Sunday, July 25, 2010

Remaining Calm

It's an important ability to have, remaining calm I mean. Many times in life potential disasters can be averted if the people involved keep a cool head and act rationally. Although there weren't a lot of true disasters looming over my childhood there were mild unpleasantnesses around every corner. At times we managed to avoid them just by thinking and acting quickly. I am now going to unfold three brief tales where I extol the virtue of keeping your head.

The first tale opens in a boat in a pond in a yard in a wood in Moncks Corner in South Carolina in the United States of America. My brother and I were visiting our grandmother with our parents. Most of the time when we came down to visit, which was very often, some of my cousins would come over to play with us. Usually it was Jennifer, Christie and Robby that showed up.

We five were very regular companions. Of all our kin, Joshua and I saw them the most. When we weren't heading down for a weekend in Moncks Corner they were usually coming up for a visit in Williston. In spite of the fact that we lived roughly a hundred miles apart, we got to see each other basically every other weekend. Much is the time we spent together and many are the tales we lived through.

That day we had gotten out on the pond early. My uncles had a little aluminum john boat that we were allowed to use whenever we wanted. We could row around and fish and do pretty much whatever else we could think of. Christie, Jennifer and I had been rowing for an hour or so when the girls decided they wanted to go inside for a moment. They intended to come right back to the boat so I didn't want to row all the way back to our normal landing spot.

I decided that I would let them disembark on a small cliff overlooking the pond. It was about a foot out of the water and seemed to me to be a perfect spot to get to shore. I rowed up until I was almost touching it, then I stood up and put the tip of my paddle on the shore. As I turned around to help one of them up I explained what I wanted them to do.

“OK. All you need to do is to step out of the boat onto the shore. I'll hold your hand so you won't fall. Whatever you do don't jump. If you do you will kick the boat away from the shore. You understand?”

They nodded and affirmed that they did, in fact, understand me completely. I helped Jennifer to her feet. She stepped quickly to the front of the boat and stepped out onto the shore without batting an eye. I then helped Christie to her feet. She stepped quickly to the front of the boat and paused for a moment. Then she bent her knees quickly and jumped to the shore.

The result was simple and immediate. The boat shot away from the shore like a rocket. She had forgotten that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The action of her getting to shore almost caused the reaction of me falling into the pond. However, as I said at the beginning, these tales are all about keeping your cool.

I only had a split second to react after she jumped. I was leaning out of the boat toward the shore in order to make sure that she didn't fall into the pond. Because of that fact most of my body was actually hanging out over the water. I had been supported by my feet in the boat and by the paddle pushed down on the shore. The moment she jumped, my feet were pulled from under me and the paddle jerked off the shore.

I did the only thing I could at that moment. I jammed the paddle down into the water as hard as I could. Lady luck was watching me carefully that afternoon, it would seem. The paddle went almost completely under the water, but struck mud at the last instant. About three inches of the handle were above the water line.

So there I was stretched out at my full length, hovering above the water. The very tips of my toes were still clinging to the boat. My chest was held aloft by one hand that was holding onto a paddle that was stuck in mud in the bottom of the pond. Fortunately my hand was right in the center of my chest. Had it been off to one side or the other I would have been off balance and would have toppled into the water. I hung there for a moment, quickly jerking the paddle handle right and left to keep my balance.

“Pull me in!” I yelled.

“We can't, we're not strong enough,” Christie asserted.

“Well you're going to have to try!”


“I don't know! Grab me!”

“We might fall in.”

“Might you?!?!?”

After a moment Jennifer and Christie decided that they should try something. They each grabbed me under the arm and began to pull. Again, luck was with me. My head was almost touching the shore so they could grab me with out leaning out too far. If I had been a little better balanced I could probably have gotten my left hand on shore by myself. Once they had me they began to pull.

“Pick me up higher.” I said as I saw the shore creeping slowly toward my face.

“We can't! We're not strong enough.”

She was right. Try as they might they couldn't get my head up. Within a second I was plowing a trough through the dirt with my face. The moment I could support my weight with my head I slammed one of my hands on shore and did a push up. After that I was able to drag myself in and pull the boat up with my feet.

My face was covered in dirt, but I hadn't fallen into the pond. On the way back to the house I explained why stepping out of a boat was so much better than jumping out of a boat. It had been close and I had gotten a face full of dirt, but I hadn't fallen into the pond. The reason I didn't was a combination of luck and keeping a cool head.

The next tale opens years later. My cousin Tara was over visiting us along with Phillip Renew, who was a long time friend. The two of them had gone out into the woods with Joshua to play. I planned to follow them after I had taken care of a few things at the house. They had been gone for perhaps an half an hour when I headed out myself.

I walked out to our tree-house and stumbled upon an alarming sight. Tara had been tied to a pine tree and a bundle of kindling was burning at her feet. She was looking down at the blaze and slowly stepping it out as it crept to near her. I watched her for a moment or so and then decided to speak.

“I everything alright?” I asked, looking down at the fire.

“Oh yes, it's fine,” she replied while stepping on a burning bit of pine straw.

“What's going on?”

“Oh, Josh and Phillip decided to burn me at the stake.”

“I see... Any reason why?”

“It's a game we're playing.”

“I see... Where are they?”

“I don't know...” she said while putting out a small pine branch. “They wandered off into the woods after they started the fire...”

“Ah... Would you like me to put out the fire?”

“No, no. I think I have it under control.”

“I see... Would you like me to wait with you until they come back?”

“Not at all. Thank you, but I'm certain they'll be along any minute. Don't let me keep you.”

At this point I wasn't sure what to say. I just stood there for a moment while she ignored me and concentrated on keeping the fire at bay. I decided that the best course of action would be to go look for the boys in the woods. We must have passed each other at some point, but they did get back in time to put out the fire. So, Tara had kept a cool head and managed to get out of what some would consider a tricky situation. She could have stood there screaming and fought the ropes to no avail, but she remained calm and simply refused to be taken advantage of by the flames. There's a lesson there for us all, I think.

The next story took place later that same day. After I had gone to make sure that Tara hadn't been roasted alive, I went on my way. Tara and the boys decided to stay at the tree house, however. Josh and Phillip got the brilliant idea to build a fire inside an old metal tank. I'm not sure where the tank came from or what it was for, but we had dragged it out to the tree house just in case we needed it. That day Phillip and Joshua decided that it was the perfect place to build a fire.

Now, why they thought it would be good to build a fire in it is a matter of speculation. I can only suppose that they thought it would be cool to have a tank full of fire. However, this tank presented several challenges. First, it had only one small opening, which meant it had to be loaded with fuel through a two-inch hole. Second, whatever instrument you decided to light the fire with had to pass through that two-inch hole. Third, once the fire was lit, both the exhaust and oxygen had to pass through that same two-inch hole. All in all, the two-inch hole was the real problem.

The sum of those facts was simply this: they couldn't get the fire started. They had loaded the tank with pine straw and sticks, but nothing would light it. They dropped burning pine straw into it by the handfuls only to see it go out. After a few moments they got frustrated and decided to take things to the next level. Josh got a can of spray paint and and blasted very flammable paint into the tank. Still nothing... So they got a can of starter fluid (for those of you who don't know, starter fluid is much more flammable than gasoline) and sprayed a liberal amount of ether (starter fluid is also called ether) down into the hole. Still nothing...

That sat there frustrated for a few moments, trying to decide what to do. What they didn't know was that every second they waited, air was creeping into the tank. The fire wasn't refusing to start because of a lack of fuel, but because of a lack of oxygen. That deficiency was rectifying itself as they sat there thinking. At last Phillip got a brilliant idea. He lit a small pine stick and put his face up to the hole. He was going to take a look in the tank and see what was going on. With his eye lined up with the opening he jammed his burning twig into the darkness.

The results were amazing to see, at least that's what I've been told. The tank lit up like a rocket motor. It shot flame out several feet, which was more than enough to engulf Phillip's head in crimson flame. His hair was blown back and singed into an interesting bouffant, while at the same time his eye brows and eye lashes were instantly burned away to nothing. His eyes had been open when the metal dragon sparked to life, so he was temporarily blinded. That is why, when he jumped up and shot away from the tank, running at full speed, he didn't see the pine tree in front of him. He rammed his head into it with so much force that it knocked him down and almost out.

Now, at this moment many people might have freaked out. Joshua didn't. He helped Phillip up as quickly as he could and made a bee line for the house. Within a minute or so they had Phillip's head in the sink, extinguishing any secondary burning. He looked funny when all was said and done. He had no eye brows/lashes at all, and his hair-do would have made Flock of Seagulls (an eighties band) proud. His face was also very red. Almost as red as a ripe tomato, but at least all his skin was still there. All things considered he was no worse for the wear.

I don't think his mother agreed at the time. Phillip was never again allowed to come over to the house unless his old brother Stephen came along. I thought that Josh had acted very well under the circumstances. Still, I understand where she was coming from. No one likes to have their son's head caught on fire, I suppose.

The moral of all of this is simple: keep your head. You can't control what life throws at you, but you can control what you throw back. Things aren't usually as bad as they appear at first glance, so keep your head up and keep your nerve. That's what I've always tried to do and, so far, it's served me well. Nothing has ever been made better by people running around in a panic screaming “What are we going to do!” Anyways, it's something to think about...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dangerous Games

If you have read much of what I've written about my childhood, then you already know that I didn't always take the time to think about what I was doing. Many times I only considered whether or not it would be fun. If it seemed like an interesting idea, I didn't stop to consider any of the other ramifications. This can certainly be excused in one's youth, but one is expected to mature and begin to think about what one is doing from a more responsible point of view. I certainly hadn't started to think that way in my late teens, which is when these stories take place. All I can say in my defense is that I know many men who don't think responsibly now. As the old saying goes, “Better late than never.”

Once again these stories are laid out in order of humor, not chronologically. The first story is about Brandyn and myself. I guess it really begins with the fact that I always wanted to learn to fence. That is to say, I always wanted to learn to fight with swords. I also wanted to learn all the other martial arts, from hand to hand combat to archery to shooting to mounted combat, but all those desires have their own stories, and this tale doesn't concern them.

Here I will take the time to point out that I am a self-teacher. When I want to learn how to do something, I consider how it is that people first learned about it and pursue the same course. My brother and I learned to juggle one afternoon simply by thinking about how jugglers looked when they were juggling. In a few hours he and I were standing across the lawn juggling five balls between us (the balls where really unripe figs, but why split hairs). Most of what I know how to do, I've gone out and learned on my own. So, when I wanted to know how to fence, I thought the best course of action was to start fencing.

Joshua and I had gotten some long metal rods from somewhere. I believe they had been part of some big flower arrangement at some time. I can't remember exactly where they were from, but they were round and green, and at the time, I associated them with flower arrangements. The rods had been lying around at my house for some time. We had saved them hoping to find a use for them at some point. The evening finally came when I did find a use for them.

Brandyn was over at the house and we were walking and talking. We had run out of things to do and we were just wandering around the yard. We finally wandered right up on the rods.

“These give me an idea,” I said as I picked one up.

“What's that?” Brandyn asked.

“They are about the size and shape of fencing foils.”

“They're a little short.”

“That's true, and they don't have handles, but I think they would do.”

“For what?”

“For fencing.”

“Alright, let's do it.”

That is the summation of the conversation, as it were. We each grabbed a rod and headed for the front yard. As we stood face-to-face and saluted each other with our make-shift foils, neither of us took the time to consider what could happen. There was one major difference between our rods and real fencing foils: the little button at the end of the blade. That button keeps you from stabbing each other and prevents people from losing eyes. We also didn't take the time to consider the fact that, when most people fence, they wear armor and a face mask.

As soon as we had saluted, the bout began. At first I am sure it would have been wonderful to see. Each of us was very dextrous and lighting fast at that age. For minutes you could have heard the clang of steel on steel, or watched with excitement each thrust and perry. We had seen a lot of movies and, considering the fact that we had never done anything like it before, we did fairly well. However, at last, like so many of our games, it ended in pain.

Brandyn had made a lunge for me. I parried it, but I was in a bad position when I did so. His face was at about the height of my chest, because he had stepped so far forward. When I blocked his attack my foil rolled around his. The very tip of my rod caught him in the face. It made a quick semi-circle and slashed him right under his eye.

“Ahhh!” he screamed as he dropped his weapon.

“Bro, are you OK?!?”

“Yes, but only just!”

I took a look at his face. I had cut him clean, and thankfully it wasn't deep. As we went in for him to wash up, we took the time to consider what would have happened had my rod gone an inch or so higher. It gave me the chills to think about how close I had come to jamming Brandyn's eye out (I know that those of you who have read some of my other tales may be thinking that I had it out for other people's eyes, but that is not the case). That was the end of that particular game. I am happy to say that it also brought playing with long pointed objects to an end. That had been too close. It was truly a life lesson and I took the opportunity to learn from it. I hadn't gained the lesson I was looking for, but once again my actions had taught me something.

The next few stories don't have nearly so much moral to them. I'm not sure there was really much to learn, or if there was, I haven't learned it yet. They are very funny however, and that alone makes them worth preserving. I suppose one could learn a little something from them. If I had to give these stories a moral, it would be something like this: “Don't do things that make you look stupid for fun. If you do, then one of your friends may remember it to his deathbed and tell everyone you ever know about it, right down to your grandchildren.” It's rather a long moral, and I'm not sure Aesop would approve, but it's the best I can do.

These three short tales revolve around something called the “helicopter.” Now, I feel certain that most of you don't know what that is, so I'll take a moment to explain. The “helicopter” is a way of forcing yourself to hyperventilate and thereby pass out. You take ten deep breaths and hold the tenth one as hard as you can. Then one of your friends grabs you and squeezes your ribcage as hard as he can for a few seconds. This will force the pressure up in your lungs, causing more oxygen to dissolve into your bloodstream. At least that was the explanation I was given. The results I can attest to first hand: you pass out.

Why would anyone want to do that? At the moment that seems like a good question, even to me. However, when I was younger the answer was very simple: people do crazy things when they ride the helicopter. I was willing to do it and let everyone laugh at me so that I, in turn, could laugh at them. It may not seem to be a good reason to you, but if it doesn't then you're not thinking like a teenage boy.

I was probably the least interesting of all our old crew. With the exception of Jonathan, I suppose. He would never take the ride. I think thoughts of college and brain damage gave him pause. In any event, my crazy was always just the same. No matter how many times I did it the same thing happened...

“Help me!.... Help me!!.... Help Me!!!... HELP ME!!!!”

You see, I thought was being dragged to my death by some horrible monster. At least that's my theory. I could never remember why I was screaming “Help me!” when I woke up. As soon as I was conscious I would bust out laughing at everyone laughing at me. The reason I believe I must have thought I was being attacked by a monster is because of the only helicopter memory I have. I remember thinking something had bitten me on top of the head and was dragging me around. The helicopter makes your head tingle and I'm sure that was my mind's explanation as to why my head felt funny.

The funniest thing that ever happened with me was in my own bedroom. I had taken the ride and woke up to find Jonathan grabbing me by the back of my head and slamming his hand over my mouth. As soon as he realized I was already conscious, he explained that I had been yelling. At that moment there was a knock on the door.

“Is everything OK?” Mom asked as she look in on the crowd packed in my room.

“Yeah, Mom, everything's fine,” I said, still reeling with dizziness.

“I thought I heard screaming.”

“Oh yeah, we're just playing a game.”

“Yeah, a game! Just a game we were playing. We were just fooling around,” said the boys.

Mom looked at me for a moment and then slowly closed the door. I'm sure she had no idea what we were doing, but I'm also sure she knew it was something strange. Shortly after that happened I gave up riding the helicopter. It got old seeing me scream “Help me!” every single time. For a while the guys hoped I would do something else, but I never did.

Jesse was a different story. Some of you may remember him from my earlier tales: if not I would suggest reading “The Terrorizing of Jesse Dicks” to get acquainted with him. Jesse was hard to knock out. Almost every time he tried to ride he failed. The key with the helicopter is holding your breath until you actually pass out. Jesse almost never managed to do that. Instead he would hold it until he almost passed out and then sit down on the floor and complain about his head feeling funny.

Not being one to give up, Jesse got in line for the ride with the rest of us one night. Up to that point he had never been knocked out. The fun with watching Jesse do it was hearing him complain when he failed. He took ten deep breaths. He held the last one as Josh picked him up from behind and squeezed his ribs as hard as he could. Josh held him up for a reasonable amount of time, but Jesse didn't black out. So, Josh set him down on the floor. When his feet touched the floor Jesse let his breath go and stood there.

Normally at this point Jesse would sit down and start complaining. This time, however, he just stood there.

“Jesse, are you all right, bro?” my brother asked, looking Jesse in the face.

Jesse nodded slowly in reply.

“You're sure you're OK?”

Jesse didn't answer, he just started to walk slowly around the room. With each step he took, he crouched a bit lower, until he was walking along slowly bent over at half height. Now, this didn't seem normal, and we all started calling his name and asking him if he was alright. He didn't answer, he just took one crouching step after another. When he ended up back where he had started, he reached his arms out and put them around my brother's waist. He pulled Josh right up to his crouching form.

“Whoa! You alright there, bro?!” Josh asked, trying to pull away.

That seemed to wake Jesse up. I actually saw the light of understanding flicker on in his eyes. He looked at all of us staring at him and then looked Josh right in the jeans. As soon as he realized what he was doing he jerked back and stood up.

“What did I do?!?” he yelled.

In reply we burst out laughing. After a few moments we were actually able to tell him what he had done, while I reenacted it with tears streaming down my face.

It had been hard to get Jesse there, but it was worth it once he was. Brandyn, on the other hand, was easy to knock out and consistently funny. However, since his story has to go up against Jesse's, I'm going to relate his best one.

Brandyn almost always passed out. Everyone would fail once in a while. It took a great deal of concentration and determination not to breathe out before you passed out, but Brandyn was very good at it. He took his breaths and held on tight. Josh grabbed him and tried to squeeze the consciousness right out of him. Brandyn didn't let go of his breath and Josh finally had to set him down.

“You alright?” Josh asked while helping hold Brandyn up.


“You sure?”


Brandyn was still swaying side to side, but Josh figured he had to be OK and probably just needed a moment. He let Brandyn's arm go and stepped back. Brandyn stood there swaying for a moment and then collapsed like a sack of potatoes. He fell straight back before any of us could catch him. When his head slammed into the floor it woke him up. Since he wasn't sure how he had gotten laid out on the floor, he went to get up as fast as he could.

The first step in the process, of course, is to sit up. He sat up with every ounce of force in his body. In fact his head came flying up off the floor at roughly the speed of sound. That turned out to be unfortunate because, as he was still dizzy, of course, he swayed. The result was that he slammed his head into the corner of my very solid wooden headboard just as hard as he could. He sat there for a moment with his eyes spinning, and then dropped his head back on the floor at full force. He had hit himself in the head so hard that it had knocked him out.

However, when his head slapped the floor for the second time, it again woke him up. He moaned for a moment before he looked up at us with daggers in his eyes.

“OK! Which one of you punched me in the head? I saw you do it!!”

That was enough for us. We realized that Brandyn was OK and all laughed until we were about to cry. Finally we were able to tell him the story without laughing until we couldn't talk any more. Brandyn was a good sport and joined in the laughter, even with the giant knot on his head.

I think most young men play one kind of dangerous game or another. I am glad to say that none of ours left any permanent damage, except for scars that make interesting conversation pieces. We still play games, but they are now mainly of the video variety. I am older and, I hope, wiser. Still, it makes me laugh to think back on the things we did. I hope you were able to share that laughter with me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fishing with Sam

Sam, Josh and I often went fishing during the summer. In fact we went fishing in the spring, summer and fall. There were even occasional fishing trips in the winter when the weather was nice. It wasn't that we were great fishermen or that we were even particularly fond of fishing. It was simply the fact that fishing was something to do and it was as good a reason as any to get out and go somewhere. Whenever possible we combined a bit of adventure into our fishing trips. We would often sneak out onto Mr. Folk's property and fish down by the spill way out in his woods. The fishing was good and it was our own little private fishing hole.

We used whatever tackle we could lay our hands on. Sometimes we used bamboo poles with worms we had dug up ourselves. At other times we each had a rod and reel with a number of lures. We were never very good about putting our tackle up when we were done with it, so what we had to fish with changed with every trip. Coupled with that was the fact that our fishing trips were always a little spontaneous. They were just something we used to fill up our free time. When the mood struck us we grabbed whatever gear we could find and headed out.

Many of our trips ended at Williston Pond. That is to say the pond that is in Williston park, I'm not sure what it's name is even today. A number of memorable things happened on the shore of that little body of water. With all the fishing that we did there I myself only caught one memorable fish and that was on a day when I wasn't fishing. The Tuttle family (my Mom's side) was having a get together at the park. I was wondering around on the edge of the pond and picked a soda can up out of the water. I poured all the water out of it and noticed that something alive was in it. My cousin Louis ripped the can open and found a catfish inside. It had swum in and eaten until it was too big to get out again. We saved it and set it free. That catfish was the best catch I ever had at that pond...

Still, that didn't stop us from fishing there all the time. Sam would often get frustrated by our lack of “bites”. There were a number of huge carp that would swim around the pond constantly just below the surface. I think they loved to mock all the fisherman that wasted time by coming down to the pond. I don't know how many times I've watched Sam dangling something right in front of one and screaming at them to bite it. I have actually watched him bounce bait off of their mouths for minutes at the time. No matter what we tried they never would bite. Over the years we had tried every bait we could think of.

Finally Sam got an idea. We were heading down to the pond and he had an old rod and reel in his hand. As we walked he explained:

“You see what I've got on the line?” He asked, holding the end of the line up for me to see.

“A weight.” I answered.

“Yep! You know why?”

“No... They aren't going to bite that....”

“No, they won't. They won't bite anything!”


“Now you understand?”


“I am going to bash one's brains out!”


“I am going to sling the rod like a whip and then let the reel go so it will throw the weight.”

“I don't think that will work...”

“Well, you'll see when we get there!”

As soon as we arrived at the pond Sam put his idea into practice. I have to admit that it did much better than I thought it would. He would swing the rod and let the reel go and the weight would shoot down into the pond. I still wasn't convinced that it would do enough damage to hurt the fish, but I have to admit that it looked impressive.

Sam was getting better and better with his aim, but had run into a problem. The reel started to stick. This was very frustrating because a perfectly good cast would get stopped short and cause the weight to fly in some unwanted direction. Now, Sam should have taken some time to consider the fact that a heavy fishing weight flying in an unwanted direction was a bad thing. However, one of Sam's personality traits at that age was never to consider any facts at any time for any reason. He simply yelled at the reel for sticking and got ready to try again.

This is why he didn't think about the fact that it would be dangerous to cast standing right behind someone. Josh was crouched down on the shore looking at this and that. Sam had been trailing this carp trying to hit it with cast after cast. Finally he had gotten into a position where he was going to cast right over Josh's head. He pulled the rod back and cracked it like a whip. The weight shot away like a bullet!

Sadly this was one of the times the reel decided to stick. The result was that the weight flew low and shot right across the top of Josh's head. It made a trail trough his hair and the scalp it was attached to. That weight had cut him almost to the skull. Josh slapped his hand on his head and blood began pouring between his fingers.

We three were all alone at the pond and weren't sure what to do. Fortunately there was a dentist's office right in the park, so we made strait for it. They were actually able to both anesthetize and stitch the wound. My parents were thankful for their help and satisfied with the result. Needless to say that was the end of “fish striking” or whatever you want to call that method.

However, Sam was never a man to give up easily. It was only a short while before he came up with another plan. Once again we were down at the Williston pond and Sam was watching the carp swim around laughing ay him. After a few minutes he got an idea. He picked up a long stick and headed down to the edge of the pond.

“I'm going to spear one!” He said on his way to the shore.

“I don't think that's going to work.” I replied.

“It will. I've seen people do it.”

“You haven't seen them do it with an old pine tree limb.”

“No, but that doesn't matter. The point is that you can spear them.”

“Not with that you can't.”

“You'll see!”

Needless to say, I didn't expect to see anything of the kind. I didn't imagine for a moment that he would actually be able to drive an old pine stick into a swimming carp. In fact I thought that it was so ludicrous that I didn't even bother to stand there and watch. I began to wonder around the circumference of the pond watching the fish swim by. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Sam jamming the stick down into the water again and again. I thought he was insane, but I admired his resolve.

I had wandered over to the opposite side of the shore when Sam suddenly had a change in luck. I heard him scream my name at the top of his lungs and looked up to see something I never could have anticipated. There was Sam kneeling down with his stick jammed down in the water. He had chosen a section of the shore where there was a two foot drop separating earth from water. Squeezed between Sam's stick and the shore was a giant carp.

It seems that Sam had tried to spear the poor thing, but that he had missed. He jammed the stick down into the mud instead. In a flash he realized that the carp was between the stick and the shore, so he jerked the stick back in order to throw the fish out of the water. I believe it would have worked if it hadn't been for that two foot drop. In stead what Sam did was get the fish caught between his stick and the ground. I gathered all this in a moment while looking at him across the pond.

“Jeremy!” He creamed again.

“I'm coming!” I replied as I began to run full speed around the shore.

“I need your knife!”

“I'm coming!!”

“Hurry! It's going to get away!”

“I'm coming!!!”

“I need your knife to kill it!”

“I'm coming!!!!”

I was running as fast as I could, but the carp was making a steady break for it. I suppose the valiant fish had a love for life, because it certainly fought for it. It had been squirming back and forth with all it's strength from the moment it realized it was caught. Very slowly it was getting away. Finally Sam decided that he couldn't wait any longer for me. The fish was too close to freedom. I had gotten within twenty feet of Sam and I saw him reach down to the carp with his bear hand.

“Ahhhh!!!!” He screamed as he jerked back and let the carp fall in the water.

“It bit me!”

In deed it had. In a last ditch effort to save his fish Sam had reached valiantly into the carps mouth. In a last ditch effort to save it's own life it had bitten Sam as hard as it could. In this particular contest between man and beast the brave little fish was the winner. Sam stared at the pond in disbelief for a minute and then looked at his injured hand. After a moment he decided where the fault for all this calamity lay.

“Where were you!” He yelled at me.

“I was on the other side of the pond! I ran as fast as I could!”

“Why didn't you stay close? I told you I was going to get one!”

“I didn't think you could!”

“Well I did!”

“I know that now!”

“Why didn't you leave your knife with me!”

“You didn't ask for it!”

After this yelling match was over we decided that it wasn't anybody's fault. It was just a lack of planning. Sam spent a good part of the rest of the day trying to do what he had done again. However, he never met with any success. That was the closest he ever got to catching one of those carp. There were many other fishing trips on many other beautiful days, but no other carp ever got pulled out of the water by our little group. It almost makes me want to head back down to the Williston pond and see if the carp are still there slowly swimming around and mocking whoever comes to try his luck.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Motorcycle Gang

I suppose I was twelve or thirteen the Christmas that Dad decided to get Joshua and I motorcycles. He had taken us to a few motorcycle shops and had us pick bikes we liked just in case he could buy them one day. We were told that he hoped to get them for us at some point, but that he wasn't sure when that would be. I am certain he was telling the truth at the moment. However, after we picked the motorcycles we wanted he decided he wanted to get them for us as soon as possible. So he worked tons of overtime to get them by Christmas.

He didn't want us to suspect that we were getting them, so we had Christmas just like we always did. We got our normal allotment of toys on Christmas eve down to the last present. When I got up on Christmas morning I couldn't have imagined that we had anything waiting for us, much less something that was worth all the rest of our Christmas presents together. I walked into the living room and saw two motorcycles parked under the Christmas tree. I was so surprised that I literally fell to the floor.

About an hour later Joshua and I were suited up and sitting outside on our bikes. Little did I know that it was the beginning of an almost countless number of adventures. I had just started learning how to change gears and get it going when Kevin Miller showed up. Kevin was a friend that we had known ever since we moved to Williston. We had both moved away from the original neighborhood, but occasionally got to see one another.

He was out and about on that fine Christmas morning and happened to see us out playing with our new bikes. I had just stopped and turned mine off when I looked up to see Kevin coming across the yard. He walked up with a broad smile on his face.

“Nice motorcycle!”

“Thanks, I just got it for Christmas.”

“Well, it's awesome! Have you popped a wheelie yet?”

“I don't know how...”

“Nothing to it! All you need to do is open the throttle and pop the clutch.”


Here I have to provide a few details. First, my motorcycle outfit consisted of a sweat suit and a helmet. Second, the seat of the bike was plastic leather or pleather or whatever you want to call it. The result of these two facts was that I was sitting on a very slick surface. However, at the time I didn't consider this at all.

I took Kevin at his word. I cranked the motorcycle and completely opened the throttle. As soon as the engine was running at full RPMs (about a tenth of a second) I popped the clutch. What happened next was one of those things that leaves most people saying “No Way!”

The front wheel of the bike shot up as if I was about to do a wheelie, but it didn't stop there. It pulled up so far that I fell off. Well, I slid off. I guess it would be more accurate to say that the bike shot out from under me. I went from sitting on my motorcycle to standing on the ground in the blink of an eye.

All this prevented me from letting go of the throttle, so the back wheel continued to spin at full speed. It caused the bike to shoot up above my head. I had actually made it do a one hundred and eighty degree arc around my body. I stood there for a moment with my arms stretched up above my head holding the handle bars. I looked straight up into the seat I had just been sitting on and the decided I better get out from under it. I took two steps before the bike had hit the ground. It just laid there completely upside down.

Kevin stood there for a second with a stunned look on his face. Finally he spoke:

“You opened the throttle too much...”

Well, he was right. After a few more tries I perfected my wheelie and never had the bike shoot up above me again. However, I had another wheelie experience shortly after all this. A few days later I headed down the road to show Sam my bike. He was impressed.

“That's a nice bike!”

“Yea, you want to try it?”

“You know it!”

We decided that I would climb on the back and Sam and I would ride back up to my house.

“You know how to pop a wheelie?” I asked. I was my only trick so far and I wanted to share.


“It's easy, just open the throttle and pop the clutch. Just be careful about how much you open the throttle!”

“No problem.”

Again, I have to pause for some description. Sam was actually living just down the hill from me at his grandmother's house. The hill continued down past her house. In fact her trailer was almost set on the ground on one end and on the other it was suspended roughly ten feet in the air, just to keep it level. We were sitting on the high side of this hill when he decided to start our trip home with a wheelie.

Sam started the bike, opened the throttle a little and popped the clutch. The front wheel pulled up and we began to ride along on the back tire. As soon as we were rolling forward, however, we took a slight right and started to slowly head down the hill.

“How do I steer?” Sam yelled above the sound of the motor.

“You can't until we get the front wheel back on the ground!”

“How do we do that?”

“Just lean forward!”

Normally leaning forward will put enough weight on the front wheel to push it back down to the ground. However, that didn't work this time. We had already started heading down the hill so that, from the point of view of gravity, the front wheel was almost strait up. Also, Sam's hands had slipped off the handle bars and he was holding as tight as he could to the top of the gas tank. We couldn't get enough leverage to get our weigh on the front of the motorcycle and drop the front tire.

The bike absolutely refused to put both it's wheels on the ground. We were screaming almost non-stop and were heading straight for a fence at the bottom of the hill. Just before the bike ran into it we started turning to the right. We actually drove around Sam's grandmother's trailer and started heading back up the hill. Once we had gotten to the top of the hill the bike made another right and dropped down on both wheels at almost the same point where our wheelie had started.

“How did you do that?!?” I asked as soon as the bike was stopped.

“I have no idea!” was Sam's honest answer.

Sam never popped another wheelie anywhere near as cool, either on purpose or by accident. None of my wheelies ever touched it either. However, Josh did pop one, quite by accident, that was even cooler and slightly more unbelievable than that one.

It happened years later. Sam had broken my motorcycle (that's another story...) and we had been trying to get it working again. We had been working on the engine for days, but hadn't gotten it started yet. Finally Sam decided that we needed to push start it to clear all the gunk out of the engine.

For those of you who don't know how you push start something I'll briefly explain. All you have to do is put the vehicle in neutral or hold the clutch in and start it rolling. Once the vehicle is moving at a good speed you pop the clutch. This forces the engine to roll over and the vehicle will start.

This was what Sam and Josh were doing with the motorcycle. They would haul it up to the top of the hill and get it rolling down and then pop the clutch. They had been at it for a while with no results. Sam was pushing while Josh rode the bike. Josh was lighter and Sam was stronger, so it was the best way to go about it.

At last something did happen. Sam was pushing away and yelled for Josh to pop the clutch. As he did so the bike shot up into a wheelie. Josh began to fly down the hill on one tire. Sam screamed for Josh to hit the brake. I'm sure that at the moment this seemed like a good idea even though it proved to be otherwise. Because Josh only slammed on the back brakes the front wheel was still free to move. Now, this may not seem like a problem since the front wheel was in the air, however, it turned out to be an issue anyway.

Here it's important to note that the hill he was rolling down was very steep. He was also rolling at a very high speed when he hit the brakes. The results were very remarkable. The front wheel came down with so much force that it cause the back tire to pop up. Since the front wheel was free to spin it caused the bike to kick up into a wheelie on the front tire. Sam screamed for Josh not to hit the break and he took the advice. He rolled all the way down the hill on the front wheel, screaming the entire way. At the very end the road went from paved to dirt. The dirt slowed the bike down and when it finally fell over Josh wasn't hurt at all.

There were many more wheelies, but none of them ever matched those. Little did Dad know what he had actually gotten when he bought that bike. It was a doorway to adventure for us. That was the one kind of door we could never walk past. There are many more stories about that old bike. I plan to share more of them with you time.