Amazing Tales of Youth

(or, It's a Miracle I Ever Survived Childhood)

Last Updated on Friday, October 2, 2009

This page contains stories from my youth.  Considering all the mischief, I'm amazed that I lived to tell about it.  Now some of you may say, "Big deal -- I did much worse when I was young!"  Perhaps that's true, but I'm proud of the fact that the emergency room staff at the hospital didn't know me or my parents by name.

My Only Broken BoneRead about the only bone I ever broke.
My Nearly-Broken ChinWater, plastic, and cement don't mix.
My Nearly-Broken ToeThis is why I'm not a soccer star.
My Nearly-Broken FaceThat's what I get for trying to cheat.
When Bikes FlyWe flew bikes before Evel Knievel ever dreamed of his death-defying Snake River Canyon jump.
When Bikes Fly HigherHang 'em High.
Driving a SkateboardAlmost like J.A.T.O. (Jet-Assisted Take-Off).
Free-Falling on a SkateboardDon't bite off more than you can chew.
Chutes and LaddersWell, chutes, at least.
Riding a Uni-BicycleIt never hurts to check things twice.
Burning Down The HouseI wasn't actually responsible for this one -- but it leads into the whole pyro topic...
Smoking Pot in a TruckNot like it sounds, this refers to another smoke pot incident.
Heat-Seeking FireworksA homemade missile with a mind of its own.
Punks and PowderNever to be mixed lightly.
Chucking FirecrackersSome fuses are shorter than they look.
Who Needs a Weed-WhackerFlame throwers do a more thorough job.
Tonka Brand BarbequeOther uses for those old construction toys.
Preparations for Cliff DivingSlightly more dangerous than cliff diving, for two reasons...
Voyage to the Bottom of the PoolBicycles and pools don't mix.
Encounter With a ScorpionWatch your step.
The Flying Nun, Hiker StyleTrade in your habit for a backpack.
Skewered Like a Pin Cushion 1This could easily have been avoided.
Skewered Like a Pin Cushion 2And the pain was tremendous.

My Only Broken Bone

When I was about nine years old, I took off on my bicycle to go to the corner market.  As I was racing along, my chain came off and lodged between the sprocket and frame.  This caused the bike to stop suddenly.  Unfortunately, I wasn't at one with the bike.  I kept going, up and over the handlebars.  I landed on my left pinky finger, snapping it.  This required a cast for a few weeks.

My Nearly-Broken Chin

The neighbors across the street from my house had a nice lawn in their back-yard -- it was concrete -- the easiest stuff to mow.  On a hot summer day, we thought that it would be fun to spread out a huge sheet of plastic on the concrete, spray water all over it, then run and slide.  Whether my turn was first or not, I don't remember.  My turn was, however, last.  I took off running toward the plastic, planning to stand and slide all the way across.  I didn't even get a chance to wonder what was going wrong.  In less than a blink of an eye, I was face-down on the concrete, blood all over the place.  My chin had contacted the plastic/cement with blinding speed and force.  I grabbed my chin and ran home.
My mom was prepared for just such an eventuality.  She had a stash of butterfly bandages, and applied liberally.  This not only saved me from having to get stitches, but it also saved my mom an unpleasant trip to the emergency room.

My Nearly-Broken Toe

In my childhood home, we had a full-sized, finished basement.  There was paneling on the walls, a dropped ceiling with fluorescent lights, and a concrete floor with very thin carpeting.
I was kicking a sponge ball around while bare-footed.  I lifted my foot behind me to unleash a glorious kick, like no other kick, but instead of contacting the ball, my big toe took a trajectory straight into the floor, jamming my toe.  As a result, my right toe is, to this day, a tiny bit shorter than my left toe.

My Nearly-Broken Face

Again, in my childhood basement, there was a large support beam above the basement holding the first floor up.  The beam was supported by a three- or four-inch round post sunk into the concrete floor.  It was solid.
There were no windows in the basement.  When the lights were off, it was pitch black.  This made for the perfect environment for hide-and-seek, blind man's bluff, and so forth.  One fine day, we decided to play hide-and-seek.  The lights went out, and a few of us scattered to various locations.  When the game was under way, I thought it would be pretty funny if I snuck over and turned on the light to the basement.
I headed at full steam toward the light switch, completely disregarding the fact that the support pole was there, and was, in fact, more immovable than I.  My face met the unforgiving pole, and in the dark, I saw stars.

When Bikes Fly

What kid doesn't, at some point in his youth, set up ramps, then jump the ramps with a bicycle?  A few of us in the neighborhood thought that it would be neat if we could do more than just jump ramps.  We started enlisting the younger kids (they were the only ones that would consent) to lie down behind the takeoff ramp.  We wanted to see how many kids we could jump.
Whether fortunately or unfortunately, we could only find three at the most to lie down, and amazingly, there were no mishaps.

When Bikes Fly Higher

Jumping ramps on a bike is like drugs -- after being a user for a while, you need bigger/stronger to get a rush.  The key with ramp building is to find a board strong enough for the length required to reach the top of a stack of cinder blocks.  We may have gone just a little too far.  I built a ramp that was probably just a third shorter than the height of my bike.  The ramp was on the sidewalk in front of my house, just below a huge oak tree.
I positioned myself to get a good run before hitting the ramp, and took off pedaling.  When I hit the ramp, the bike changed angles abruptly, and I soared through the air.  That was the goal, and I did it!  It was then that I looked up to see, hanging low from a limb, a noose that my brother had tied.  I didn't realize that it was there, but I saw it in time to duck my head enough so that it hit my forehead.
In shock, I plummeted toward the ground, barely thinking about the angle of impact.  My front tire hit first, eliciting a groan from the forks as they bent under the force.  The only damage I incurred was the couple of years I aged on the way down.

Driving a Skateboard

In the early days of skateboards, urethane wheels revolutionized the sport.  Clay wheels were a thing of the past, and skateboarders were achieving better performance and higher speeds than ever before.
The neighbor girl across the street had recently turned 16, and was driving.  I thought it would be fun to hang on to her car while she took off.  The speed and acceleration were incredible.  But it became apparent that I was in way over my head.  I released just in time.  If I had encountered so much as a pebble in the road, I would have been toast.

Free-Falling on a Skateboard

My grandparents lived on a hill.  The streets below their driveway were quite steep.  Just as the last three words a redneck ever says is, "Hey, watch this," one day, I decided that it would be neat to ride my skateboard down one of the hills.  I positioned myself at the top, then started the descent.  The only thing I didn't take into account was the acceleration due to gravity.  Within a few seconds, the skateboard was shimmying left and right.  In a split second, I knew I had to either bail out now, or eat asphalt.  I jumped/ran off the skateboard at high speed.  My feet were barely able to keep up, slapping the street with every elongated step.

Chutes and Ladders

I grew up in quite a large house.  Within the house, there were many places in which to hide.  One day, while my parents were away, I invited the neighbor kids over for a game of hide-and-seek.
There were two laundry chutes from the second floor to the first floor.  They were both located behind cupboard doors under bathroom sinks.  One of my childhood chums chose a laundry chute as his hiding place.  It was apparently a good choice, because we couldn't find him for a very long time.  As we had given up, we called to him to come out.  There was no answer.  We searched and searched, but still couldn't find a trace of him.
Finally, we heard a muffled cry for help.  We followed the call to an upstairs bathroom, and opened the cupboard door below the sink.  There he was, visible only from the chest up.  It was a hot day, and his sweat had caused him to drop farther into the chute, wedging him tightly.  From the laundry room downstairs, we could partially open the drawer that fed from the laundry chute upstairs.  His feet were barely visible.  Pulling him down was out of the question.
From upstairs, we tried to pull him out, but he was stuck, and on the verge of tears.  We were about to call the fire department when his mounting sweat greased the skids, allowing him to slide back up and out.

Riding a Uni-Bicycle

I did some repair work on my bicycle's front tire.  In my haste to finish, I failed to tighten the nuts holding the front tire on the forks.  I took the bike out for a spin, riding down my driveway, across the street, up the neighbors' driveway, across to the walkway, and back toward the sidewalk.  There were stairs leading from the sidewalk to the walkway, and I commonly popped a wheelie down those stairs.  This time was no different -- except that while my front tire was in the air, it came off from the forks and rolled across the street.  I rode that wheelie as long as I possibly could, finally coming down with the forks going directly into the dirt of the parkway.

Burning Down The House

The neighbor kids lit a smoke pot in their house right around the 4th of July.  I just happened to be coming over to their place when I saw the smoke billowing out of the front door.  Then, one of them grabbed the incendiary device and threw it out the front door.  It sailed across the front yard and hit the trunk of their oak tree, immediately catching the bark on fire in a few places.  They ran outside, stamping their feet sideways on the trunk to put out the small fires.

Smoking Pot in a Truck

I got the hare-brained idea of lighting a smoke pot around the 4th of July, and carrying it into the cab of my father's pickup truck.  When the neighbor saw me, I threw it out next to the truck, and he chastised me for having such a dangerous, flammable object so close to a gas tank (and this, from a smoker!).

Heat-Seeking Fireworks

When I was growing up, the 4th of July was one of my favorite holidays.  The neighbor kids and I would go to the fireworks stands to buy as many pyrotechnics as we could afford.  Among our purchases would almost always be Piccolo Petes.  When lit, they would emit a shrill whistle sound for a few seconds.  We found that if we slightly smashed the middle of the firework, when it burned to that point, it would explode.  We also found that if we removed the plastic base, laid it on its side, then lit it, it would take off like a missile.
We lit this particular one off in missile-like fashion, and it seemed to home in on me.  I ran between cars, and it followed me, finally bumping into my back as it fell to the ground, exhausted of its fuel.

Punks and Powder

Punks are sticks that burn fairly slowly, and are often used to light fireworks.  A neighbor kid opened a Piccolo Pete and emptied the white powder into a pile on the cement border around his front yard.  He then took a lit punk and began lowering it toward the powder.  It was about this time that I saw what he was doing.  It seems like time stood almost still, as I called out, "Nnnnooooooooooooo....."  As I reached over to grab his hand, the powder went off, flashing us both.  It got his face a little, and both of our hands.  My hand felt like it was webbed for a few days afterwards.

Chucking Firecrackers

A young neighbor kid thought it would be fun to light firecrackers, then throw them.  Unfortunately, it was a long way from the kitchen stove to the backyard -- you guessed it -- the explosive went off in his hand, causing no more than a bit of pain.

Who Needs a Weed-Whacker

Again with the neighbor kids -- they had a wood fence with narrow gaps between the wood slats, and through these gaps grew tendrils of a climbing vine from the next-door-neighbor's yard.  The two brothers had cigarette lighters (store clerks would readily sell lighters, and even cigarettes, to underage minors).  They began to burn the vines with the lighters, moving from one to the next.  Finally, they were close together, when one of them lit his brother's hair on fire.  It singed the front part.

Tonka Brand Barbeque

We found all kinds of uses for charcoal.  One of them was to take a Tonka dump truck, place its bed over hot coals, then fry bologna and wieners in its bed.  Who knows what kind of toxins were found in the paint, or introduced due to unsanitary conditions.  All we knew is that it did Oscar Mayer right.

Preparations for Cliff Diving

There was a lady in the neighborhood that had a pool.  She let us water her plants, and in return, she would let us swim.  One day, she left us alone while she went out to run some errands (probably to visit her boys in jail, or something like that).  While she was gone, we dared each other to jump into the pool from the patio roof.  We finally each succumbed to the pressure, climbed on the patio roof, and jumped, feet first, into the pool.  Well, once was enough.  The lady's neighbor saw us do it and snitched on us when she got home.  It was a while before we could go swimming there again.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Pool

Another time, at the same pool as described above, the lady left us alone (big mistake, I guess).  We decided that it would be fun to put a bicycle into the pool, so we could ride it along the bottom.
Things don't always turn out the way you plan.  The bike sank to the bottom as its frame filled with water.  it laid down flat, then slid down to the deep end.  It became so heavy that we couldn't easily lift it.  Panic set in.  Now, the time we were going to spend having fun turned into an effort to get the silly bike out of the pool.  It took quite a bit of work, but we were barely able to get it out.

Encounter With a Scorpion

While canoeing with the boy scouts down the Colorado River, we stopped to camp.  The place we chose was remote, with quite a number of trees, and quite a bit of brush.  When it got dark, some of the boys in the troop started a fire in a rocky area.  I was getting ready to go to bed, so I set up my tent, took off my shoes, and decided to visit the fire before turning in.  With my trusty flashlight in hand, I went to the fire, stayed for a short while, then headed back toward my tent.  As I was walking, I shined my light on the ground for every step -- every step, that is, except one -- as I stepped down, I felt a prick.  I quickly stepped back and shined my light down.  To my horror, I saw a scorpion, with its tail sticking straight up in the air.  It had been munching on a dead grasshopper when I clumsily interrupted it.
At that age, I knew I was going to die.  If you get stung by a scorpion, you die, right?  That's certainly what I thought.  The whole troop heard me announce that I was going to die, and I believe I remember asking, "Why me?"  That night, they tell me that I was delirious, and kept peeking out my tent and shining my flashlight.  I don't remember much, though.

The Flying Nun, Hiker Style

I was quite small when I was a boy scout.  My backpack, equipped with a poncho to shield from the rain, was about as tall as I was.
On a hike up Mount Whitney, we ran into a bit of a wind coming through a pass.  Because my backpack acted as a sail, the wind blew me over the side of the mountain.  I was able to hold on to the edge and climb back up, but I learned to be extremely cautious as I continued on.

Skewered Like a Pin Cushion 1

My brother was into darts.  I was huddled on the floor in the family room, taking in the heat from a floor-mounted vent, when my brother thought that I might better serve the world propping up a dart board.  He leaned his dart board against me (there was a token amount of protest on my part), then proceeded to throw darts from across the room.
Then, out of the blue, as a completely-unforeseen event, a stray dart hit me in the shoulder.  Fortunately for me, it didn't go in too deeply -- game over.

Skewered Like a Pin Cushion 2

What is it about the family room?  I was walking across the carpet, when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my foot.  I had stepped on a toothpick -- it went about three yards into my foot (at least it felt like it did).  My dad was in the room, and saw me collapse to the ground, rolling and screaming.  He grabbed the toothpick, and pulled, but his fingers slipped off.  On the second attempt, he got it out.

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