It is true. During those seven magical years spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, my three brothers, The Sister and I had many adventures. Our neighborhood and its vast woodlands, Cripple Creek, the swamp and swimming lake behind our house and even the Haunted Forest supplied the backdrop for escapades like those of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I’ve also written about adventures that went awry, suddenly turning into misadventures.
Luckily none of those ended in serious injury. When they did, they were called accidents. Accidents are what this story is about — one accident in particular.
I define an accident as: an unintentional, unfortunate, or unforeseen incident that happens while kids are playing or grownups are just going about their daily lives. The incident usually ends in injury or possibly even worse. Back on Flamingo we had a bunch of those.
Older Brother Richard said for me to lick my finger and then stick it in the light socket of a table lamp. He plugged it in. Mom heard me screaming from the kitchen and came-a-running. When asked, he told her it was an accident. My fingernail turned black and took a month to fall off. Looking back, I know it was intentional what Richard did, and it was unfortunate that it happened to me.
There’s nothing dangerous about throwing darts at a dartboard — unless, of course, the dartboard isn’t attached to a wall or a tree but rather held up by one of your brothers. We all took turns holding the dartboard on our chests.
When Dad asked, Big Brother James said it was unfortunate that he was holding it when I was showing off trying to throw two darts at the same time. On the way to the hospital, I told Dad it was unintentional that both darts missed the target and were now stuck in James’s elbows.
One rainy Saturday afternoon, what happened to The Sister was both unintentional, and unforeseen. Who knew taking a ride in a commercial clothes dryer (with the heat off, of course) would be so dangerous? Us boys had taken our rides numerous times before she walked into the basement of Dad’s apartment complex and asked us what game we were playing.
Now, looking back, guess it wasn’t the ride that was so dangerous. It was the sudden stop. Before her ride was over, she pushed open the door, fell out and broke her arm. Dad’s punishment to us was a whooping. Although unfortunate, the harsh punishment wasn’t unforeseen.
Throwing rocks at an opossum to see if it was dead or really just playing opossum wasn’t the greatest idea I had. That’s why we didn’t. Twin Brother Mark said we should take turns poking it with a stick. I could go first. What happened next was unfortunate and unforeseen by any of us. The two-inch scar on the palm of my right hand is a constant reminder from that day to leave sleeping animals alone and that, if poked, opossums can actually jump out of a tree and attack someone even if they are standing five feet away.
And then there was the accident that happened one hot Friday afternoon in July of our seventh summer living on Flamingo. The end result was far worse than a lost fingernail, darts in the elbows, a broken arm, or even a permanent two-inch scar.
It was the death of an innocent and the reason we left Flamingo. And the reason none of us have ever returned. As a kid growing up on Flamingo, I didn’t think much about death or dying. What happened that day changed everything.
As an adult, I was a firefighter and my career spanned almost three decades. During that time my fellow firefighters and I responded to countless accidents, injuries and, yes, many deaths. The majority of them were caused by one thing: moving vehicles. It seemed the worse the weather, the worse the injuries, especially if drivers lost control during a downpour.
We had such a downpour last Monday and a life was lost. This time it wasn’t just a stranger firefighters were trying to extricate from a crushed vehicle on a rained-soaked highway. This time it was one of the few persons in my life that I call friend.
The last time I’d talked to Marty was a few months ago. He had just retired from 28 years working at the fire department. I had the honor of working beside him for five of those years. There are few folks you meet in life who are actually good people. Fewer still have not a single person who can say anything bad about them.
Marty was both and so much more. He was a kind and quiet-spoken soul. This world will go on, but will be less without him.
Our prayers go out to his wife, children and grandchildren.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]
[Editor’s note: Recently retired Fayetteville Fire Marshal Martin “Marty” Mundok died June 5 in a vehicle accident on Interstate 85 near LaGrange as he and his wife Mary were traveling out of town together. Mundok served with the Fayetteville Fire Department 28 years, with the last 14 as fire marshal. He retired in January. A pickup truck driver traveling northbound on I-85 lost control of the vehicle, crossed the median, entered the southbound lanes and collided with Mundok’s vehicle. Mary sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a hospital in Columbus.]