Posts Tagged ‘Childhood Injuries: A Retrospective’

Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.

I think.

Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are, all combined into one glorious blog. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy . . .

RUN OVER BY A TRUCK

Yep. This happened.

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines. The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

THE HOLEY TONGUE

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.

Too specific? Never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anywho, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

THE FRIED HAND

When I was really young, around three-years old, I was at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They had a woodstove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I know realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.

I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).

Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.

Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.

Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.

Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:

“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”

God, that’s just too perfect.

FIRECRACKERS & CLOTHESLINES

That title sounds like a Strawberry Alarm Clock album from the 60’s. Anyway . . .

When I was 16 or 17 I hung around a lot at my sister’s house. She was young and hadn’t been married long, so for a teenager that was the place to go, ya know?

Anywho, one summer night a buddy and I were hanging out there, probably looking for trouble and up to no good. Somehow we got hold of some fireworks and decided to have some fun. First, we went out back and shot bottle rockets at each other, always a guaranteed good time. After a bit, disappointed that nobody was maimed or anyone’s eye was put out, we headed down to the creek to throw M-80s into the water. Lemme tell ya, watching underwater explosions was pure entertainment for a southern Ohio kid in 1973. Probably still is. The fish probably didn’t think so, but hey.

That amused us for awhile, until we began throwing the M-80s at each other, because of course we did. If you don’t know, M-80s are deadly and banned in many parts of the good old USA, basically because they are deadly in the hands of moronic people such as I. How my brother-in-law had possession of these I do not know, but let’s just say he knew a guy. Anyway, in the beginning we at least had the good sense to throw them at each other’s feet, because anyone can spare a toe or two, right?

But of course that didn’t last.

Because at one point I see a lit M-80 coming straight for my face. I instinctively threw my hands up, and as luck would have it the M-80 blew right as it hit my hand.

Good God it hurt. I was certain I’d lost some fingers or worse, but I couldn’t tell because A) It was dark, and B) I couldn’t feel my hand.

The only thing I could do was run to my sister’s house in a panic. I bolted through the darkness of the backyard with my eyes on the light over her backdoor. I was running as fast as I could, holding my hand as I went, certain I was minus some digits. All I wanted was to get to the house and examine the extent of my horrific injuries.

To reiterate – pitch dark, running full-speed through the backyard, focused on porch light. What more could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot – like being clotheslined by a clothesline.

Yep, the one that I forgot was there.

It caught me exactly at throat level, so my feet kept going but my head stayed where it was. I was upended feet first, flew through the air, and eventually landed on my back.

After lying there stunned for a few minutes I got up and staggered into the house and into the bathroom to check out the damages. Turns out my throat had a rope burn across it and looked as if I’d attempted suicide by slitting my throat with a butter knife. Oh, and my back felt as if a railroad spike had been hammered into it.

But on a positive note, I still had all my fingers, and after a couple hours I could actually feel them.

You know, in retrospect I really should have been more cautious as a kid.

Nah, that wouldn’t have been any fun.

HAMMER TIME!

I was in my late teens when this little gem occurred. It was summer and my dad had ordered me to do some work on the gutters of our house. The gutters were loose in places, so I was basically moving a ladder around the house and hammering in those long nails that hold them up where they needed it.

After working about halfway around the house, I decided I needed to take a break and grab a glass of water. I hung the hammer on one of the rungs of the ladder and climbed down.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It was when I returned to my job that I made what could have been a fatal error in judgment. For some reason (quite possibly because I was an ignoramus) I decided that, as long as I was on the ground, I may as well move the ladder down a few feet. So, I grabbed the ladder and started to move it, and an instant later the world went black.

I think I may have had a brief instant where I thought I’d been attacked from behind with a sledgehammer, but that thought disappeared along with my consciousness.

When I awoke in the grass a few minutes (seconds?) later, all I knew for sure was that I had a massive headache and a knot on my head the size of Verne Troyer’s skull.*

*Search it up on The Goggle.

I looked around, half expecting to see a gang of hoodlums that had inexplicably wandered into Bourneville, Ohio to steal my brand new Stanley Curved Claw Wood Handle Nailing Hammer, except the hammer was right there in the grass beside me.

Wait.

Oh, crap.

I’d forgotten the hammer was lurking at the top, hanging on a ladder rung, waiting to come hurtling down from above the minute I moved the ladder and kill me on impact.

I have no idea how my skull wasn’t crushed. I mean, a hammer falling from 12-feet onto your head? Seriously?

I swear I didn’t even put ice on it. I didn’t even know what being concussed meant back then. I just rubbed it, checked for blood (there was none), and went back to working on the gutters. Hell, if I’d told dad I’d have been rebuked for being stupid, which incidentally would have been 100% correct.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. I have no idea how I’m still alive.

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES, GRANDPA STYLE

My Grandpa Shoemaker was about the toughest old bird you could ever meet. He was once a blacksmith, and a piece of molten iron had broken off and lodged under the skin of his arm decades before I was born. It was never removed, and when I was a little kid he used to let me move it around under his skin. It was weird, you could actually move it up and down his forearm.

Anyway, tough cat my grandpa. He also had hands like vice grips, and when he grabbed you there was no getting away. That said, he was one of the kindest, most gentle men I’ve ever known. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my fondest memories are of when I used to accompany him when he ran his trotlines in Paint Creek. I used to love to listen to him, because he was so wise and his stories were so fascinating to me.

But on to the point of this story. When I was 15 or 16 I went down to his house for one reason or the other. We were sitting on his front porch side-by-side, just talking. At one point he noticed me rubbing the back of my left hand and asked if something was wrong. I told him that a cyst had developed and it was bothering me. It didn’t really hurt but it was about the size of a big marble and was annoying as hell.

I told Grandpa I was going to have it removed soon because it was bothering me, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. After all, this was a guy who’d had a piece of iron in his arm since 1913.

He then asked how I was going to do that, and I began explaining that it was a minor operation, that they’d just numb my hand and . . .

T-H-H-W-W-A-A-C-K!

Next thing I knew my hand felt like it had been hammered by the heel of a work boot, which is fitting because that’s exactly what had happened. When I wasn’t looking, Grandpa had taken it upon himself to save me some money. He’d slipped his work boot off and popped me a good one. Turns out that in the old days folks got rid of cysts by shattering the living hell out of them, country style.

And you know what? Although it hurt like a sumbitch, it worked. I’d had that cyst for years but after that moment it never came back. I don’t know if he broke it into bits or slammed it so far into my hand you couldn’t see it, but it was gone forever.

Sure, I couldn’t feel my hand for 3-4 hours, but you gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.

Hell, I’m just thankful there wasn’t a hammer nearby at the time.

HOOKED IN THE JAW

When I was a kid my grandfather, my father and I used to go to ponds all over the area to fish. Grandpa Shoemaker used to have trotlines up and down Paint Creek and we’d fish for bait to put on them. If you don’t know, trotlines were fishing lines that were stretched across the creek, attached at both ends to trees or something on the bank. You had bait attached every few feet to the line and it had to be checked once or twice a day to see what you’d caught. Some of my greatest memories are of my grandfather and I checking his trotlines in his row boat.

Sometimes he’d even let me row! Wonderful memories.

Anyway, back to the ponds. Dad was fishing and I was beside him. At some point I had to get a worm to re-bait my hook and was walking behind dad. That’s when he decided to cast his line, either because he didn’t see me or because he was trying to teach me a lesson. I’d say it’s about 50-50 either way.

Next thing I knew I felt the fishing line sort of wrap around my neck and hook just under my jawline. That in itself was painful enough, but before I could scream dad whipped the line back out toward the water while the hook was still lodged in my jaw.

Trust me, then I screamed.

The hook stayed imbedded even after the jerk, it just became more deeply enlodged in my jaw.

Yeah, that’s never good.

After briefly showing annoyance for my rude interrupting of his cast, dad came back and began his attempt at hook removal. As you know, those things are made to go in easy. Coming out is another story, hence the little thing called a barb on the end.

After much pulling and twisting, Dad and Grandpa finally dislodged the offending hook. I’m telling you, that may have been the worst 5-minutes of my life. Not only that, after the hook was out dad splashed some pond water on it to clean it up. Not the preferred method of wound-cleaning I’m sure. Still, I nevertheless avoided a life-threatening blue gill infection when all was said and done.

Was I rushed to the ER? Nah. Did I get chastised for being stupid and walking behind a man who was casting a fishing line? Of course I did.

And did I ever do it again? No way.

BLINDED BY HENDRIX

Almost.

One day back in the idiocy of my youth, my friend Billy and I made the awesome decision to have a 45-record war. For those of you who don’t know what a 45-record was, it was a little record that had music on it. You played it on a turntable, which was a . . . ah, screw it. Search it up on The Goggle.

The point is we built these little forts out of couch cushions and started whipping these little records at each other, which was like throwing Frisbees except they were thinner with much sharper edges. After a bit I peeked over a cushion and caught a 45 right over my left eye. I seem to remember it was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. It cut a nasty slice about a quarter inch long right through my left eyebrow, and I proceeded to bleed like a stuck pig.*

*I have no idea if a stuck pig bleeds more than a stuck rabbit or stuck marmoset, but folks seem to stick pigs for some reason.

I was afraid to tell mom because I knew I’d get in trouble for being a jackass (there was some precedent for this), so I stuck a rag on it until it stopped, then found my oldest sister and asked for her help. After being initially aghast at the injury, she poured some mercurochrome** on it, followed by a big band-aid.

**For you youngsters out there, mercurochrome was once used as a cure-all by mothers far and wide for injuries ranging from small cuts to severe head trauma. A few drops of mercurochrome could supposedly cure a shotgun blast to the chest. Unfortunately, in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that mercurochrome was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. Sad, really.

Anyway, had the Hendrix record been an inch lower I’d have undoubtedly lost an eyeball, which is hardly ever a good thing.

Long story short, to this day if I smooth down my eyebrow, there’s a little scar line where hair refuses to grow.

Thanks Billy!

Note: If any of my exes asks about the scar, I got it in a bar fight. Let’s keep this on the downlow.

JUST LIKE THE WESTERNS, BUT NOT REALLY

One time my buddy Ted (yeah, him again) and I found some old beer bottles in a ditch or somewhere. After checking to see if there was any booze left, we got the bright idea to pretend to be cowboys in a saloon fight. Hey, we’d seen the TV westerns where guys were just getting clobbered left and right with bottles that would shatter upon impact. We flipped a coin, and Ted got to go first.

We pretended to fight, then I saw Ted rear back to let me have it. I saw the bottle coming . . . and then everything went black.

Turns out those bottles on TV aren’t real, and it takes a lot of force to actually break a beer bottle over a human’s head, at least in 1967. Hence, the bottle remained intact and I went down like a sack of lug nuts.

At least Ted tried to help. What did he do, you ask? The same thing he saw cowboys do on TV – he ran to the garage, got a bucket, filled it with water and threw it in my face.

Turns out that actually works.

Anywho, I sat up, shook it off, and got on with my life. And we were smart enough not to try it again on Ted, so perhaps we did have a few brain cells in our craniums.

Nah. Probably not.

CROQUET BALL KO

This one also took place at Uncle Myrl’s and Aunt Dorothy’s. One summer day I was up there and we went outside to play some baseball. The problem was, we couldn’t find a baseball. I believe it was cousin Kevin who grabbed a croquet ball from somewhere. We’d been playing awhile, I was pitching, when cousin Mick sent a screaming line drive right back at me. I didn’t get my glove up in time and the croquet ball caught me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold.

And what was the reaction of my loving cousins? They all ran back into the house.

I have no idea how long I was out, but I do remember getting up and staggering back into the house with a goose egg on my head the size of an orange. Incredibly (in retrospect), everyone was casually sitting around watching TV.

Me: “What the hell? Thanks for nothing.

Mick: “Hey, look. He’s alive!”

Kevin, pointing to my head: “Better get some ice on that.”

True story.

THE SLICED FOOT

Once, when I was about 5 or 6 my parents and I were sitting on the front porch and Dad told me to run around the house to see how fast I could go. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious he was just trying to get rid of me for a little bit, but that’s neither here nor there. Any, I was barefoot as usual and when I made it back around and stood there panting, he sort of looked down, pointed, and calmly stated this:

“Hey, looks like you cut your foot there.”

I looked down, and sure enough there was a 3-inch slice of meat hanging off my instep like you would not dream. Blood everywhere too, I might add. But hey, no biggie. Mom just slapped some Mecuricome* on it, added a band-aid or six and I was ready to rock and roll.

*Again, for you younger folk out there, Mecuricome was a wonder antiseptic that was used to prevent and cure all sorts of maladies. And yes, it had mercury in it. I recall it was red and it stung like a mofo. Sadly it was discontinued years ago. Something about causing cancer or some such nonsense. On a related note, I bet mom still has a bottle stashed somewhere.

PS- I’m also 90% sure I broke a kneecap that went untreated when I wrecked my bike as a kid. How do I know this? Because when I get down on that knee today if feels as if I’m kneeling on a live power line. Somehow, I soldier on.

THE BICYCLE WAGON TRAIN WAS A BAD IDEA

I have no idea who first came up with the idea, but if I had to bet I’d say it was Max. All the ideas that got us into trouble seemed to originate with him.

All I know is that it was a bad idea, we were idiots to think we could pull it off, and it could have killed somebody. But let’s start at the beginning . . .

It was the summer of my, oh, let’s say 11th year. I’m guessing because I don’t remember exactly when the incident took place, and that may have something to do with what happened that day.

Because you know, concussions and traumatic events can do that to a kid’s brain.

Anyway, myself and six of my friends were sitting in my dad’s garage, probably discussing Raquel Welch’s breasts or the decline of Willie Mays or something. We were all either sitting on or near our bikes, which were obviously our main forms of transportation back then. As I recall, the bikes ranged from my spiffy little Schwinn with the butterfly handlebars and funky sissy bar to my buddy Scratch’s 1954 era Columbia which his dad had passed down to him. Aside from Scratch and I, the other conspirators involved that fateful day were Mel, Max, Rocky, Ted and Fred. Max, you may remember, was the kid behind the infamous episode in which we almost lost our buddy Harold.

Best to keep that in mind as we continue.

Note: Scratch’s name has an interesting origin. You see, his name was Richard so we originally called him Rich, which we eventually shortened to Itch. However, Itch’s mom hated the name and asked us to stop calling him Itch. Hence the name Scratch. Kids can be cruel.

At some point the TV show Wagon Train came up. For some reason, when I was a kid there were a lot of Westerns on television. I think I’ve seen every episode of The Rifleman (stellar), Gunsmoke (legendary), Bat Masterson (I can still sing the theme song in its entirety), The Big Valley (Audra? Smokin’ hot), Bonanza (loved Hoss), and my personal favorite, Sky King. Sky King was about a cowboy who flew an airplane. Really.
But back to Wagon Train. Talking about the TV show somehow brought us around to actual wagon trains, and this led to somebody suggesting we form our own wagon train.

With our bicycles.

Trust me, at the time, in our strange little still-unfully formed brains, this seemed like a good idea. And then, for some unknown reason, somebody suggested we attach our bikes with ropes. Now that I think about it, in real wagon trains the wagons weren’t attached by anything so I don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

But like I said, unformed brains.

At that point we were amped for the idea though, and there was no stopping us. Wagon Train! Let’s do this! So we rummaged around my garage and came up with a collection of rope, wire, clothesline, an old bike inner tube, and a three-foot length of chain. Somehow, we attached our bikes together. I distinctly recall tying one end of a clothesline around my bike seat post and the other end around the handlebars of Fred’s old beat-up Huffy Cruiser.

Note II: Fred, by the way, was a man ahead of his time. He would later become known as the first guy who dyed his hair at our school. Yep, he changed his hair color at the age of 16. And he changed that color to green. Gutsy move in any era.

Soon we were finished and ready to roll. For some reason yours truly was in the lead, followed by Fred, Scratch, Max, Mel, Rocky, and finally Ted. After some initial struggles we actually made it out of the driveway and up the street a bit, albeit with some herky-jerky movements along the way.

By the way, nobody, and I mean nobody, wore a helmet back then. If somebody would’ve shown up wearing one he would’ve been harassed, shamed, laughed at, teased, spat upon and possibly beaten to a pulp for being a pansy. Hell, I once put one of those tall safety flags on the back of my bike and my friend Ted ended up taking it off and whipping me with it. Bourneville was a tough neighborhood back in the day.

We finally made it to the top of the hill in front of the old Twin School, and then we stopped to regroup before heading down the hill towards Route 50. It seemed the prudent thing to do. Regroup, that is.

Did I mention we were about to head down a hill?

At this point I remember raising my hand and giving the signal to move forward, then actually yelling, “Wagons, HO!”

Seriously. I yelled, “Wagons, HO!”

After a couple of false starts we began our descent, and all was well as we started down the hill. Believe it or not we started to gain a sort of chemistry, becoming a finely-tuned working unit if you will. We were pedaling in unison and gaining speed. In fact, we were rolling so fast I started to contemplate other things, the first and foremost being how in the hell are we going to stop?

As it turned out, however, stopping at the bottom of the hill wasn’t going to figure into the equation. This is because right about then, to my horror, I heard Max yell this:

“I wonder what would happen if I hit my brakes?”

All I got out was “Don’t do it M . . .” before, well, Max did it.

So picture 7-bikes, all tied together, going down a hill really fast, and the guy on the bike right in the middle slams on his breaks.

Carnage.

The three guys in front of Max (me, Fred and Scratch) all went right over our handlebars, headfirst. I actually held on to mine for a second, which caused me to flip completely over and land on the road, on my back. Miraculously though, other than the blacktop burn on my ass I was unscathed.

You know, until .3 seconds later when Fred landed on me, and .1 seconds after that when Scratch landed on Fred.

Yep, that’ll knock the breath right out of you, trust me.

As for the rest of the guys, Mel, Rocky and Ted all crashed into Max of course, flipping his bike head-over-heels and into the three now-unmanned bikes in front of them. Oh, and Mel had teeth marks in his back, and from whence they came was never established.

Like I said, carnage.

When all was said and done we were a pile of skinned knees, flat tires, bent rims, banana seats, handlebars, bike fenders and crushed souls.

But as was our way back then we got up, checked for damages, wiped off our scraped knees, dusted ourselves off and pushed or carried our damaged bikes back home. Nobody cried or yelled for mommy, just a lot of wiping off blood and checking for protruding bones. And we were laughing all the way.

After all, we had a memory we could talk about for years to come, even all the way up to January of 2018, almost 51-years later.

Just another beautiful day in downtown Bourneville, Ohio, circa 1967.

Good times for sure, if you could live through it.

GRUNGY’S REVENGE

Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him. I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.