Saturday, January 3, 2015
Slip-slidin' Away ...
Today, as I inched my way home on the sidewalks from the coffee shop (freezing rain), I thought of an earlier slippery experience ... about sixty years ago.
In Oklahoma, where I don't remember many big snowstorms in my boyhood (I didn't know what a Snow Day was until we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in Aug. 1956), we lived on a bit of a hill during our few years at 1706 East Elm Ave. And one winter's day ...
We had an ice storm. It must have been on a weekend--or over the Christmas holidays--because I was home for some reason (I was, oh, 10-ish), and the ice, I thought, was awesome (though that word--used in this way--was unknown in 1954ish). I could see out our front window that cars could not make it up "our" hill. That was awesome in itself.
But ... I also had a new sled. So ...
Outside, my little brother and I trekked to the top of "our" hill (on the grass--it was far too slippery to venture into the street), where I resolved to ride that new sled--yes, a Flexible Flyer, as I recall--or, perhaps more likely, its Sears equivalent. My folks loved Sears--and I loved paging through the fat catalogs looking at things I would never have. (The Flyer, says Wikipedia, was patented in 1889.)
Anyway, to the top of the hill we went. I don't recall any specific conversation between Davi and me (he would have been 6ish), but there surely was some. Probably some bold words from me. I'm not sure as I write this why Davi was with me. Did I need a witness? Later, when I bragged about my exploit to my fellow fifth graders, I would have wanted some proof of it. Some of my friends were beginning to doubt me since I'd recently bragged that I was a relative of Daniel Boone (the "Daniel" part, you know?) and that Annette Funnicello was my pen pal. I'd also claimed that a scar on my knee (a fall on my bike) was actually the result of nearly having my leg cut off one time in the woods.
Anyway, I crept out into the street at the top of the hill, plopped the Flyer down, flopped myself on it, and off I went.
From the very first seconds I knew I had absolutely no control over the sled. I turned the steering handles frantically toward the curb (for I knew I was in trouble immediately), but I might has well have commanded our dog, Sooner, to sing "Hound Dog."
I was inflexibly flying down that hill and was praying some car would not appear to crush me. One did. Sort of. Near the bottom was a car parked at the curb on my right. Seeing it, I jerked the steering bar to the left, but, of course, nothing happened except the sound of what might have been a wee laugh from Mother Nature.
I was headed straight for that parked car, and there was nothing I could do except hope I would flexibly fly right underneath and out to Safety on the other side.
I went directly under the car, where some under-the-car device or another met my head and stopped me. Cold.
I could hear brother Davi coming down the hill (wisely, on the grass) crying out in wonder at what his older brother had just done. He didn't say Awesome!--but it was a 1954 synonym, as I recall.
I was bleeding from my head. (Red ice--not a good sight.)
I struggled out from under the car, struggled up to our door, found my mother, who found the Merthiolate and Band-Aids, who asked, "What did you do?"
That never worked with Mom. A fuller explanation followed, which itself was followed by a "discussion" of my "decision-making skills." Which in 1954 were questionable at best--and not much has improved.
I mean, today I knew there was freezing rain, but out I went anyway, not with a Flexible Flyer but with a vision of myself at my little table, reading my book, taking my notes, knowing that at my age (70) and in my condition (thinning bones) a fall on the ice could be catastrophic.
But, remember, I am a relative of Daniel Boone, a pen pal of Annette Funnicello, a survivor of a serious almost-cut-my-leg-off injury in the woods. So nothing deters intrepid me!