Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Ride Of My Life

One of the greatist joys and challenges of my childhood was the swimmin' hole. This was a place of infinite entertainment. I have spent a great deal of time fishing, swimming, rafting, diving, and camping around a crick. It was my second home. I have spent whole summers roaming it's shores and every spring we would spend two weeks pulling the rusted car parts, tires, washing machines, and broken bottles out so the rest of the season we didn't have to worry about cutting our feet to ribbons.

Now I had two neighbors, my buddy Carl, and the brothers Goslin, Mike and Matt. These kind gentlemen were the ones who taught me how to lie, cheat at cards, syphon gas from a car, to spit (an important lesson to know should you ever have to syphon gas from a car), how to chat up a girl (a lesson I never learned very well), how to sneak out of the house, swear creatively, how to fish, dip snuff, and how to drink beer, as well as other things that a young man needs to know to get by in this world that his parents are hesitant to pass along. They were fine people, one and all, well at least Mike and Matt were. Carl was a shithead deluxe.

That being said, let me tell you my story. One warm sunny Saturday afternoon in spring, they came knocking at my door to enlist my help with a little project they had planned for the day. They had found a pulley that would be ideal for sliding down a length of cable and dropping into the swimming hole, and to sweeten the deal they had also found the cable with which to make this scheme possible. The only trouble was that the cable was at the top of the hill at a neighbor's oil well. The neighbor didn't need the cable, as he had left it out in the elements to rust, and it was up to us to "liberate" it before it lost it's usefulness and was wasted. That was how they explained it to me. At first this seemed like a just cause, but as I was sweating and swearing my way down the hill toteing my share of three hundred pounds of cable, I realized I had participated in an act of theft. To them, this was a lark. To me, this was my first entry into the criminal world.

At my realization that we had done a horrible wrong to someone who had never done us any harm, I entreated them to return it and forget the whole escapade. My words fell on deaf ears as we had reached the bottom of the hill and no amount of our paltry strenght could move it against gravity back to it's rightful place. So we plunged ahead.

Mike, the older of the two Goslin brothers, had had the foresight to find one cable lock so we could secure one end of the cable to a tree up the hill from the swimming hole, and had even found some pliers so we could tighten the lock down. What he hadn't found was something to cut the cable with, or another cable lock to attach the end of the cable we couldn't cut, to the other tree. But since none of us weighed more than a hundred and forty pounds each and the spool of cable weighed more than all of us combined, we solved the problem by wrapping the cable tightly around a tree and we hoped for the best. Later, this solution proved wise.

We cleared a path up the steep hill and tied a rope so that it could be used for a handrail. The pulley was produced and the cable was ready for it's first trial. We all looked at Carl. Carl was our guinea pig. This was why we kept him around, because it certainly wasn't for his company. Carl was dumb, and to add insult to injury, he was also gifted with a sense of foolhardiness. There was nothing he wouldn't try. I have seen him, sober mind you, pee on an electric fence that he knew was on. We all stepped back from the pulley and waited for Carl to take his rightful place and take the first ride.

Then Carl did something we had never seen before. He balked. He took a long pull at his Old Milwaukee tall boy and said, "I ain't goin' down that thing!" We were at a loss. If Carl wouldn't go, how were we ever going to know if it was safe? I was quick to nominate Matt as our second choice but he was quickly eliminated as he was the one who had found the cable. Mike exscused himself, as he had been the one who had found the pulley, the cable lock, and the pliers. They all turned to me.

"Oh Crap!", I thought to myself, "Why, oh why, have I ever let myself get talked into this mess." I tried to plead a weak heart. I tried to plead a bad back. I even tried to plea that my religion of being a coward prevented me, but to no avail. I had to go. I gave them one long last look, much like the soldier before a battle he knows he will not return from. Mike grinned. Matt smiled. Carl laughed out loud that for the first time he wasn't going to be the one in the emergency room and took another swig of his cheap beer.

With sweaty hands, I grabbed the hook under the pulley and lifted my feet. Before I could utter the "O" of "Oh Shit! I'm going to die!" I was racing along at breakneck speed. The trees on the hill raced past faster than Indy cars. The pulley made a whirring, buzzing sound as if a million hornets had been roused to anger. My arms felt as if they were about to be pulled from the sockets as the wind pulled tears from my eyes. But I held on. To let go now would be folly, as I found myself sixty feet above dry ground. "Just a half second more," I kept telling myself as I wondered how life would be confined to a wheelchair.

At last I cleared the trees and was over water, but still I had to hang on a little longer, as the water didn't get deep until the center of the crick. I screamed profanities, I screamed prayers, I screamed that dieing a virgin was no way to go. I distinctly recall slighting Carl's heritage at one point for not being the one riding down this kid-made deathtrap. It was about this point that I wet myself a little.

I was too scared to let go, but I couldn't ride this pulley to the other side of the crick as I would plow into a rocky mud bank that would have reduced my slender frame to pudding. I had to time it just right so that my forward momentum didn't carry me over the narrow channel where the water ran eight foot deep. I saw my chance and I took it. I let go and pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, closed my eyes and hoped for the best.

Now one would think that such a harrowing experience as this would have made one's sphincter seal to a point of impenetrability. Such was not the case. I plunged into the cold water butt first and for my trouble was gifted with a quart of crick water rectally. This embarrassing side effect was quickly remedied as I used its propulsion to rapidly advance myself to the surface. I came up sputtering and cursing and then swam to shore to retrieve the pulley as my "comrades" cheered from the far bank. I crossed the crick with the pulley and climbed the hill to cries of "Me next, Me next!"

I looked them in the eye and said no. I wasn't done with my test and they would have to wait.

The next time, I made a run for it.

Epilogue: That fall, after three months of riding this thrill machine, the man who owned the cable showed up with the sherriff and made us take it down and return the cable. He said if we had cut it, he would have pressed charges. We apologized and promised to never do anything like this again, but we had a good laugh listening to the two of them grunt and groan their way through the cornfield to return it to the top of the hill.



  1. ::sigh:: I guess i jung out with all th' wrong crowd when I was a kid-- I n'er did anythign as interesting as you...

  2. That is a damn fine story Doc! Isn't that peer pressure how we all wind up learning most of our lessons in life?

  3. Excellent story. Being the youngest and most limber, I was the designated treeclimber / roperigger in our childhood group as well. I have the ropeburn scars to prove it.

  4. Is Carl the kid they got to play Mikey on that cereal commercial?

  5. Although I never did anything this wild, it does remind me of being a kid and hearing my parents harangue my brother for various life-threatening escapades.

    We did play in the river completely un-supervised whenever the weather would allow. We were country kids, and that's what you did. Grownups had no idea where we were or what we were doing 90% of the time.

    Now when I see kids riding on our bikepath with helmets, it just makes me smile.

  6. I've gotten a water enema before when I wiped out wake boarding. I guess if that's all that happened to you, then you made out great.

  7. God damn, that was fucking brilliant! It's exactly the same kind of shit I used to get myself into as a kid.

  8. Sounds like a great adventure and makes me think about my young life of crime more, haha. I finally did the Seven Things meme too, sorry for the delay.


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