Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OD Tribute to Maggie Price

I didn't know Maggie well -- she was in her declining years when I met her for the first time -- which was, not surprisingly, at the OD ride. I was new to endurance at that time and didn't know her history other than she was a staunch supporter of the OD, and on that day was doing what would be (I believe) her final endurance ride. Because her condition was such that she could only ride at a walk, not many were sure she would be able to do it. But, with the help of a corp of supporters and friends, and astride a wonderful mare, she rode, at a walk, the whole OD 25, crossing the Shenandoah River and back, and making it to the finish line with just moments to share. I remember the standing ovation she got at the awards ceremony, and her big smile -- all because she'd completed the OD once again.

For those who remembered Maggie Price's final desire for an OD dove release tribute -- a tribute which has now become an OD tradition for those who were instrumental to the OD ride, and the sport of endurance -- you'll be delighted to know she got her wish. And when I tell you that she got *exactly* what she'd wished for, I'm not kidding.

At the start of the Awards Program on Sunday several entertaining and touching stories about Maggie were shared with the crowd by those who knew her best, including an emotionally choked Stagg Newman -- which ensured there was quite a few moist eyes being dabbed at the end. The crowd was then invited to step outside the big tent to encircle a wicker basket containing 13 snow white doves owned by OD members Lisa and Andy Green. Their 9 year old son, Hunter (who had been first to finish the Friday 30 LD), performed the release.

It was a very moving scene as the beautiful creatures burst from the basket in a flurry of sparking white, and flew upwards in a magnificent spiraling group flight. All eyes turned heavenward as the flock circled wider and wider over the valley, turning and winging and glittering in a loose, yet perfect formation, going every higher until their flight turned into a magical sparkle of dotted white against a brilliant blue sky and the deep forest green mountains.

As the doves reached the height of the mountain crest they abruptly, and quite unexpectedly, converged into a tight formation, looking remarkably like a white arrowhead pointing west. It was so unusual that everyone gasped. Someone called out "they must have seen a hawk", but as everyone searched the sky ... lo and behold -- - a buzzard floated into view over the top of the western mountain range, directly above the doves! As everyone stood in complete amazement, an entire flock of buzzards drifted over the mountain to join the first, offering their own gentle, circular aerial tribute as the doves circled in flickering white just below.

Never in my life have I seen anything so incredibly perfect ... or so unreal. I'm sure that the entire delighted crowd felt, as I did, that Maggie had had a hand in this, and was sitting up there in the heavens, watching, just smiling from ear to ear.

She'd gotten her heart's desire. Buzzards for her OD tribute.

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Way to go, Maggie. Way to go.

Flora Hillman
President, OD

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