Chantry Island lighthouse off Southampton Ontario


Did I lead a charmed life as an active, adventurous young boy?? Did I actually put enough preventive thought and safety planning into some of my more life-and-limb-threatening activities?  Or is it just that what was, to a horrified adult retrospect, not really that dangerous?

How did some of us ever survive to grow up? Most (but not all) of my questionable young antics involved getting high – I loved to climb things.  I have written of being 9 years old, and scrambling to the topmost branches of a mighty, old oak, located on the highest elevation in town.

When I entered my teens, a trusted friend and I often crossed the river on the arching steel support trusses, beneath the new bridge, ignoring the possible 50 foot plunge to the river below. In the summer by boat, and in the winter by walking across frozen lake ice, groups of us went to an island a mile offshore, and climbed to the top of the 100 foot lighthouse.

It is possible that large rocks, and chunks of logs got up the inner stairways, and accidently fell on the roof of the attached, unused, derelict, century-old storage shed.  When the caretakers bricked up the entrance and added a steel door with a stout padlock, I went around the back, and used the 1 ½ inch copper lightning-ground cable to reach the observation level.  Apparently, only to prove I could.  These were reconnaissance missions only – no bombing runs.  The view of a flat lake, whether liquid or frozen, isn’t really that spectacular.

In the early 1950s, what passed for the cognoscenti of our little town were all agog, waiting for the release of a book. A ‘famous writer’ from Toronto, 100 miles south, had researched 8 lighthouses in the north end of Lake Huron, including ours.  When the book finally arrived at the General Store, I managed to sneak a copy off the shelf, and quickly read what he’d written.

He said that, after climbing the circular metal stairway inside the lighthouse, the view from the top was magnificent…. only; our lighthouse had solid wooden floors every ten feet, for storage, with unrailed wooden stairs ascending from level to level, East to West, then North to South, etc.

I don’t know if he ever actually set foot on the island, or just did his research from the pub. It was the first time I caught an author lying to me.  Sadly, it wasn’t the last.

Alone, and with my friend’s help, I reached the top of many of the town’s public buildings. The arena was easy, but boring.  I got to the roof of one church, and the top of the bell-tower of another.  He and I sat on the roof of the three-storey bank building at the main intersection.  When his mother was late, and he was locked out of the second floor apartment in the building next to it, we scampered up the front and went in the balcony door, or up to the roof and down through the skylight.

The view from the top of the 120 foot water tower, next to the oak on the hill, was worth it. The climb was simple.  A steel ladder reached to within 10 feet of the ground, but was right beside the overflow pipe.  A foot placed here, and a grab there, and soon we were at the top.

It was so easy that my girlfriend caught us lurking near it one evening, as she walked to the library, and wanted to know what we were up to.  When we explained, she demanded to accompany us.  With him pulling and me providing a shoulder, we all soon enjoyed the lights in the town 5 miles away.  Crazy!

The day I fell down, I started with my feet firmly on the ground. I was in Grade 7, and returned to school after a September lunch break, to find a gaggle of boys surrounding a burly Grade 8 lad.  Slowing to eavesdrop on the conversation, I heard that he was bragging that he knew a way to make someone unconscious. ‘Bet you don’t!’ ‘I bet I do!’

To prove his claim, he needed a victim willing volunteer.  Why is everyone looking at me?  “Now you need to take a deep breath and hold it.  I’m gonna get behind you and give you a bear-hug, and squeeze you really, really hard.  Don’t forget to hold your breath!”

….and I woke up with my face embedded in the blacktop. My nose was bloody.  My lips, especially the top one, were swollen, and I’d lost a tiny chip off the corner of one front incisor.  None of us, me included, really thought this thing through, did we?

“Why did you let me fall down?” “Well, you didn’t collapse.”  “How could I?  You were holding me up.”  He’d set me down, but apparently my knees were locked.  Instead of winding up in a limp pile at his feet, (would that have been any better?) I had pitched forward, like the mighty oak up the street, plowing a furrow with my face.

Nowadays, I ingest an OxyContin, and take along a pillow if I have to wind down a window in the car. Surely none of you readers were as foolish as me.  Do you have a childhood escapade you wish to admit to?   😉

14 thoughts on “THE DAY I FELL DOWN

  1. Jim Wheeler says:

    I see some similarities in our backgrounds, Archon. When I was 7 or 8 I built a wood-burning stove in a lean-to using a large anti-freeze can with a little door cut out of it and an old pipe for a flue. It’s a wonder we didn’t asphyxiate ourselves. Built a raft to float on a “bottomless” sand pit. Climbed a cottonwood tree, fell out and broke my wrist.

    Probably a male thing – I’ll be interested if any females have any such stories.


    • Archon's Den says:

      I was about to mention that KayJai (below) was an adventurous female, when she popped in and confessed, all by herself.
      Could you swim when you rafted? Someone put a frame, holding four, 45-gallon drums in the little pond, a block from my house. Mom told me to stay away, because there was quicksand, but nobody ever found any. Another friend and I poled and paddled it all over and around the lake for days, until the Police Chief spotted us, and demanded that we stop. Neither of us could swim a stroke – which is what my Mom would have had if she’d known. 😯


  2. Kayjai says:

    Ummm…I fall down walking, so. I did climb the crab apple tree near our house when I was but a wee kid, but that wasn’t very high and someone had nailed a 2×4 across a couple of the sturdier branches, so we had a seat to plunk down on. Climbing skyward was not my thing.


    • Archon's Den says:

      I was just about to mention to Jim, that you had recounted some, slightly less dangerous, childhood antics on the shores of Chatham.
      BTW; Thanx for the info on placing photos. I usually click and drag to enlarge, because the icon that should do that, doesn’t seem to work for me. Therefore I just ignored the rest. As you can see above, I even found a captioning button. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Must be a guy thing. My husband tells similar stories of his childhood. And when I think about the stuff my brothers did that my mother never knew about … ! But me, I was (of course) the perfect little angel.


    • Archon's Den says:

      And you still hold that title, until this very day. 😉
      Some guys, even in adulthood, you know were hell-raisers when they were kids. Your guy??? Not so much. Must’ve been like The Shadow, and clouded people’s minds, so they never noticed. Or ‘gestured hypnotically’ like Mandrake the Magician…. Am I going too far back for you? 😀


  4. BrainRants says:

    Does jumping from a perfectly good airplane count? I was 20 at the time…


    • Archon's Den says:

      Comment not received until 4:51?? Coffee maker not working right this morning, or were you a little late rolling out of a perfectly good bed? You know, you’re a civilian now. You can sleep in….till 5:00 AM. 😆

      Did the airline eviction occur before or after government uniforms became involved? Skydiving, or just a jump? Even at 72, I’d follow you today. Well – you might have to throw push urge me out first, but I’m sure I’d enjoy it. 😀 😀


  5. My son (21) has been a climber of things for years, scares the bejeebers out of me. He also has this thing for investigating sewers, again scaring the bejeebers out of me. My grey hairs can be blamed on him.


  6. ladyryl says:

    Archon’s grandson was and still is a climber of things… trees were his favourite. Gave other folks grey hairs, I would just look at them and shake my head, knowing my father, I knew he came by it honestly. The only time he injured himself was when he was indoors and fell into something hard when his foot slipped or caught on something…


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