Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trampoline Adventures

There are certain stories that I tell that I know people don't believe. You can see it in their eyes and their half smiles. I am sure those people's thoughts range from a polite "It's funny what tricks the memory can play." to a point blank "He's a liar!" However, unbelievable as they may seem they are true. In most cases there are a host of witnesses that saw it all happen that can support the facts. So, as I unfold this first story I ask you to have a little faith. It is a little outlandish, but truth is stranger than fiction.

My Nana wanted a sower curtain. That's really how it all began. The little trailer her and Papa lived in had shower doors rather than a curtain. Personally I always liked the doors better, but to each his own I suppose. I had wandered across the street to Nana and Papa's just as Papa had finished removing the old doors. I was six or seven years old at the time and I looked at everything from the "could this be a toy?" point of view. I decided that I could make use of the doors and I asked Papa if I could have all three. He told me that I could and a few minutes later they were all in my back yard.

These doors were plastic and aluminum. I am sure they weren't considered the highest quality doors in the world, but they were very light. I had no trouble in lifting them and could have pretended they were giant shields or some such mundane thing. However, I had other plans. They had a crossbar that you used as a handle to open and close them when they were shower doors. If you grabbed one by the handle and held it up over your head you could just imagine using one as a glider.

At least, I could imagine it. I have always been obsessed with flying. Anytime during my childhood when I thought I had something that might fly I would try it. Dad actually built us a hang glider years later, but that is another story. These doors struck me as ready made gliders. All we had to do was get them off the ground. That was the real trick, however. We didn't have a hill with a steep enough drop off to get any height and we certainly couldn't jump high enough to make flying possible.

Well, we couldn't jump that high unaided. After a few minutes consideration I decided that we could get high enough if we used the trampoline. To start with it was around three or four feet up and needless to say it was sheer drop from the edge to the ground. That alone was a good beginning. When that was added to the fact that I could bounce about six feet on it the trampoline became an obvious way to launch these gliders.

Jim, Joshua and I took the idea and began to put it into practice. We would bounce as high as we could while holding the edge of the “glider” down. Obviously, you couldn't bounce very well while trying to hold a glider up above your head. When we hit the high point of the bounce we would flip the shower door up and try our best to fly.

We now come to the point of the story that some of you may find hard to believe. After just a few tries we developed a technique. We could bounce as high as we could and throw the glider up and actually catch air and fly. Now, I admit that we didn't go far. We started our flights at maybe the ten foot mark and we glided slowly to the ground covering maybe fifteen feet of distance. At that point we ran into the chain link fence that ran around our back yard.

Mom and Dad had put the fence up so that Josh and I could play without Mom having to watch us every second. It was your standard five foot job chain link deal. They didn't feel like barbed wire around the top was necessary, but they might have been wrong. In any event, this was the obstacle that cut our flights short.

We were enjoying our brief flights, while at the same time lamenting the fact that we couldn't get those few extra feet when Marcus Stevenson happened to see what we were doing. Marcus was one of the older kids in the neighborhood. We was four years older that Jim and I. He was tall for his age and a knot of muscle wrapped around a few low diameter bones. He was light weight, but still very strong.

After watching us for a few moments he decided to speak:

“So, you guys aren't very good at that.” He said as he watched us.

“Well, we're doing what we can. We're flying anyway!” I replied.

“You ought to fly over the fence.”

“We can't.”

“I could.”

“Then do it.”

Marcus would try almost anything and he certainly didn't let challenges go by unanswered. After our little exchange he walked around the fence and into the back yard. We gave him one of the shower doors and he began to bounce.

He could bounce much higher than we could both because he was heavier and because he was stronger than we were. In fact I wasn't sure the doors would hold his weight, but he wanted to try. Higher and higher he went and then he threw his shower door up and began to fly. I remember being surprised to see him gliding along holding a shower door above his head. Of course, I think that sight would surprise most people.

I was very young and so parts of this story are a bit fuzzy. I don't remember how many test flights Marcus took before he decided to make his play for the fence, but I can see that last flight in my mind even now. He bounced higher than he had during all his short glides and then threw his mighty glider up at the peek of his bounce. I can still see him in my minds eye heading for the top of the fence slowly getting lower and lower.

I was trying to decide if he could make it. I was sure that he couldn't, his legs were just to low. Then, right before he hit the fence he jerked his entire body up into a ball. His legs flew over the top. I couldn't believe it, he was going to make it! Well, that's what I thought for a split second. As it happened he didn't quiet get over the fence. The bottom of his pants caught the top of the fence and he had accidentally flown to close to a tree that grew on the other side.

As soon as his pants caught he knew he was going to fall. He immediately let go of the shower door and actually managed to grab on to the tree before he fell. So, there he was with his butt stuck to the top of a fence hanging by his arms out of a tree. We burst out laughing as he hung there twisting his rear end trying to get the fabric to break free.

During this time Marcus's older brother Terry had walked down to our house. He stood there looking at Marcus stretched out at full length hanging from his arms and butt and laughed for a while. After much begging Marcus convinced Terry to get him out of the tree. Terry reached up and plucked Marcus down like a ripe fruit. (Terry was another of the huge kids in town and much older than me.)

That was the end for the shower doors really. We continued to play with them. However, we never managed to achieve anything like that again. Marcus had done what you could do with them. Now, I feel certain many of you are thinking “No way!”, but that is, in fact, just how it happened. Life's like that sometimes, it does unbelievable things.

Even though the shower doors were put down shortly after that it wasn't the end of our trampoline adventures. One thing many young boys love is danger. They love to feel that they could be mortally wounded at any time by the great risks they're undertaking. It's one of the things that makes adventures adventurous. I explain this so that you can understand our motives for doing what we did next.

Dad had bought us a set of monkey bars while we still lived down in Moncks Corner. It was a dome made out of a number of interconnecting pipes. Each of these light metal pipes was flattened on each end. These flat ends were bolted together to connect the pipes and make a dome. Now, Dad had taken the monkey bards down and brought them with us when we moved. However, he never got around to putting them back together again. So, one of the things we had around the backyard was a pile of metal pipes flattened on each end. (This is important to keep in mind.)

Joshua, Jim and I, along with other kids in the neighborhood loved to trampoline fight. We would get on and bounce around kicking and hitting each other trying to knock on another off of the trampoline and out into the yard. It was a game we loved. One day we decided that it would be more fun if there was a real chance that the looser would really get hurt. We talked about how we could do this and once we decided we started working away. We had decided to make the “Trampoline of Death!”.

A little while later Mom came out and found us fighting on the trampoline. It had been surrounded by pipes driven several inches into the ground with their flattened edges sticking strait up. The ground around the trampoline looked like the back of a metal hedgehog.

“Stop right now! What is this!” She screamed as soon as she saw what we were doing.

“It's the trampoline of death....” I replied.

“What on earth possessed you to do this!?!”

“We were trying to make it more exciting!”

“It could kill one of you!”

“Yea, that's why it's exciting.”

Needless to say that didn't pacify Mom. She was as furious as any loving mother would have been. The next little while was filled with us pulling up pipes while being yelled at. Thank the Lord no one actually had to get hurt for us to learn our lesson. Having thought about how dangerous it actually was we repented and decided not to be that fool hardy again.

That's not to give you the idea that no one ever got hurt on the trampoline. We still loved to fight and knock each other to the ground, but we were generally careful and most injuries were nothing more than scrapped knees. However, there was one exception that I feel I should include.

Jim's sister Summer had come over to the house to play with us. She was several years older than us and usually didn't bother playing with us “little boys”. On this particular day my cousin Chris was over at our house. That may explain why Summer was over there. In any event, they decided to play the trampoline fight game. As most of you remember young boys and girls often fight in order to flirt. Well, as I have mentioned in other stories, Chris was a colossus who didn't know his own strength. He had been bouncing Summer around like a rag doll and finally decided to give her the dreaded double bounce.

Some of you may not know what a double bounce is, so I'll explain it. When bouncing on a trampoline you extend the springs when you hit the mat. You then bend you legs and jump up just as the mat has thrown you as high as it can. To “double jump” someone you have to hit the mat right before them. You push the mat down so that when they hit the mat it goes even lower. Then you pull your legs up as quick as you can. The result will be that the trampoline hits them with all the elasticity of both “bounces”.

This is what Chris did to Summer. She was much lighter than him and shot into the air maybe twelve feet. It also threw her almost off the trampoline. Almost, but not quiet. She landed on her side of the edge of the trampoline. The edge of our trampoline was a rectangular steel bar. It was, at least, as solid as a rock. The results were simple. She was rushed to the hospital.

Chris was mortified. He had possibly broken a twelve year old girl's ribs and it was a girl he liked. That's what young love is like... It's dangerous... The long and short of it was that we were no longer allowed to trampoline fight. Well, not when any adult knew we were doing it. Summer lived through the ordeal and learned a little bit about life.

I was told that it had, in fact, broken one of her ribs, but I'm not certain that it's true. We were young enough that the terms “hurt” and “broken” were often interchangeable. I do remember that she didn't play with us again for weeks, but that could have been simply because she didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

We moved not long after that and Dad never put our trampoline back together at Lake Drive. I suppose he had learned his lesson. Jim's mother didn't learn the lesson, however, and a few years later she bought a trampoline. There are more stories that revolve around that particular mat, but I will leave those for another day. For the moment I feel I have shared enough of our trampoline adventures.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Dad: Mr Fix-it

I feel certain that at some point almost everyone's Dad tries to fix something that doesn't want to be fixed. However, my Dad could be the patron saint of that. Fritz Ethridge – Patron Saint Of Attempting To Fix The Unfixable. Something like that anyway. For those of you who have never heard any of these stories you can take a quick read over "Fritz Vs. Washing Machine" to get a clear idea.

I now unfold two tales concerning two machines that didn't want to be fixed. There are those who still hold to the old ideas that machines are just machines and that they don't have desires. They cling to the antiquated idea that machines are mindless servants and that the great mechanical revolution will never take place. I ask those readers, who may yet believe these peaceful delusions, to open their minds and eyes as they consider these tales. Not only is the great machine war inevitable, it began long ago and my Dad has always been willing to take up arms against the machines.

Time Period: Early Nineties
Location: Williston, SC, USA
Operative: Craftsman Lawn Tractor
Operation: Drive human insane by not mowing lawn

One of the earliest skirmishes I remember was between Dad and a Craftsman Lawn Tractor. He bought the tractor shortly after we moved to Lake Drive. We had moved from a rental property to our own three acre yard. Dad didn't like the idea of push mowing three acres of lawn (I don't think many of us would.) so he bought a tractor.

It was a truly excellent machine. Joshua, Sam and myself used it for a car as soon as we hit our teens. Dad had built this wagon for it so he could tow this or that across the yard. We would hook the wagon up and pile in while Sam took the wheel. He called it “The Tank” because you could run over almost anything with it and it would keep going.

We would drive from our house out to Sam's Mom's place or out to his Grandmothers and pick up whoever wanted to come along for the ride. I admit that all our territory only covered a few city blocks, but it was still great. When you are thirteen and can drive around the neighborhood with a wagon load of friends you look pretty cool.

The point is that the tractor was a very robust machine that gave us great service for years. I guess a side point is that Dad would let us run around doing almost anything provided he thought it was harmless. I should also point out that as much time as we spent on the tractor we pretty much disappeared when it was time to actually mow anything. That was Dad's province.

After a few years the tractor began to wear down. It was getting old and tired and ready for retirement. It had a good run with us and would still get out there and haul us around as long as it was having fun. However, it got tired of mowing the lawn. At least, that's one theory. Whatever the reason, it wouldn't work when Dad tried to mow with it.

Dad approached this problem, like so many others, with childlike optimism. The tractor wouldn't mow, but that wasn't a big problem, all he had to do was fix it. That brings to mind Dad's phrase “All I have to do is...” He'll say this when he intends to explain how simple whatever you're about to have to do is. When he says this you can be sure trouble is on the way.

“A I have to do is pull it apart and see what's wrong.” He said. (Or something just like that.)

It was enough to make the blood run cold. Dad parked the tractor in the shed and began to work. At first things went well enough. That is to say that he got it pulled apart. However, it seems that was the easy part. The days began to pass in rapid succession during the “put it back together” phase. As the time passed more and more interesting language began to come out of the shed.

Finally Dad walked out during a moment of clarity and began talking to himself.

“I understand it now. Everything has finally become clear to me.”

At this point he was perfectly calm and seemed quiet normal.

“The reason that the tractor can't be repaired is really very simple. It's not difficult to understand at all.”

By this time he had begun to get more excited. A mania seemed to be pushing it's way forward from the back of his mind.

“It's because of one simple fact. The Devil lives in my tractor!”

The last line was screamed at the top of his lungs. He went on for a while about why the Devil would want to set up shop in his tractor and what have you. Sad, sad, thing to see Dad like that. Sam, Joshua and I laughed until we nearly cried.

After a few more weeks it looked like Dad had finally gotten it running. He started it in the shed and everything was running fine. He turned the blades on and it sat there as if it were actually mowing lawn. After a few minutes of testing he decided that things were working well enough. He began to mow.

He was absolutely glowing with pride as he pulled out of the shed and started to cut the overgrown grass. He was filled with joy that was simply pouring off of him. Just looking at him at that moment would have filled you with a sense of peace and happiness.

After about fifty feet of cut grass the tractor stopped. Not only would it not mow, it wouldn't even start. Dad sat there turning the key over and over as the rage built up inside. He was mulling over the turn of events in his head. At last he had a breakthrough:

“I've got it! Now I understand!” He yelled at the top of his lungs.

“All this time I had it wrong! All this time I was looking at it from the wrong point of view! The Devil doesn't live in my tractor... He lives in my lawn!!! That's why I can't mow it! It's his home! He doesn't want me destroying his home! That is why nothing will ever be able to mow my lawn again!!!!”

In spite of Dad's prediction he did finally get it working again. The faithful old tractor gave up on the resistance movement. I suppose it decided it didn't want to die having been pulled apart by Dad and never put back together again. The machine fought well, but it picked the wrong man to fight.

Still, that's not to say that the machines were discouraged. They certainly didn't intend to give up just because of one failure. The tractor had failed. That was an acceptable loss. It simply meant that another operative had to go in.

Time Period: Late Nineties
Location: Williston, SC, USA
Operative: Craftsman Tiller
Operation: Drive human insane by refusing to till and then refusing to stop

Dad had gotten the tiller used. It was one of his better purchases. For years it worked great and helped Dad to till some very successful gardens. It was a good machine as long as you used it for what it was for. However, I would often borrow Dad's tools and equipment and make unconventional use of them.

Although he would complain after I broke something he never complained while I was breaking it. I admit that sometimes he didn't know what I was up to until after I had broken it. However, sometimes I think that he thought that whatever I was doing was going to work as much as I did. Whatever the reason he almost never stopped me.

I mention this fact because this tale actually begins with me borrowing the tiller. I was a great digger of holes as a child and I kept it up into my late teens. Me and the guys were working on digging a little root cellar on the back of Dad's property. We had run into some clay that was as hard as iron and the work slowed down to a crawl.

Josh and I talked it over and one of us came up with the idea of using the tiller. We planned to break the clay up and then dig it out of the ground in chunks. At first it worked wonderfully and we began to make progress again. However, after a few minutes disaster struck. The tiller died. I seems we had put too much of a load on it. The poor thing couldn't take any more and it broke down.

That kicked off another cycle of Dad fighting on weekends trying to get it running again. It was a struggle, but at last the day came when he got it cranked and it was ready to once again till the soil. Dad decided to start by tilling a section of the yard he hadn't gardened in for years. I happened to be out in the front yard doing this and that when Dad came out walking behind the tiller.

He had put so much work into it that it made me feel good to see him out there getting something done with it. (Some of you may be thinking that I should have helped him get it running, but at the time I had even less mechanical skill than I do now.) Things were going beautifully at first. Dad was waking along leaving wonderfully tilled soil behind him.

Then something happened. I think he may have hit a root or perhaps something just fired wrong in the engine. Either way, the tiller paused for a second and then lurched forward. The result was that Dad had time to take one step too close to the tiller and then it leaped away. It jerked him off his feet and dropped him, face first, into nice soft soil.

He jumped up furious and covered in dirt. He began to yell at the tiller. He called it everything he could think of and with my Dad that's quiet a bit. The tiller ignored him and continued to till along. You see, normally there is a kill switch on a tiller. If you let it go it is supposed to stop. For whatever reason this switch wasn't working at the moment. That made Dad even more furious.

“Fine!” He screamed as loud as he could. “You want to leave? Go! I don't care! Go ahead and leave!!!”

As he screamed this he was walking away in one direction as the tiller was tilling along in another. It was very much like a lover's tiff. I stood there watching this play out. It was as if I was mesmerized. I couldn't think or act, I could only watch.

The tiller continued on it's way and finally made it out of the yard and into the road. I watched the sparks flying out from under it's spinning blades as it made it's way across the asphalt. At last it reached Mrs. Dick's yard. I remember thinking that I should yell out to Dad and let him know that it was tilling up her yard. I was so stunned that I can't be sure whether I yelled or not.

What I do know is that Dad finally turned around and saw it making it's away across our neighbor's yard. He began running toward it with unbelievable speed. He flew across the road and began turning the tiller around. Fortunately it had only tilled into her yard thirty or forty feet. He got it across the road safely and back into our yard. The tilling monster was brought back under control.

After that the tiller behaved itself. I suppose that it felt that after it's get away was foiled there wasn't much more it could do. Few tillers could claim to have run off on their own and gotten as far as it had. Either way it could have only made it as far as a tank of gas would get it. All in all it did very well for a rebellious machine.

The point, in short, is that man faces the machine rebellion every day. Men like my Dad drove it back in former days. Now days I work along beside Dad fighting burned out bearings and leaking oil. I suppose it goes back to the days when men's bows wouldn't shoot strait and will go on until space ships are making a weird knocking noise. However, mankind has always won and always will. It's just a matter of testing our patience and perseverance. Dad may not have much patience, but he has perseverance to spare. For that we have to respect him!

Happy father's day everyone!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Peanut Gallery

The Cooper brothers were and are two of my best friends. Adam, the elder of the two, was a calm, peace loving diplomat. Jonathan was also calm and peace loving, but he was more of a clam than a diplomat. Whereas Adam had taken me under his wing as the older, wiser man of the world, Jonathan only spoke to me in replies for the first few months of our hanging out.

We had known each other practically from birth and our family connections went back generations. However, when we were young we didn't like each other at all. They thought of the Ethridge brothers as loud, brash and violent (which we were.) and we thought of them as dull as dish water (they were actually much duller than that, but we gave them a break as we had known them for such a long time.)

When we reached our teens we began to develop an appreciation for each other, however. Adam became a sort of pied piper of young women which amazed me. Jonathan was a silent philosopher that I respected. I believe they liked my "kick the door down" attitude and Joshua's ability to always say what was on his mind. Once we began to admire each others qualities our friendship quickly blossomed.

The few tales contained within this telling are centered on Adam. I have here the opportunity to set the record straight about a few things. For one thing, it has often been thought in our little social circle that I was a "bad influence" on the Cooper brothers. I can say with certainty that this isn't true. Well, for the most part it isn't true.

Adam often used me as a smoke screen. From the outside it looked as if I could convince Adam to do almost anything. However, I could only "trick" him into doing things he really wanted to do. Once he had done what ever it was to his complete satisfaction he could jump back, point the accusing finger at me and yell "How could I have been deceived again!" It never bothered me as I had gotten what I wanted and didn't care what people thought.

A perfect example of that took place one afternoon when Adam and I had gone to pick Jonathan up from college. I was supposed to have a date with Rachel (for those of you who don't already know, Rachel is my wife.) later that night, but her parents wouldn't let me take her out with the guys unless I had another girl go along with us. I had been mulling over a solution all morning and I finally had an idea.

"Hey, Jonathan, what do you think of heading to Charleston after we've got you all packed up?"

"Sounds good bro!"

Now, Charleston was roughly one hundred miles away from home and it was already mid-afternoon.

"We're not going to Charleston!" Adam chimed in.

I looked at Adam for a moment and then looked at Jonathan and smiled.

"Want to bet?"

Jonathan laughed and this annoyed Adam. He knew that he only ever did what he really wanted to do and that I couldn't make him do anything. However, I did keep a long list of things he wanted in the back my head, just in case I needed them. I would barter with him. If he did what I wanted I would help him get what he wanted. He ignored this fact and pressed on.

"There is nothing that you can say that is going to make me go to Charleston!"

"Is that a fact?"

"It is!"

"Ahhh... Well, I just thought that if we went to Charleston we could pick up my cousin Christie and bring her home with us for a while."

"Your Aunt would never allow that."

"Want to bet?"

Here I had thrown down the gauntlet. It was a challenge and Adam knew it. Christie was a particular weakness to the Cooper brothers and as my cousin didn't mind me flaunting her a bit I used her feminine wiles whenever I was in a tight spot. He knew that I wouldn't have challenged him had I not felt certain I could win. So, either I lost and he could mock me or I won and Christie could come with us. It was really win/win from his point of view.

“Your Aunt is not going to let Christie come up here with us.”

“I say she will. The bet is simple. Aunt Sarie says yes, we go get Christie.”

“She's not going to say yes.”

“Then you have nothing to loose.”

I stood there staring at Adam and Jonathan stood there smiling at the two of us. Finally Adam caved or pretended to. He knew that he had nothing to loose either way. I called Aunt Sarie and thirty seconds later had permission to pick up Christie. Adam grumbled, having “lost” the bet, but by the time we were in the car you couldn't have wiped the smile off of his face.

An hour or so later we were in Charleston and a few minutes after that we had Christie in the car and were heading for Beech Island. That's about one hundred and fifty miles from Charleston and close to fifty from where we lived, so it was going to be quite a trip. Except for a speeding ticket things went well and I ended up being able to take Rachel out at around midnight. It had been a long drive and I had to have Rachel home in a little over an hour. (I only got that because of the trouble I had gone too. Her parents couldn't believe how far I had gone in order to take their daughter out on a date.)

After all was said and done Adam complained about how I had tricked him into it. Of course, he had a great time with Christie and had actually done exactly what he wanted to do. However, if any eyebrows were raised about our two hundred mile detour it was all because of Jeremy. I took the wrap and got what I wanted. That was often how things went with us.

Of course, at times, Adam would refuse to do what Jonathan or I suggested just to prove that he could. I remember one instance when we had gone to see something up in Augusta. I don't remember what the occasion was, but we went down to the River Walk and there was a huge crowd. After whatever we were there to see was over we hopped in the car and headed for home.

We had parked in a gas station parking lot and as we were going to pull out Adam had his right blinker on. I looked at the cars backed up to the right and the absolutely empty left lane. I also considered the fact that the drivers in the right lane were gracious enough to leave a space where we could turn left. In addition left was the more direct way home, so turning right seemed anti-productive. I decided to speak.

“Hey bro, we should turn left while we have the chance.”

“Nah, a right turn is easier to make.”

“Normally I would agree, but not in this case.”

“Look at the traffic to the right Adam. We really should go left.” Jonathan chimed in.

I suppose he shouldn't have. When Jonathan and I sided against Adam it was often enough to make him do the opposite of what we suggested just to show us. This was an example of that fact.

“I'm driving and I'm turning right!”

And so he did. He turned right up to the bumper of the car in front of us. After ten minutes we had moved around fifteen or twenty feet. Jonathan and I were a constant chorus of “You should have turned left!” as we stared out the window at the left lane which was completely devoid of cars. After a few more minutes of this Adam snapped at us.

“If you two don't shut up you're both going to be walking home!”

We took his subtle hint and got quiet. For a few minutes we sat in silence. Finally Adam slammed his hand down on the steering wheel and yelled:

“I should have turned left!!!!”

At this point Jonathan began to look in the back seat and under his seat and all around. After a moment I couldn't resist asking him about it.

“Jonathan... What are you looking for?”

“The peanut gallery. If we can't say how right we were somebody has to!”

At this we all burst out laughing. A couple of hours later we were out of Augusta and Adam had learned a lesson about being contrary. Still, to be fair to Adam, Jonathan and I could be royal pains at times. It's a wonder he didn't snap at us more than he did. One of the times he did snap was a bit shocking. Adam became a little violent which was something we never anticipated.

Adam had taken Jonathan and I to the movies. We went to the late show, as we almost always did, and so it was almost midnight by the time we got out of the theater. Now, the theater was in the same shopping center as the book store. We almost always went to the book store when we ended up near it.

On this particular night Jonathan and I were counting on it. We had a couple of gaming books that we were considering picking up and there wasn't anywhere local that we could get them. We wanted to get at them without making a special hour long trip just to buy them. Adam refused. He had worked all day, he had work to do that night and the next day. He was heading home. That didn't sit well with Jonathan and I. I opened the dialog.

“Come on bro! It will take like five minutes.”

“No! I'm dead.”

“Man, we are right here.”

“No! I don't feel like it! We still have work to do tonight!”

We went back and forth like this for a while. Jonathan was standing there silently getting more and more angry. He felt that the trip to the book store was part of the deal and that Adam was backing out of it. Finally he spoke... or yelled rather...

“You will go to the book store! You will go because we've told you to go! Now get in the car and drive across the parking lot to the book store! Now!!”

Adam was shocked to say the least. Jonathan normally didn't get loud or violent. Adam always claimed that Jonathan got like that when he spent too much time with me. To be fair, he was probably right. At last he gave up and we drove over to the book store. As we went in the Cooper brothers will still bickering back and forth.

Adam was angry because he had caved and was underlining all the reasons it was stupid for us to go to the book store. Jonathan was mocking Adam and saying that if he had enough backbone to stand up to us he wouldn't have to be there. I was browsing through the books and ignoring them. I wanted to get what we came for and get out as quickly as possible. I was determined, but not cruel.

Suddenly I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. I saw that a small white blur had struck a larger white blur and knocked it out of view. I turned to see Jonathan quietly getting up off the floor. Adam had finally had enough. He had charged down a row of bookshelves at Jonathan and tackled him! After the outburst both of them regained control and we quickly and silently left the building.

I think even Adam was surprised by the turn of events. It gave us a good laugh later on and it was a lesson for us all. You can push even the most peace loving person too far if you try. Jonathan and I never pushed Adam that far again. If he could be goaded into sacking you in a public place with any number of spectators watching then who knows what else he might do.

Many years have gone by. The three of us rarely end up at the same place at the same time now. There are no more midnight adventures. Still, we have the memories. We are what we were, but our lives have changed now. I wouldn't give up my life now to go back to then. I like to look back and remember, however. It is a great blessing to be able to look over your life and like what you see.

I hope you all enjoyed this! Remember to spread the word!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Brandyn - Ninja Carpenter

For those of you who haven't heard of Brandyn Boatwright please refer to my earlier story “Arboreal Brandyn” for a character description and a tale that sums him up. At the opening of this story it's important to keep in mind that Brandyn was a bit of a showoff and that he could do whatever you could do.

I will warn you that this story is painful and, at moments, a little gory. However, no one gets permanently damaged and everything works out in the end. If you're squeamish you might want to skip bits here and there. I just thought I would let you know...

Now Josh, Jesse and Brandyn were hanging out at Mom and Dad's house one afternoon. (I didn't actually take part in this series of events, but rather pieced them together later from the tree eye witness accounts.) Mom and Dad were off somewhere shopping or something. So there were only the three of them there.

Josh was working on some project or another and was using the skill saw to cut a few boards. Joshua and I had been taught at an early age to use power tools both by our Dad and Papa. By this time Joshua was a teen and an old hand with the skill saw. However, he made one of the classic Ethridge mistakes on this particular day.

You see, we Ethridges are under the general delusion of “everyone knows that!” We usually assume that if we know something that everyone else in the world knows it and that if we know how to do something then the “how” is common knowledge. In defense of the family I will say that we only expect our level of knowledge out of people our own age and above. We wouldn't give a five year old a jack hammer because we knew how to use one at twelve. However, we would hand one to any twelve year old that even pretended to know what he was doing.

This was the classic blunder that my brother stumbled into that day. Brandyn had watched him cut a few boards and asked if he could use the saw to do a little work himself. My brother did a mental check: “Brandyn is close to seventeen, I could use a skill saw at thirteen, ergo everything should be fine.” Having worked out that everything was ok he handed the saw to Brandyn.

Here it is important to note that Brandyn often had to try to “one-up” whoever was around. My brother had been standing there using the skill saw to cut boards. Certainly they had been cut, but were was the style? Where was his flare? Brandyn was going to do better than that. He wasn't just going to cut boards, he was going to do it with showmanship!

For those of you who have never used a skill saw I have to explain a point. A skill saw has a blade guard that covers the spinning saw blade to prevent injuries. The guard will automatically pull back when the saw is cutting through boards. However, there are times when a carpenter needs to pull this guard back before he starts the cut. It's perfectly safe as long as you know what you are doing and are very careful. It's not perfectly safe when you don't really know what you are doing and are showing off.

Brandyn started sawing boards and then began to pull the guard back before he made each cut. Once he discovered how cool that effect was he started holding the guard back even after the cut was made and allowing the blade to slowly spin to a stop completely uncovered. This was certainly a dangerous practice as a general rule, but when you combined it with Brandyn's general lack of respect for danger it was an inevitable accident.

Jesse had been watching Brandyn's slow progression to injury without intervention. This was during the period when Jesse and Brandyn were constantly at odds and each one loved to see the other injured. There was no real malice between them, just a cruel rivalry. My brother was busy with his work and so was oblivious to Brandyn's ever increasing danger.

Brandyn had just made a cut and was letting the saw blade slow down while foolishly holding the guard back with his own hand. He lowered the saw in order to look at what he had cut and laid the spinning saw blade right on his leg. Fortunately he was wearing jeans at the time and the saw blade only had it's own momentum to power it. The saw ripped through his jeans and cut a series of small holes in Brandyn's leg as it jerked it's way across his thigh.

Brandyn cried out in pain and my brother spun around to see what was happening as Jesse just stared at the stupidity playing out before him.

“What happened?” Josh asked.

“I accidentally laid the saw on my leg.” was the answer.

“Well be careful! You can really hurt yourself!”

“I know it.”

Jesse stood there for a moment mulling things over.

“I'll see you guys later.” he said.

“Where you going?” Josh asked.

“I'm heading to the house. This idiot is going to cut his leg off and I don't want to see it.”

After a little bit of back and forth with Brandyn, Jesse got in his truck and pulled off. It looked like a good breaking point, so Josh decided to go into the house and rest up for a few minutes. Brandyn wanted to finish something before he came in for a break and asked I that would be alright. Josh said that it was fine with him and went inside. Little did he imagine how dangerous it was to leave Brandyn unattended with a tool of such power...

He had been in the house for perhaps two minutes when he heard a knock on the door.

“Come in.” He yelled, wondering who could be knocking when Brandyn was out in the yard to tell them just to go in. Again, he heard a knock.

“I'm coming.” He said walking to the door. He opened it to find Brandyn standing there looking strait ahead.

“What's wrong bro?”

“I'm hurt.”

“Is it bad?”

“I think so.”

Josh glanced over him and nothing seemed wrong.

“Where are you hurt?”

“My foot.”

Josh looked down and realized that Brandyn was standing in a pool of blood.

“Oh man! How did it happen!”

“I was standing on a board to hold it in place while I cut it. The saw hit a knot, kicked back and ran over my foot backwards.”

“Ok. Stay calm we have to stop the bleeding and get you to a hospital.”

Josh made a tourniquet out of some cloth at hand and the bleeding slowed. Just as he was wondering how they were going to get to the hospital Jesse pulled back up in the yard.

“Jesse! Thank God you're back. Brandyn is hurt bad! We have to get him to the hospital!”

“I know, that's why I'm here. I was almost home when I thought to myself that when Brandyn finally did cut his leg off you guys were going to need a ride. So, I came back.”

Josh and Jesse went to work on the foot. The decided to take his shoe off to see how bad the damage was. When they made him lift his foot the front of his shoe, along with his toes, pointed strait to the ground. His toes were no longer as dedicated to serving his foot as to serving gravity. Josh decided that to take the shoe off was tantamount to removing the toes, so they left it on.

A few minutes speedy driving found them at the hospital. Brandyn was immediately taken back so they could try to save his toes. They loaded him up with pain killers and then began the work.

“We are going to have to cut the shoe off.” The doctor began.

“Man! This was a brand new pair!” was Brandyn's answer.

Clearly the pain killers were doing their job.

The doctor looked at my brother and said “You might not want to watch this.”

“I'll be alright, I'm not squeamish.” was his hardy answer.

Without more chit-chat the doctor began. The shoe was cut away and the hanging toes revealed. Unfortunately Brandyn had a lot of leather packed beneath his flesh. The saw has cut away strips of shoe and tucked them neatly beneath Brandyn's flesh.

My brother watched as the doctor reached up inside Brandyn's foot with forceps and pulled out one blood soaked strip after another. As Josh watched the doctor filling a small pan with bloody shoe he began to get a bit light headed. He was holding on fairly well until Brandyn began to giggle.

“Is anything wrong?” the doctor asked.

“No, no.” Brandyn replied. “It's just that you're tickling the bone.”

That was too much for Josh. He put his head between his legs and began to breath deeply through his nose. He didn't pass out, but it was a very close thing. After a bit more removing of bloody leather and a little stitching of hanging toes and the wrapping of an entire leg in a cast to keep it all together they were ready to go home.

Brandyn was always careful with skill saws after that. It was months before the final cast came off and he could use his toes again. That's what makes the fact that he broke that leg two weeks after the cast was off even funnier. Still, that's a tale for another time. Lord willing, it too will be told in due season.

I hope you all were able to laugh at Brandyn's pain. I know I was!

Seriously everyone, if you enjoy these stories share them with your friends. I am hoping to get these published after I am done with them and if I can show a literary agent that there is already interest in my work it will help me a great deal. Thanks!