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By Gary McBain

Stupid Hurts

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 flashes.

“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 forever.”

"Wow!" I thought, "Good painkillers," and drifted off to sleep.


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