The other day I was talking to a friend from high school. After hanging up the phone, I started to chuckle to myself. My wife heard me and said, “What’s so funny?” I told her, “I was just thinking about all the stupid things I used to do with that guy when we were in high school. We used to borrow his dad’s “shag van” and pack about 15 kids in it, then drive out to the country and jump the van off steep dirt roads. We’d all bust out laughing as our heads hit the roof of the van. Then it would come crashing down hard onto the shocks and bounce us again. I can’t believe we did that. We could have crashed his dad’s van and been hurt badly.”
My wife just gave me “the look” as I shot back to her, “Oh, like you were a little princess and never did anything wrong.” Trust me, I’ve heard some family stories, but for the purpose of this article and the well-being of my marriage, I’ll keep this article about me.
After 23 years of marriage, my wife has probably heard most of the stories by now. Okay, just to be clear I tried to be a good kid and not get into trouble, but kids will be kids and sometimes you have to try something out, just to see what happens.
Like the time my neighborhood friends and I decided to have a bottle rocket war at Manor Hill elementary school tennis courts. The city was in the middle of building the tennis courts at the time, so the nets hadn’t been installed yet. There were two courts, side-by-side. The concrete had been freshly poured and the exterior fence was already installed. There were four of us so we decided that each of us would defend our own corner of the fenceline. We waited until dark, counted down from ten, then the mayhem began! Well sort of.
Scott decided to cheat and fired off his first bottle rocket at the count of two, so as I’m looking down to light my first bottle rocket, I see a streak of light wiz by my head and burst into a shower of sparks as it hit the chain link fence just to the right of me. We had enough bottle rockets to last what seemed like an hour, but looking back we were lucky no one got seriously hurt. Scott did take a direct hit in the chest from one of them and it left a wicked smoke burn on his shirt. We all had a few near misses and Steve said his ears were ringing after one of them blew up right beside him, but that was about the worst of it.
Another famous childhood story is the time I went over a waterfall in front of all my friends. Well, technically it was the spillway on the backside of the dam at Lake Jacomo. We were all messing around and I decided it would be cool to sit down at the top of the water spillway and “ride the water” to the edge. “The edge” was a 12-foot drop (in my mind today it is something closer to Niagra Falls) from the concrete slab of the spillway to the rocks below. The water wasn’t moving that fast and was only about nine inches deep. I knew I could just stand up when I got to the edge and walk back to the side. What I didn’t anticipate was the fact that heavy, slick moss had grown onto that concrete slab under the water.
As I neared the edge of the slab, I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t get my hands and feet on a secure spot under me. The moss was very slick and there was nothing to grab onto. I remember digging my fingernails into the concrete as best as I could, but the water pushed me faster and faster. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe this. It’s only a few inches of water. Why can’t I stand up?” I knew there were large boulders below and I was panicking. As I got to the edge of the falls, I pushed off as hard as I could in an attempt to miss the large rocks below and land into a large pool of deep water. I heard two of the girls scream and that’s the last thing I remember.
From what I was told afterward, I’d landed feet first onto one of those large boulders, then bounced off it headfirst into the water. I must have hit my head on a large rock because I was unconscious at that point and my head was bleeding. I surfaced, face down in the stream of water. A guy that had been fishing down below the falls, ran into the water and pulled me to the side. As I woke up, I remember the girls crying and my head hurt badly. I tried to sit up, but the fisherman pushed me back down and said, “Stay still, we’ve called an ambulance.” By the time my mother showed up at the hospital, I’d almost wished I was dead. I knew she would be mad. To my surprise though, she was just happy I was okay.
Well, that’s a few stories of my childhood stupidity. Trust me, there are many more, some that I dare not share publicly. Care to share any of yours?