By Gary McBain
I envy those young bucks who race and jump
motorized contraptions. They have the skill and
endurance to keep them safe. Also, their
youthfulness keeps them from having enough sense
to know better. Sometimes, however, just getting
on a machine is stupid. I kind of notice that
more since I’ve entered middle age. I now find
it inconvenient to have to wait around for days,
weeks, or months to heal after doing something
stupid. Of course, age and experience helps in
not being stupid, but testosterone still makes
stupid things at least remotely possible.
Case in point. I was minding my own business
one snowy weekend when one of my sons came home
from college. He gathered some friends to go
sledding on the hill and field behind our house.
After several hours, my son came in and asked me
to pull them behind my ATV. After a stern
warning about not doing anything stupid, I
pulled them around at a safe speed. Lots of fun
was had by all. One of the guys then asked me if
I could do donuts in the snow on my ATV.
“Watch this,” I said.
Round and round I went until I dug a hole
down to bare earth. The earth decided I'd had
enough fun and decided to stop my rotation,
abruptly. I remember flying through the air
thinking "Hey, no problem!" After all, I had
been a pretty good athlete in my youth and knew
how to land and roll. Besides that, I thought
the snow would soften my fall. So, while flying
through the air I decided to just tuck my
shoulder and roll. Except… I went into the
ground like a shot-down fighter plane. No tuck,
no roll, just splat!
I was actually quite proud of myself for
being smart enough to wear a helmet. Slight
rattling of the brain, no problem. I looked up
expecting to see the kids holding up signs
scoring my dive. Instead, I saw white searing
“Are you OK?” someone asked.
“No problem,” I hissed through clinched teeth
and searing pain, “just knocked the wind out of
me.” Of course, I was still saying that an hour
later while trying to breathe through the
stabbing pain in my side.
The next day was spent stoned on painkillers
while drooling on myself in front of the TV.
“Broken ribs,” the doctor said. “Nothing you can
do for them but rest.” I already knew that since
I had had broken ribs (and just about everything
else at one time or another) in the past.
My wife walked by and said, “You know you’re
not 20 anymore?” I heard her say it, but just
for a second I thought I heard something else. A
favorite wise old uncle’s voice was telling me:
“You’re only young once, but you can stay stupid
"Wow!" I thought, "Good painkillers," and
drifted off to sleep.