Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Days With Danny

One of my best friends growing up was Danny Flint. He was a barrel of fun and the two of us were always getting up to something. Sadly he lost his life when we were both fifteen years old. I have heard it said that everyone dies, but not everyone truly lives. I honestly believe that. Danny crammed more life into his fifteen years than some people manage to put into eighty. He loved life and lived every minute he had of it. I record here a few examples of the kind of things we did.

Danny had motorcycles. He didn't have a motorcycle or a selection of motorcycles, he just had motorcycles. From the time I met him he always had a few around that were sort of generally his. I think his Dad was good at small engine repair or some such. Whatever the reason he always had dirt bikes around. Because of this he could ride well.

He had a bit of a dirt track out in the woods just down the road from his house. He decided to take me out there one morning. I hadn't seen it yet and he decided it was high time for me to go have a look. We headed down the road on one bike. He was driving and I was riding behind holding on for dear life. We shot down the road at perhaps forty miles an hour. Suddenly Danny turned up into the woods and before I knew it we were on the track.

We were flying past trees and leaning over as we flew quickly around sharp corners. Before I knew it we had hit a ramp and shot up into the air. At the highest point in the jump Danny just disappeared. Well, I say disappeared, in truth I saw where he went. He went up. It didn't make much sense at the moment. He had been sitting in front of me when we hit the ramp. We all three (The bike, Danny and me) had all flown up into the air. However, when the bike and me started to descend Danny didn't. He just went up into the air as I went down.

I grabbed frantically at the handle bars which were just out of my reach because I had been sitting on the back of the seat. I landed before I could get my hands on them, so I couldn't keep from crashing into a group of bushes strait ahead of me. As soon as the bike had thrown me off into the brush I heard Danny laughing. I looked back toward the ramp and saw him hanging from a pine branch.

He had grabbed the limb in the high point of the jump and left me to make the descent by myself. It was hard to believe he had planned it, but that was the case. The ramp had been strategically placed below the limb so Danny, and a few other friends, could make the jump and then desert their bikes mid-air.

“So, did I surprise you?” He asked as he dropped back to earth.

“Yea, you could say that!” I laughed.

“You're not hurt?”

“Not at all!”

“Good! I just wanted to scare you!”

He had picked the bike up as we were talking. He cranked it up and I hopped on. Danny and I had very similar senses of humor. The fact that he had abandoned me in the middle of a jump and left me to crash into the woods didn't bother me at all. In truth I would have done the same thing to him. We each one loved a laugh and were more than willing to undergo a few bruises and scrapes to get one. As soon as I was back on the bike we were off.

It was an ill fated day for me as far as that motorcycle was concerned. As we were on the way back to Danny's house we ran up a earth embankment. The sand was loose to say the least and as soon as we hit it I knew we were in trouble. The bike jerked one way and then the other and before you could blink we had crashed into the sand.

It was soft and warm and didn't hurt a bit. Danny and I just lay there laughing for a moment. I had one of my legs sticking up over the side of the bike. As I relaxed I lowered my leg and it touched the bike. That is to say that it touched the muffler. It took me a moment to realize I was burning. The thing was so hot it deadened the nerves as it burned. Finally I realized something was wrong and jumped up with a loud yell.

I looked at the back of my leg and it looked like part of it was melted plastic. All the skin was bunched up and melted away from the back of my leg. To say that it hurt would be an understatement, but I wasn't about to start screaming and crying. I was twelve or thirteen and so I knew I had to walk like a man.

“Oh man! I'm sorry!” Danny said as soon as he saw my leg.

“No problem. It's not your fault. I should have been watching the muffler.” I replied as I inspected my calf.

“Hop on the bike and I'll run you back to the house so was can take care of it.”

“No thanks. Let's walk...”

So, walk we did. I limped along while Danny walked beside me pushing the bike. It took us a lot longer to get home than it would have if I had just ridden the motorcycle, but I didn't feel up to any more of it at the time. When I got back to Danny's his Mom took a look at it. In short she said that it was going to hurt for a while, but that it would heal. They were used to muffler burns and knew I was in no real danger. It hurt for a long time, but now I have only the smallest scar to show you where I once had the back of my leg burned off. Even at the time I felt that the burn had been worth the fun.

Danny and I attracted fire. At least that's how it seems now that I look back at it. Long after the leg incident Danny had come over to my house to play. In a lot of ways my house was the place to be because Dad let us do pretty much whatever we wanted provided that it wasn't immoral, illegal or very dangerous (he expected us to do things that were slightly deadly). We had a number of club houses and the greatest tree house in town.

Danny and I had decided to camp out in the current club house in the back yard. It was a low building made out of railroad cross ties stacked up and walls with a tin roof set on it. It had no windows and the door was a hole dug below one of the walls. The tin roof had a hole for a chimney and we would crawl in and start a fire during the colder months.

That day we had a small fire going. It was very pleasant inside. It was warm. It was glowing. All in all it was very inviting. Danny and I sat there talking as Sam was collecting fuel for the fire. At some point he decided to tear up a bunch of dead morning glory vines. (Mom grew morning glories all around the house when I was a child.) He carried a huge load of them over to the clubhouse and decided the best thing to do would be to jam them down the chimney.

So, there we were, Danny and I suddenly staring at a pile of morning glory vines that went from the fire on the floor all the way out of the top of the chimney. (It was a low building, it couldn't have been more than three feet tall. It was club house we couldn't stand up in, but that wasn't the point.) For a moment the fire looked as if it had been smothered. The club house was almost completely dark and smoke was pouring from the smoldering sparks of the fire.

“Why did you do that?” I yelled to Sam.

“I'm burning the vines!” he replied.

“Yes, but we're in here!”

“I know.”

“Well, you could have smoked us to death, not to mention burned us.”


Our conversation was cut short. Suddenly there was more light in the room. Within half a second that the light was blinding. The vines has gotten hot enough to burst into flame. (All this had taken about fifteen seconds.) Danny and I were suddenly sitting in a room with a column of fire in the corner that went from the floor to the ceiling. We did the only logical thing we could do. We screamed and started crawling out of the hole/door. We came up covered in soot and yelling at Sam. For his part he couldn't stop laughing. After we were sure that neither of us were on fire we joined in Sam's mirth. After all, we couldn't deny that it was funny. That wasn't the first time I had been close to the flames with Danny.

For those of you who have read other stories of mine you may find this next one very similar to one you have already read. It's as if only the names and a few other details have been changed. The reason for this is simple: Boys will be boys. We are drawn to the same ideas and often suffer the same consequences.

I had gone to spend the night at Danny's house one Friday. We woke up on Saturday morning and started looking for things to do. After a while we found an old toy truck he had left out in the woods. In my typical fashion I suggested that we burn it. I wasn't into wanton destruction just for destruction's sake, but I did love to burn up old toys for some reason. Danny readily agreed to the idea. We wanted to make a car wreck scene of some kind that burst into flame.

Finally we decided that falling off a cliff was a good kind of explosive crash. As we were walking along talking about it we came up on a concrete block wall out near Danny's house. Normally a wall like that would have had all the holes between the blocks filled with concrete. This one didn't. For some reason some of the holes between the blocks were empty from the top of the wall to the ground. We looked down into one and considered the possibilities.

“We could drop the car down there as if it crashed and set it on fire.” I said looking down into the hole.

“Yea! That sounds good.” Danny replied.

“We would need something to get it started though...”

“Spray paint?”


The decision having been made we ran off to get a can of spray paint. We took the can and shook it well and then sprayed most of it down into one of the holes. After that we rolled the truck along the top of the wall making up dialog as we went. “Look out for that cliff!” “I see it! Ahhh!! The breaks are out!” and so forth. The truck was dropped down into the dark abyss and it was time to give our creation life. That is to say we just needed to catch it on fire.

I took a long stick and lit the end. I stood bent over looking directly down in the hole. I looked up at Danny, smiled and said “Let's take a look with the light. Maybe there are survivors.” or something like that. With that I slowly lowed my flaming brand into the darkness. And then there was light!

Yes, the fumes caught fire in a flash. The entire hole became a vortex of flame that shot out of it like the exhaust of a jet engine. My head was engulfed in crimson flame. In an instant I jerked my head back, but it was too late. I had no facial hair left. My eye lashes we little crispy strings. My eye brows were crumbly little patches of fluffy dust. Even the front of my hair was melted into an odd position.

“Are you alright?!?!?” Danny yelled as soon as I had stood up.

“I think so.” Was my dazed reply.

“We better get you washed up.”

“I agree!”

We went back to the house and washed away the burnt remnants of my eye brows and lashes. We did our best to comb my wad of melted hair. When we were done Danny stepped back to take a look.

“Much better!” He said with confidence.

“Really?” I said looking in the mirror.

“Oh yea! No one will be able to tell anything happened now.”

“You don't think I look a little red?”

“No, not at all.”

As soon as we came out of the bathroom we ran into Danny's Mom.

“What happened to you!” She said loudly looking at me in surprise.

“So, I look normal?” I asked looking at Danny.

Needless to say we had to explain exactly what had happened. We were criticized through almost constant laughter and warned not to do it again. As one can imagine, we never did. Most young men only need their face caught on fire the one time. After that they never put their face close to things that may burst into flame at any moment. That was my one time and I learned my lesson.

As I sit here writing this I miss Danny. We never got to finish growing up together. A single accident sent him home and those of us that knew him were left to go on here without him. I think about him now and then when this or that brings him to mind. I miss him, but I'm happy to miss him because it means I knew him.

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