Riding With Marshall

I remember the first time I met Marshall Allen. It must have been about 1999 or 2000. I was out on my bike, just about five miles from home in the next little town, when a tall, athletic-looking cyclist crossed my path. We rode together for a while, introducing ourselves and chatting like old buddies. Marshall told me he was a firefighter, and talked about his family in his deep, resonant voice.

What a delightful guy. I told Brent about Marshall, and Brent remembered meeting him too, on one of those casual rides that meets at a local bike shop.

Marshall and I ran into each other (not literally; don’t worry) again after a few weeks and swapped some more stories about our kids and such. I knew Marshall was a faster rider than me and appreciated his camaraderie all the more because he could have merely smiled, waved and disappeared over the horizon.

Some months later I heard the horrifying news that Marshall had sustained a serious spinal injury in a cycling accident. I talked with him on the phone once, and tried to offer encouragement. After that I lost touch, but often wondered how he was doing.

Then, just last summer, I learned that one of my fellow freelancers had written a book about a firefighter who had become a quadriplegic. “Um… that wasn’t Marshall Allen, was it?” Yes. Yes, it was. The author, Alexandra Allred, and Marshall himself, were going to speak at the next meeting of the writers’ group I attend. Oh, yeah, I would be there.

Come to find out, Marshall’s life was much more complicated than I ever could have imagined. I read the book, which weaves Marshall’s story — quest, really — with the author’s own quests. I love Allred’s humorous account of how she and Marshall met.

The book is called Swingman: What a Difference a Decade Makes. Just last night I got a link to a video clip that filmmaker Mark Birnbaum posted on Oprah’s website, apparently to be considered for inclusion on a future broadcast. Watch it here. 09-2013: Sorry, the link is no longer live.

My understanding is that lots of views and comments will increase the chances of Marshall getting on the air, which would be great. BUT if you want to comment, please read the Terms of Use first. Either way, enjoy the excerpt!

Thanks for reading!

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
This entry was posted in Everybody Has a Story, Thoughts on Two Wheels. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Riding With Marshall

  1. Marshall E Allen says:

    Hey Jan,
    I was trying to think of a suitable way to thank you for doing something so nice. As you know from my presentation at the writing club, I wanted to write a book to help other young men who might be having difficulties. Having said that:
    Someone like You Is Going to Save Someone like Me or Someone They Love from a Great Deal of Heartache.
    thank you


    • Jan says:

      Hi, Marshall! A short post could hardly do your story justice, but thank you for your warm response. You are undoubtedly mentoring many more people than you know.


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