Another month of essentially being unable to hit the course collecting trail, and another month of working on physical conditioning and mental toughness around my hometown.
I set personal bests for miles walked in a day (20.42 miles), as well as miles walked in a month (361.18 miles). People around Springfield were joking that I am “Gump, Forrest Gump.” Only instead of running for hundreds of miles? I’ve been walking hundreds of miles. 🙂 But I am usually doing it while wearing either DGA or UDisc shirts. All while saying hello to hundreds of people and carrying a trash bag with me, picking up whatever litter I encounter along the way.
It is a lesson I learned while working as a Community Organizer in South Minneapolis back in the early 2000s, and my reason for sharing the George Floyd mural at the top of this post. While working as a Community Organizer, in a neighborhood that had a lot more crime and violence to the North, and a lot more prosperity to the South, we were sort of the “buffer.” The City wanted peace and prosperity to push to the North. Some of the gangs and other folks committing crimes wanted to push their turf to the South.
The northwest corner of our neighborhood in Minneapolis was 38th and Chicago, feet from where George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. I’ll never forget one day, working in the neighborhood, walking to a meeting up on 38th and Chicago, trash bag in hand. I was heading to a meeting with the owner of a small phone and electronics store. A former gang member, he had left the gang and was trying to get his life together.
As I neared the business, three members of his former gang came up to me, in my khakis and button-down shirt, and started to harass me. Not threatening my safety! Just making me feel incredibly unwelcome in “their” turf. After this went on for a minute or two, steadily escalating, a fourth member of the gang jogged over and told the other gang members: “Leave him alone, man….he’s cool. I’ve seen him picking up trash off my grandma’s front yard.”
I get a little misty even thinking about that to this day. How that simple gesture of picking up a little litter as I walked (ALWAYS walked, never driving, so I could make sure and have lots of impromptu conversations with lots of people) might have averted a potentially dangerous situation. While building just a tiny bit more trust, respect and safety in the neighborhood.
As I’ve been walking my hundreds of miles during this pandemic and Stay at Home executive orders, I’ve been carrying a trash bag with me. Criss-crossing every street in Springfield, as well as miles of rural township roads. One afternoon, southwest of town, I was cleaning up ditches on a VERY remote road, when I saw a tractor come toward me. Probably wanting to check out who this stranger was with a bag in his hand.
The tractor kept getting closer, and closer. And then when it got within about twenty feet of me, the driver put it in park, hopped out, and walked toward me. The first words out of his mouth were: “These are MY ditches!” My first thought was “uh-oh…someone doesn’t want me here…where they are literally the only house/farm on this road for more than a mile.” But then, as I felt a little uneasy, his next words were: “I’ve been watching what you’re doing, and I just wanted to say thank you. Picking up this litter helps me by not having my livestock injured when we are feeding bales to them after we bale the ditches.”
I not only felt relieved (that he wasn’t mad, or thinking I was trespassing…even though it was a public township road). But it immediately reminded me of that encounter with those four gang members at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. How such a little gesture as picking up a bit of litter along a city street (or township road) is noticed by others.
It is too late for George Floyd. Nothing can bring him back, and I feel so sick/sad for his family and other loved ones. But I certainly hope that we all can try and find ways to make our world a little better, in his honor. And of course, I’ll continue to carry trash bags with me when I do get back out on courses. Because you never know who will be watching…or how that simple gesture might make the lives of others around us just a tiny bit better. Hopefully helping to start a series of dominoes falling in a sort of positive “Butterfly Effect.”
Magic Number = 452 (1,548 Courses Played)
How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re out “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.
Derek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA, the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed the father of disc golf and the modern day Frisbee vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.