and with a lot of other divers. However, he seemed to take his cue from me, and relaxed and just let the dives take care of themselves. In the qualification rounds he was number 16 and found himself in the finals-just barely, but in. He was in a state of unbelief. The qualification standings were announced at the end of diving on Friday. Finals would be Saturday. The five of us went for a late dinner that night. Harry had said that he wished his dad could be here with him, and Lida. "But Lida wouldn't come. She said that for this trip she wanted me to be loved by Tim. She told me, 'This trip will end your diving career; end it with Tim. I'm going to have you for the rest of our lives.'"
I said, "Lida's a wonderful girl. She would have been welcome on this trip, but I think she was right. You belong with us tonight."
Larry really startled the group with his advice to Harry. He paused while eating his hamburger, as if he just had a casual comment to toss out. "Harry, you should sleep in the same bed with these two tonight. That's my professional advice on how to do your best tomorrow." He calmly took another bite out of his burger and waited for the questions.
They came. Harry responded, "What? I don't understand. Why would I sleep with them? They wouldn't want me and I'm not gay."
Nelson wasn't as uncertain, saying, "Larry, I'd like to hear your reasoning."
Charlie and I didn't say anything, yet.
Larry went on. Let me tick off my points. First, Tim and Charlie think everyone, or almost everyone is at least a little bit gay. But, second, I did not suggest a sexual relationship. Third, Charlie and Tim have both demonstrated to me that love and support are often the keys to athletic success. Fourth, you aren't going to feel supported sleeping alone in your own little bed tonight. Fifth, Tim and Charlie are two of the most wonderful kids I know, and they'll communicate the love and support you need-if you'll let them. Sixth, I would be utterly surprised, if they didn't welcome you to their bed tonight. And, last, Lida would want you to. Am I right, boys?"
"Right." From both of us.
Harry said, "You're serious, Coach?"
"Call me Larry."
"You're serious, Larry?"
"What do you think, Coach Nelson?"
"I think you are talking to the best diver in the world and the coach and lover that got him there. Why would any sane diver turn down advice and an offer like that?"
"I...I'm not gay."
"So what?" said Tim. "Maybe we'll find out. Maybe not. That's not why you're joining us tonight. We won't push you into anything you don't want. Sex is not the point of the evening."
Harry looked again at his coach, who nodded "Yes" very gently.
"Nobody finds out, right?"
"Not unless you tell them, but no secrets from Lida."
"OK. But I'm not too sure about this."
Burgers were finished and we were headed to the motel. Harry asked, somewhat hesitantly, "Will three of us fit in that bed?"
"Sure," said Charlie. "Tim and I have slept five in a bed. Now that was pushing it."
I said, "Why don't you forget about the pajamas tonight?"
"No.... Well, maybe. I don't know."
By this time I was naked and heading to the bathroom. Charlie followed me in and shut the door. "Tim, this is going pretty far. Harry and Lida are virtually engaged, and you are luring him into bed nude; who knows where it goes from there."
I told Charlie, "Relax. Remember Lida knows what's likely to happen. She encouraged us."
By the time we came out of the bathroom Harry was undressed and headed to the bathroom himself. By the time he was back Charlie and I were spooning under the covers. I slipped out of bed and guided him in, spooning in front of Charlie. Then I got in front of Harry. I said, "Harry, you can let your hands roam wherever they want, or not at all. You are going to get and feel the same love and support if you spend the night scratching your ear or trying to scratch interesting parts of Charlie and me. We aren't here for sex, we are here for you."
Harry wrapped his arm around my chest, and I could feel Charlie's arm draped on Harry's shoulders. That's the way we went to sleep. But three guys spooned in a bed don't sleep all that well. About midnight we found ourselves awake and wiggling a little. All of a sudden I felt Harry's hand creeping lower on my stomach. He tentatively touched my belly button, pausing there for a while. Then he moved south, slipping down to my pubes. I could feel him hesitate, then he seemed to get up his nerve and moved again, quickly touching my penis and drawing back, startled. I waited.... Nothing. Then his hand moved a little once again. I decided that I'd like this to move fast enough that I might get a little sleep. I took his hand gently in mine and simply moved it right on top of my penis and balls. I felt his hand stiffen and then slowly relax. He rubbed and squeezed very gently. I asked, "Would you like Charlie to be exploring you?"
There was no answer, but Charlie said, "I'm here."
Harry's hand left my dick and moved to Charlie's hand which he took and gently pulled between my butt and his dick. I could feel Charlie beginning to gently rub Harry's dick. Harry's hand moved back to me. I rolled onto my back, lay back, and allowed Harry to easily get at my genitals. I moved my right hand up to the back of his head and slowly but firmly shoved it toward my dick. Harry was hesitant, but allowed me to get his head close enough for his tongue to lick the tip of my penis. I relaxed my hand and left the next move up to him. It took him a while, but slowly the licking got more vigorous and the kissing more sloppy. Inevitably his mouth began to close around me, and his tongue slowly became more active. In response to my movements on the bed, Harry began to move up and down, rubbing the length of my penis with his lips. I whispered, "Are you ready for this?"
Harry replied. "I think so. Don't warn me, just let it happen."
My body warned him without my saying anything, and I came with a pretty big load in his mouth. He lay there silently, evidently trying to decide whether to spit or swallow. He got up and walked to the bathroom. A quickly flushed toilet told the story. He came back a little shyly, saying, "I know you are supposed to swallow it, but not tonight."
Charlie said, "You aren't supposed to do anything. You do what you like and what your partner likes. No supposed about it. You want to try your luck with me, or have us give you a treat?"
"Can I just use my hand? I'd like to watch you get aroused and come."
Tim said, "It's your show tonight. Charlie will give you carte blanche. Harry used his hand, but was watching so close that Charlie hit him in the face. It got a good laugh, and then it was our turn to work on Harry. We took turns sucking him, until he came in Charlie's mouth. Charlie kissed Harry immediately, and let Harry taste a little of himself. Then he kissed me and we shared Harry's cum in a heavy kiss, which Harry seemed to enjoy watching.
Harry said, "Thank you. It's time to sleep."
I said, "Tomorrow is going to be a big day, and you ARE going to move up from number 16.
Harry did move up the next day. He dove well, and needn't have felt bad about any of his dives. Just after his second dive his father walked into the pool area. I had called his office as soon as I knew Harry would be in the finals. Phil Jensen had not planned to come to the meet as he hadn't expected Harry to be in the finals. It was the furthest thing from either his or Harry's mind. As soon as his office could contact him-just after his court appearance ended-he headed for the Bismarck airport. He got as far as Denver on Friday evening and took the first flight for Albuquerque in the morning. Harry was flabbergasted to see his dad, and his dives from then on just got better and better.
Harry was up against hard cold mathematics, however. Degree of difficulty limits your possible points. The dives in his repertoire simply were not of sufficient difficultly to allow him to move up very far in the rankings. But he wowed the audience with three 9.9 dives and a 9.8. A couple of judges gave him a couple of 10s. Unheard of for his level of competition. He became the Cinderella of the meet-even if he couldn't beat the math. He moved from 16th to 12th and went out in a style that would leave him with wonderful memories for the rest of his life.
I would have been delighted to be upstaged by Harry, but my own diving was going as well as Harry's. After the finals concluded, Larry realized that I had outdone myself, but he was pretty used to me. Nelson was the same. Coach Billings was over the top. He came rushing up to me right after I had gotten my medal, hugged me tight and exclaimed, "Oh, Tim, why aren't you at Indiana? I can't wait for Mexico. You were just terrific. See Stan over there? My top diver. He was in Bloomington when you visited and he saw you dive. When he saw you today he leaned over to me and said, 'God, coach, he's much better today than when we saw him back in Bloomington. Shit, it's just perfection.' Stan just got the silver medal, and I've never seen him lose but that the judges were unfair, the board wasn't right, or he was a little sick. Always an excuse. Today it was simply, 'Shit, you can't beat perfection'. He was beaten fair and square, but he rarely admits it.
"And another thing that is truly remarkable, Tim: Only two schools had two divers in the diving finals, including both springboard and platform. Those were Indiana and North Dakota. People are noticing. Harry Jensen was terrific. It's too bad he's a senior. But everybody knows you are a freshman. A lot of divers are really pissed at the prospect of you being around three more years. Their mantra is, 'Turn pro after the Olympics.'
I said, "Hell, Coach. Turning pro means stopping diving-there isn't a professional circuit. It just means that I cash in on what endorsements I can, based on past glory. Not likely."
I turned to Harry and said, "You are the North Dakota hero. You are from North Dakota, learned to dive there, were coached by North Dakotans. I'm the carpet bagger from outside. I hope everybody understands your truly remarkable accomplishment today. Moving from 31st to 12th in one year is fantastic. I stayed the same."
Harry didn't even laugh at that. "The Hell you did. You widened the gap so much this year that you have discouraged a whole generation of divers. Everybody now knows that they are just competing for second place when you're around."
Charlie came up to us, giving me his usual kiss and squeeze. He whispered in my ear, "God, I love you. You were terrific. What got into you?"
I didn't have time to reply. Reporters were gathered around, and right in front was Bill Manley! "Bill, you're a long way from Missouri."
"And you're a long way from North Dakota. I think we came for the same reasons. Tim, you were way over your head today, even for you. No one here has seen diving like that. Think you can explain?"
I wasn't just talking to Bill, there was a crowd around. I wasn't sure how I wanted to answer that, but I stuck to my belief that honesty is the best policy. "Charlie and I have just had the happiest year of our lives. I'm on an incredible high. I've been practicing long hours and very hard, but that isn't new. Somehow, today, everything just went right. Just like everything has gone right all year. I'll stand on my long held belief that love and support are essential for athletic success. But that isn't enough. I have two of the greatest coaches around, Larry and Nelson, and a team of Fighting Sioux back in Grand Forks that supports me wonderfully. This was a can't miss meet. But I didn't know it till I started diving. Every dive just felt right.
"And, I want you to remember that one other member of that team of Fighting Sioux is here and came in 12th off the springboard. Harry Jensen's a product of the same coaching, love and support as me. And we are really proud that North Dakota had two of the diving finalists today."
Other reporters started their questions: "Will you be competing in more national meets this coming year?"
"No, I expect my diving schedule next year will be pretty much the same as this year."
"Can you stay in top form if you don't dive against the top competition in the country?"
Larry stepped in and answered that one with another question, "Would you say that was a problem this year?"
Bill sensed that I was uncomfortable the way the interview was going. Turning to Harry he asked, "Harry, you were diving way over your head today. How do you explain it?"
"Tim. And Charlie. You simply have no idea what it's like to dive on a team with Tim. Everybody on the team works doubly hard and reaches levels they thought were unattainable, just because Tim cares, helps us, pushes us, catches us. I'm sorry I only had one year on the team with Tim. Charlie loves Tim madly and supports him unconditionally. And he shares that with all of us. Finally, Larry Knudsen is simply the best coach around. The whole team adores him, and would do anything for him. Including winning our conference championship this year."
Bill asked, "What are your plans for next year, Harry?"
"Head to grad school and get married."
"Any diving in your future?"
"Very little. Diving has been a wonderful experience for me, but now it's time to grow up and join the real world. I'm looking forward to that."
Bill couldn't keep the focus on Harry any longer, but it was enough. Harry felt wonderful that people had been interested in him. And Bill's article would for sure include him. Bill knew good human interest, and he wanted to stay on Tim's good side. It was a mutual admiration society.
The questions returned to Tim. "What about your gymnastics? You haven't been in a meet since the NCAA in May."
"I'm looking forward to a good gymnastics year in North Dakota. The university just hired a coach, Frank Kesserling, from St. Paul. Mr. Kesserling was one of my coaches during high school and I'm looking forward to renewing our relationship."
"You brought your coach to college with you?"
"Sort of. He's an excellent coach."
"He's totally inexperienced at national level gymnastics."
"So am I, and it didn't seem to be a problem at the NCAA in May."
"Haven't you been advised that you need top level coaching if you're going to go to the Olympics?"
"If I got advice like that it would be private, not public. Besides, I'll have top level coaching at UND this year."
"UND doesn't have a regular NCAA gymnastics team."
"Not now, but soon. In the meantime I compete as an individual. Everyone competes as an individual in the Olympic trials."
"Rumor has it that you are pretty good on the trampoline."
"That's for someone else to judge."
"When will you be competing?"
"I didn't say anything about competing on the trampoline."
"I doubt it. I simply don't have the time."
This triggered the memory of one of the reporters. "Didn't you spend a summer with a circus? Wasn't the trampoline one of your acts there?"
"Yes, to both. How do you even know that?"
"It was in the original Sports Illustrated story."
It went on and on. I was enjoying it, or I would have brought it to an end earlier. After a while a young man came up and whispered something in the ear of one of the television reporters.
"Tim, my colleague has arranged for a trampoline in the university gym next door. We can get a television camera there as quickly as you can get there. Would you show off a little?"
They were actually offering candy to a baby!
I looked at Charlie. He nodded "Yes." I agreed. Publicity can't hurt. It was the kind of thing that we might have staged, but we hadn't. I hadn't even brought up the subject of the trampoline.
Soon we set off as a group to the Arizona State gym. Setting up a trampoline was easy, getting the TV cameras there was more complicated. But ABC Wide World of Sports seemed to be able to accomplish anything, and they were ready. Maybe. I try to keep ahead of my audience!
I loved the trampoline that I earned in high school doing a demonstration for a manufacturer. I had it set up in our back yard. With North Dakota weather, it had to remain covered a good part of the year, but spring and fall I took advantage when I could and the spirit moved me. I liked the trampoline precisely because I wasn't in competition and therefore could bounce exactly as I pleased, without regard to rules, form, or tradition. I had the chance to explore a lot of possibilities when I was with Sutvan's. That day I came through the door and paused a little while I sized up the arrangements in the gym. Then I broke into a run, did a high double somersault and came down on the trampoline, bouncing high in the air. The TV crew wasn't ready at all. They insisted that I stop and do it all over again. I didn't have a choice if I wanted them to get good TV footage. In fact, I knew when I first started running that the cameras wouldn't be ready. This way I got to do my most spectacular stunt twice!
I had a ball. Charlie told me later I was shamelessly showing off. I agreed. What else was I supposed to do in that situation? What amazed me the most was how I remembered key parts of my routine from Sutvan's. It had gone over with their audiences, and it went over well with this one-almost all reporters and a few students that had been around the gym.
The footage appeared Sunday a week later on Wide World of Sports, along with pictures of my best dives, and some old gymnastics footage that they had dug up from some archive. I was referred to as a "rare bird"-a two sport Olympic hopeful.
Charlie and I watched from a bed in a motel near the Grand Canyon. We had set off from Albuquerque on Sunday after a goodbye breakfast with Harry and his father, Nelson, and Larry. I had said to Harry, "You are easy to love, Harry. And I'll confess that I put Larry up to opening the conversation about sharing a bed. Nelson knew it was coming. You were set up. And it worked out well. Phil said to Harry, I think there's a little story that you might tell me as we fly back to Denver."
"Do you think you can handle it, Dad?"
"Then so can I. But you have to tell it all between here and Denver, because from Denver we're on separate flights-I have to go to Bismarck and pick up my car. I left in somewhat of a hurry."
Charlie and I were very pleased to see the evidently open relationship that Harry had with his Dad. When we spoke about this later with Harry, he said that since his Mom's death he and his father had been more friends than father-son. They got on extremely well.
Harry left us with "It was a wonderful night; I'll never forget it. And finishing 12th was a dream come true. I can't wait to get back to Lida and tell her the story."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]