This weekend began a week ago with a phone call.
“Mom, I fractured my hand.” My daughter telling me this, brushing it off as a minor injury that resulted when someone tripped over her at a concert.
I immediately panicked and ordered her to get it x-rayed.
“The coach put a splint on it and said it would be ok.”
“What about the tournament?”
“I’ll be fine by then.”
I love how coaches suddenly become medical experts. I recalled her brothers’ experiences as high school wrestlers. The eldest ignored an aching wrist largely thanks to a coach telling him “he was supposed to hurt in wrestling,” By the time I was informed, and took him to a doctor, he required major surgery to repair the wrist with a bone graft from his hip. The next son’s coach, two years later, suggested he continue playing despite a broken- and bloody- nose.
And she wasn’t much different, insisting on playing tennis her junior year in high school with an injured knee. When the season ended, we went for an x-ray; she had a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, one of two ligaments that form a cross in the joint under the kneecap. Nine months of rehabilitation later, she landed the number one singles spot her senior year and now plays college varsity.
The team traveled by chartered bus from Ohio this past weekend to participate an intercollegiate tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We flew in from New Jersey. She had her hand x-rayed before they left and nothing was broken, only sprained.
I watch her matches, holding my breath when she seems to over-reach for a shot, or her leg seems to turn in ways it’s not meant to.
“How’s your hand?”
“It still hurts a bit but I didn’t wear a bandage so my opponents wouldn’t try to hit balls to my weak side.”
In between matches, we learned how this small city of 75,000 in the southwest corner of Michigan, halfway between Battle Creek and the shore of Lake Michigan, home of two colleges: Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan State, became a national tennis center, hosting tournaments for high school students and colleges.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of a former K-Zoo (as its called) professor and tennis coach, the college erected the outdoor 11-court facility and stadium, hosting the nationals since 1943.
In inclement weather, there’s the Markin Racquet Center.
The story begins with a 19 -year -old Russian immigrant, Morris Markin. A Chicago tailor, he ran a fleet of cabs and then an auto body shop. In 1921, he combined his friend’s failing automobile company into his own, and began producing only taxis, creating the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company. By the end of 1922, Checker produced more than 100 cars per month; 600 of Markin’s cabs prowled New York City streets. Needing more space, Markin bought former car production buildings in Kalamazoo; where the first Checker Cab rolled off the line on June 23, 1923. (mirror.co.uk)
Markin briefly sold the company during the Great Depression, bought it back and diversified the business- making auto parts for other companies, producing war materials during World War II and then entering the passenger car market in the late 1950’s. By the 1970s, as taxi companies converted to smaller, more fuel –efficient passenger cars, the 4,000-pound gas-guzzling Checker lost appeal.
Markin died in 1970. By 1982, his son David halted production of the iconic taxi, though the company still owned two cab fleets in Chicago and produced parts for other manufacturers. An avid tennis player, David donated the funds to construct an indoor racquet center on the Kalamazoo College campus. It houses the United States Tennis Association (USTA) office and the Western Tennis Association Hall of Fame. Photographs of very young tennis stars- Arthur Ashe, Andre Agassi, and John McEnroe among them, adorn the walls.
The family’s former estate in Kalamazoo became a 160-acre county park, one of many throughout the vast state that includes trails constructed from converted railroad lines.
The matches over, we biked on one of these trails Sunday morning before catching our flight back to Newark. The Kal-Haven trail, a 35 mile- linear route, traverses farmland and woods. We rode about 25 miles- it was too cold to do much more. A former railroad line running to the Lake Michigan resort areas, the line closed in 1970 after 100 years operation.
As we realize the environmental and economic impact of the automobile industry, created in nearby Detroit, perhaps it’s time to reconsider these abandoned rail lines. Recreational rail trails are beautiful for sure. And so are trains.