Something had gone horribly wrong. Blood was everywhere, Twin Brother Mark lay in a crumpled mass at the bottom of hill, and Mom was frantic. From the wail of the sirens, the ambulance was once again closing in on 110 Flamingo Street. This would be the third time in less than a month emergency medical crews had descended upon our backyard for a mishap, but it was by far the worst.
Mark’s groans continued as Mom held his head in her lap. She tried her best to comfort him as tears etched down her face, all the while shooting the rest of us a look that shouted, “Everyone one of you boys are in big trouble when your father gets home.”
I had just turned 8 but had seen the look many times in my young life, and it never turned out well for any of us. Usually it meant pain, lots and lots of pain.
Oh, there would be finger-pointing, screaming, and pleading going on. It was a certainty. Of course, all that would occur before Dad even took off his belt. Another glance down at Mark, his broken leg, and the crumpled new bike, and I realized just who would be pleading the most: the dumb kid that had double dog dared him to try and jump over the giant pecan stump at the bottom of the hill. That dumb kid, dear reader, was little old me.
During the afternoon, all of us had tried the jump but without success. We’d built a ramp out of two boards nailed together. About five feet long, the ramp would launch one of us up and over the stump to a nice soft landing in a pile of leaves on the other side.
Looking at Mark crying in Mom’s arms, it wasn’t hard to understand how another one of our perfect plans had gone awry. There were two obvious problems.
First, the other side of the stump wasn’t soft, and it wasn’t a pile of leaves. It turned out to be a pile of rocks covered by a thin layer of leaves. On the rocks is where Mark landed. For some yet to be explained reason, none of us kids had bothered to see if the landing was indeed soft. And yes, when I told Dad, he too thought it was dumb for us not to check. At least I had an excuse. I WAS dumb.
The second problem was the boards we placed side by side and nailed together — we didn’t. We were going to nail them together, but Dad had his tools under lock and key. It seems whenever he wanted to use them, he couldn’t find them. So when Mark was halfway up the ramp, it separated. His front wheel hit the stump, and he flew over the handlebars, landing in a crumpled heap on top of the not-so-soft leaves.
Mark was the first who actually tried the jump and the first who actually made the jump — kinda. His landing could’ve used some work.
Landing with your leg stuck out like a kick-stand doesn’t work, unless your objective is to break the leg in four places, which he did.
Luckily, the rest of us veered off just before reaching the ramp – me included. I may have been dumb sometimes growing up, but I wasn’t THAT stupid. I didn’t want to get hurt.
A lot of ideas seem like good ideas until you actually start to do them. And that’s why doctors’ offices and hospitals have waiting rooms full of kids and why the ambulance drove down our driveway for the third time in less than a month.
Just for the record, when I was growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, the double dog dare was the same as “Hey, watch this!” is today. Hit the giant paper hornets’ nest out of the tree; stick your hand in the dark hole just at the waterline down at Cripple Creek, and throw water balloons at passing cars. All double dog dare worthy and all tried by one of us kids. Unfortunately, they also all ended badly.
Think any of these dares are good ideas today? Well, here’s how they turned out. There’re about a billion angry hornets in one of those nests. And no, you can’t outrun them. You can outrun your brothers, but you can’t outrun angry hornets.
Yes, bad things with very sharp teeth live in dark waterholes, and they don’t take too kindly on being disturbed in the middle of a hot July afternoon.
And finally, even though the passing car turned out to be a police car, again it wasn’t my fault. It was dark, and I thought it was Down the Street Bully Brad with his head sticking up through the sunroof.
Note to reader: don’t throw water balloons at passing cars. The bubble light of a police car is expensive to replace. Not that I’m admitting to anything, mind you. I don’t think the statute of limitations has run out. And even at 83, I’m sure Dad still has a collection of very painful belts.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]