Thursday, February 24, 2011

Look, Ma, No Hands!

At age 11, I wanted a gun. Real bad. I knew a real gun was out of the question with the folks. However, I felt I was ready to move up from the sidearm I was packing at the time which was a little green squirt gun. I weighed the possibilities and settled on a BB gun. My folks were struggling financially so I could see it was all up to me if I was going to get an upgrade. Thumbing through a Boy’s Life magazine one day, I saw an ad informing me that I could gain ownership of a BB gun if I would just sell some Christmas cards. 

What a deal! I ordered their sample pack and waited. Eventually I got the sample cards and order forms. I headed out on my bicycle cruising dusty gravel roads on a hot August day to remind my neighbors that Christmas was just around the corner. My neighbors were broke, few and far between but most were kind enough to listen to my spiel and a few even placed orders. 

      I ended up about 4 miles from home and made my last sale. I turned around and headed back. Besides being an excellent shot with my squirt gun, I had also honed my skills as a bicyclist. As I pedaled home, I found it easier to ride with no hands since I was not only packing my squirt gun (to provide for protection against anyone after my Christmas card monies) but also sales boxes, sample Christmas Cards and order forms. 

Having both hands and arms available to carry everything was helpful and doable since I considered myself a master at riding with no hands on deck.  Soon I was rolling with no-hands down a steep hill on a gravel road with my display items wrapped in both arms.  

Another “no hands on the handlebars” benefit that soon manifested itself was two girls a little younger than I,  who were watching me race down the gravel slope. They were standing at the end of their driveway at the edge of the road, halfway down the hill. I recognized that this was a perfect opportunity to show these young female acquaintances what a great bike rider I was along with my important position as a salesman, complete with all the sales tools I had in my arms. 

I was insane. Instead of putting one of my upper extremities back on the handlebars and conservatively and safely coasting down the grade, I threw caution out the window and reveled in the thought that I would really impress these blonds. I started pedaling as fast as I could. Even though it was a one-speed Schwinn, I had it cranked up to a good 25 mph, faster than any human has ever ran. Whizzing by the girls, I basked in the proud thought that they had probably never seen anyone ride down this hill at this speed, especially in the no-hands mode!

Just like me (without the Christmas cards and blonds)

 All of a sudden, the handlebars started shaking. As soon as the handlebars began their dance, I got a strong premonition that the next few minutes were going to be very painful. 

My mind quickly lost all the warm and fuzzy thoughts of the female adoration I had just been enjoying and began focusing on just trying to stay alive. I couldn’t do anything about the bike's theatrics as my hands were wrapped around the boxes of cards instead of the handlebars. The shaking got worse and in a few seconds, the front wheel made a 90-degree turn on its own which made for a very effective brake. The bikes' front tire dug a rut in the gravel for about 4 inches and then stopped. My cards and I reached the ejection stage right at that point and shot headfirst over the bike. 

On our way over, my left thigh hit the handlebar. I bent the steel bar and continued flying downhill on final approach until I touched down on all four landing gear, well, more like crashed on my hands and knees. I didn’t immediately stop but continued skidding down the hill with skin grinding on gravel before I slid to a halt. All four contact points were scraped and full of dirt and sharp little rocks. Blood was flowing and my thigh was killing me. I wanted to lie down on the hot, sun-baked road and die. 

Instead, the girls were watching so I had to do the manly thing. I postponed crying for my mommy and compensated by moaning and groaning under my breath. I got to my feet and hobbled around gathering up my Christmas samples. I clutched them to my thumping chest with one hand, caught a glance of the girls who were enthralled by my spectacle, and crawled on the bike to continue the trip home. 

              It was murder. I couldn't help but whimper. My left leg didn’t work. I had to push down on the right pedal with my good leg, hook my foot under the bottom of the pedal and pull it back up. This was how I covered the remaining 4 miles home on that hot, pain-filled day. I could only hold on to the handlebar with one bloody hand which cut my leverage/ power ratio significantly. My thigh had done a number on my handlebar, it was noticeably bent. I moaned every foot of the way. 

              I realized then that sales work is harder than it looks.

            My mom took me to the doctor the next day. He said I was not to do any exercises or running for a few months. I had a big blood clot on the thigh and he said it would calcify and leave a big, hard bump if I exercised that leg. A few years later, I would do even more major damage to that same thigh and femur, also while riding a bike. The injuries weren't related but the brilliant thinking was.

Call me if you need Christmas cards. I'll bike right over for the order.

            I did sell enough Christmas cards that I won a BB gun. One night I stayed over at my friend Scot’s place. We were bored so we went outside after dark and decided to have a BB gun fight. We were not thinking straight that night. 

We hid behind farm equipment in his dad’s yard and started shooting. This was long before paintball games and we wore no protective equipment. The BB’s were plinking and whizzing all around us. Periodically, one of us would score a direct hit and the other would scream in pain. It’s a wonder that an eye didn’t get put out. 
            Another night a few years later found us hiking down and setting up camp at the WA State Fish Hatchery at Ringold by the Columbia River. The next morning we grabbed our poles and walked over to the large hatchery pond. We threw our lines out and hundreds of fish started fighting over who could swallow our hooks first. We pulled fish out at will. 
            This fun frenzy went on for a few minutes until we heard a vehicle coming. We started running for cover but realized we were caught red-handed. The local game warden was patrolling in his pickup and watched us as we loped off the pond bank. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t have his fish hooked and swinging at the end of both our lines.    
             Amazingly, he let us go. He must have known we were local boys and a few missing fish weren’t going to hurt the hatchery output. These days, I’m sure we would have been charged with numerous state and federal felony offenses.  Our poles would have been confiscated and we would probably have been sent to Guantanamo Bay. It’s a given that we would not have enjoyed fish for lunch like we did back then. I can't remember if the game warden ate with us or not.
             Another evening after school when we were in 5th or 6th grade, one of my buddies asked if he could hold my BB gun. I gave it to him, he cocked it, aimed it back at me and told me to stand up against the back of my dad’s shed. He said he was going to shoot me if I didn’t. I did as instructed and yet several times he shot me, quickly recocking and forcing me to stay where I was. He thought it was great fun, holding me at bay and aiming at my zipper. It was a miserable experience, getting shot with my own gun, bought with the hard labor of Christmas card sales, especially if you throw in the bike wreck.

Like this story? Check out all the rest, especially the funniest post listed up on the header. Bookmark this site and come back an visit or become a Follower! Thanks.


No comments: