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March 2024

Fort Huachuca race for the flag

Flavio Garcia and I walked our bikes up the Smith Avenue hill, past General Myer School on the left. It was mid-June 1961 in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, a perfect sunny day for looking around.

When we reached Winrow Road, we saw a white-gloved MP holding up regular traffic. Army jeeps, trucks, tanks, and 155mm howitzers – big artillery guns – were moving through the intersection in a convoy headed to the West Range. This was maneuvers week for the National Guard out of Phoenix, and they were testing some big weapons.

To get around the traffic jam, Flavio and I jumped on our bikes and took a shortcut between Post Chapel No. 1 and Whitside School.

Biking west on Rhea Avenue, we passed seven old wooden buildings on our right. They had long wooden porches and second-floor balconies. The buildings used to be barracks. The second building was the post library now. The others had become Army offices. They all still looked like barracks to me.

Flavio and I quickly made our way around the accounting office to Augur Avenue. Here were more old buildings on our right and, to our left, the open parade field. We sped up here on the long straightaway, going west past the old guardhouse and post bakery.

Nearly halfway down Augur Avenue, I yelled to Flavio, “I’ll race you to the flagpole!”

I didn’t know why I said that. Of the two of us, Flavio was the real athlete. He was skinny, and so was I, but he was stronger and faster than most boys our age. I knew it and I knew he knew it.

Both of us stood up on our pedals and revved for speed. The flagpole was on the other side of the parade field. It wasn’t far. To get there, we had two turns and less than 600 yards of street. We accelerated. Flavio zipped ahead, and I tried hard to keep up. My legs already hurt at the first turn, a left onto Adair Avenue, a short street. We were at the southwest end of the parade field. Flavio was two bicycle lengths ahead of me. I told myself I had to get going.

Flavio looked back. I pedaled harder, and my thighs and calves hurt even more. I kept at it and noticed that, in just sixty or seventy yards, I was closing in on him. At the second left, turning northeast from Adair, he seemed to be sprinting and yet I caught up. I was passing him! This was on Colonels Row. With the parade field still on our left, we hustled past the mansions on our right.

Two hundred and fifty yards to go, and I was a bicycle length ahead of Flavio. I knew he probably was letting me go ahead, and I knew he probably knew I knew, but I enjoyed first place for the moment.

With 150 yards to go, I was two bicycle lengths ahead. Then Flavio made his move. He was catching up. I pushed the pedals with all the energy I had, but he was gaining on my right. The flagpole looked within reach now, just ahead and slightly to the left, its stars and stripes fluttering at the southeast edge of the Parade Field. With thirty yards to go, Flavio trailed but was speeding up to me. We both were pedaling like the cartoon Road Runner when we crossed the invisible finish line.

“A tie!” Flavio yelled.

Here we were, laughing and exhausted, circling to a stop between the flagpole and General Uhrhane’s house. It was a friendly tie.

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A Colonels Row June 13 IMG_8666(Photo of Colonels Row from 2022)