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The Race in Cameria
by David Tyson Smith

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A glorious tradition in the town of Cameria was the annual Father-Son weekend. Every year during the month of August all the families in the community would gather at the park for the grand two-day festival which included picnics, music, and fireworks. Although these events were exciting, the spectacle of the afternoon was the much anticipated race, in which every Father and his eldest Son would become relay partners in this annual run. Historically, the pair that won the race was given a medal by the mayor, and this year was particularly special because it was the town's centennial celebration and a wealthy philanthropist was donating a substantial amount of money to the winning pair.

Unlike races in other communities, the race in Cameria was not based on crossing a designated finishing line but rather on whom could run the furthest in an allotted period of time. The race worked as follows; on the first day of the festival all the Fathers would run for 10 minutes, and when that period elapsed a member of the community would blow through a ram's horn which would emit a loud bellowing noise signaling every runner to stop in his tracks. Volunteers of the festival would put a flag in each of the Father's final footsteps along the path with his last name written at the top to mark his place along the trail. The next day, the Sons would equally be granted 10 minutes to run starting where their Fathers had finished the day before as designated by the marked flags. Thus, depending on how their Fathers fared on the opening day of competition determined how far ahead or behind the Sons were in starting the race. Whichever Son was furthest ahead when the horn blew on the second day of the race was declared the winner, and he and his Father would accept their prizes at a magnificent ceremony that evening in the park.

One of the things that made the town of Cameria unique was the fact that it was divided down the middle by an oblong shaped lake that ran in a north/south direction. The width of the lake was estimated to be 10 miles long, and the two sides of the town were connected by a bridge so narrow that travel across was treacherous. Thus, citizens elected to work and live on the same side of the lake as to avoid the dangerous commute.

On the west side of the lake lied a big copper mine which constituted nearly half of all the jobs in Cameria, and on the east side of the lake, was a University which provided for the latter half of the jobs. Even though geography and occupation divided the citizens, they were a cohesive community and viewed each other as equals. Similarly, both sides loved to compete in the Father-Son race and would anxiously count down the days until it began.

One week before the race, the Fathers on the west side of town secretly met together under the cover of darkness to diabolically plan their victory. They conspired as a group to sabotage any chances the east side might have of winning. The financial prize was going to be so large this year, that the west side Fathers decided to split the pot among themselves and their families regardless of which west side family won. The Fathers agreed that after the race began and all the runners had entered the woods, they would use their physical strength to overpower and assault the east side Fathers by beating and kicking them until they could no longer run. A few of the Fathers were appalled at the barbaric idea of hurting and degrading the other Fathers but consented to go along with the arrangement since it meant a lucrative reward.

The following week all the citizens of Cameria came out for the annual run, and as usual there was lively music, entertainment, and delicious food. Finally, it was time for the first part of the race, and all the Fathers from both the west and east side lined up on the starting line eagerly anticipating finishing the day with a strong lead for their Sons. The gun snapped and the runners sped off down the trail. According to plan, when the trail wound into the woods beyond the spectator's eyes, several of the west side Fathers began kicking the ankles and knees of all the Fathers from the east, and one by one they dropped in agony clutching their legs in pain. Before the final horn blew some of the abused Fathers managed to crawl down the trail, others could hobble, but none could run. After 10 minutes had elapsed the deep sound from the ram's horn echoed through the forest, and the volunteers ran out and placed flags where every man stood. The Fathers from the west had a commanding lead over those from the east, making it virtually impossible for the east Sons to catch up the next day.

As is tradition in Cameria, after the race, a bus comes alongside the trail and picks up all the runners taking them back to the park where their families await. Once all the runners were on the bus, the Fathers from the east began expressing their displeasure in regard to how they were horribly mistreated. A fierce discord of words was exchanged between the two groups and the level of noise and commotion on the bus rose dramatically. The bus driver took his eyes of the road and turned his head towards the passengers in an unsuccessful attempt to quiet the unruly crowd. Completely distracted, the driver did not notice that the bus was heading for a treacherous ravine. The bus and all its passengers plunged over the precipice killing all passengers and severely injuring the driver.

The following week the town had a mass funeral to say goodbye to all the beloved family members and it was at this somber event that the eldest Sons of Cameria announced that they would finish the race as a final tribute to their Fathers. The driver, in attendance, who had been in a coma until that very day, explained for the first time to the Sons and the town about what he heard on the bus in regard to the clandestine acts of the Fathers from the Copper mine. Although the town was obviously horrified they decided to hold a community meeting to decide how to proceed with the race in lieu of the recent shocking revelations.

The morning of the town session all the citizens of Cameria crowded into town hall and took their seats as the much anticipated discussion was soon to begin. The Sons whose Fathers were employed by the University knew the people of the town to be fair so before the meeting began they discussed amongst themselves different sensible solutions to remedy the violations that had occurred during the race. They wrote down several reasonable proposals assuming they would be approved because the citizens of Cameria had a reputation for being just. This reputation was evidenced by the town creed engraved on stone at the entrance of the city, which exclaimed "Justice, Honesty, and Equality Among Citizens".

Once the meeting officially began, the Sons of the east were asked to speak and propose any ideas they might believe to be fair in light of what took place the day of the race. Rather than proposing a harsh solution like disqualification for the runners whose Father's had cheated, the descendants of the east offered the obvious solution which was that all the runners would start from the same point on the day of the race. To their surprise their suggestion drew rebuke.

One participant whose Father worked in the copper mine, stood and yelled that the community should forget the events of the past, and the race should continue as planned, with the Sons of the west retaining a commanding lead. This young man furthered his comments by exclaiming that dwelling on the past does not do anyone any good.

Clearly baffled, the Sons from the east stated that if the town did not want them to all start from the same point, then maybe the participants from the east could have their flags moved up a little along the trail so they could at least stand a chance of winning the contest. They went on to explain that this would be a just and rational solution since their Fathers were not only denied a fair race, but also were horribly abused.

One Son, whose Father was a foreman at the copper mine, produced the rule book for the annual race and read the opening passage,

"All runners in their pursuit of a victory, will be free from all restraints in order that they may run an enjoyable race." Relieved and finally exhaling, several young men who grew up watching their Fathers toil at the University as janitors looked at each other in excitement as it appeared that they finally found one citizen who spoke with the voice of reason. The Son of the foreman closed the book and articulated that the meaning of the rule book was clear; to allow the Sons of the east to be able to move up in the race would violate the liberty of the west side runners and their chances at happiness and success. Bewildered, the Sons of the east looked at each other in disbelief as one person after another gave reasons why the flags should not be moved.

A young man whose Dad was a supervisor in the copper mine arose and screamed that by only moving forward the flags that belonged to those who lived on the University side of town would inevitably cause animosity and resentment against the eastern Sons and no one likes those who receive special treatment.

Another young man who lived on the west side of town, jumped up to say that to move the flags would be unfair. He argued that he should not lose his favorable position in the race based on the deeds of his parent, on which he had no control.

Finally, one of the Sons from the east managed to get a word in edgewise. He gently explained that their flags were so far behind that no matter how hard they ran it would be impossible to catch up, and to run the race at all at this point would be futile.

At this comment those bred on the west side of the lake became infuriated and called the citizens of the east lazy and through lecture explained that the answer was not starting everybody from the same point or even moving the flags up the trail, but rather those from the opposite side of the lake should simply run harder.

Stunned at how the lure of the prize money had affected half of the town's judgment, the Sons of the east offered their final proposal which was merely to ask for an apology from the Sons of the west on behalf of their Fathers for their behavior during the first day of the race. Again, their suggestion drew rebuke. One western young man elaborated that he was not responsible for his Father's behavior and thus did not owe any apologies.

The Sons of the east left the meeting dejected not so much at having their proposals rejected, but rather at how the thirst for the prize had twisted the hearts of their fellow citizens. However, the Sons of the east had been taught in the land of Cameria not to be quitters so they decided to run the race regardless of the outcome. They ran with all their hearts and souls but finished the race far behind the western Sons due to their insurmountable lead thus being prevented from obtaining the financial reward.

According to tradition in Cameria, historians include the outcome of the race in the town record so future generations never forget the history of their great land. Accordingly, all the events surrounding the centennial Father-Son race including what was discussed at the town hall meeting were recorded, and customarily sent to all the schools and libraries in Cameria.

Interestingly, when copies of the town history including the chaotic Father-Son race reached the copper mine side of town, the west side citizens grew angry and refused to teach this historical event to their children. They reasoned that the history was relevant only to east side citizens because it was the east side citizens who had suffered. Additionally, they named any town record that explained the events of the centennial Father-Son race or the subsequent community discussion as "East Side History", and any documents pertaining to the race were not allowed on the west side of town. Even to this day, to learn about the events that occurred during that frightful centennial Father-Son race one must travel to the east side of town, because it is the only place where those events are openly and freely discussed.

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