THE DAY I FELL DOWN

Lighthouse

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?   😉

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Flash Fiction Inflation

VISTA EVENESCENT

 

tree2bcrook

 

 

 

 

 

It’s tough being nine years old, and alone.  He had climbed part-way up this big old oak tree back in the spring, but it had taken a boost from his friend Gordon, to get him up to the first forking of the trunk, where he could get handholds.  Now, Gordon was away on holidays, which was one of the reasons he was wandering his neighborhood alone.

He took a run at the tree, planted his right foot on the knee of a protruding root, lunged upward, and caught the fallen branch, stuck in the crotch.  Swiftly he climbed, and soon the tree had lifted him into its topmost branches.  Unusual in a town full of maples, this oak was the tallest tree, and sat at the top of the highest hill.  The view from up here was magnificent.

He was as high as the top of the nearby water tower, the entire town spread out below him.  Right beneath him was the park, with its empty ball diamond.  Down the hill was the arena.  He could see tiny cars, and miniature people walking.  Below him were three church roofs and bell towers.  Beyond was the main street, with its businesses.  It led right down to the lake and the beach.  The crystal blue water and the bright white sand both sparkled in the sun.

Lighthouse Lighthouse II

 

 

 

 

 

Off to the south, the sandy island sat half a mile offshore, with its stone lighthouse.  He seemed level with the top of its 100 foot tower.  A bit to the north, he could see the river mouth, with the commercial fishing boats chugging into and out of the harbor.

Boat

A block down the street, where the highway crossed the main street, stood the century-old red-brick town hall, with its four-sided clock tower.  Just this side, was the library, where he usually checked out a couple of books each week.  A block to the right was the elementary school where he would happily return to his education in a couple of weeks.

Townhall School

 

 

 

What he could see, was his entire, nine-year-old’s universe.  What he could not see, from his eagle’s perch, with his youngster’s eagle eyes, was the oncoming juggernaut of maturity, physical aging, responsibility, and social change.

All too soon, he would not have the time or the freedom, the strength or the agility, the acceptance or the inclination, to randomly wander his tiny town, talking to bullfrogs or climbing trees just for the fun of it.

Soon, like a Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, he would leave his protective, supportive home to seek training and experience, employment and income, marriage and family.  What was now his entire universe, would become first, merely the center of his greatly expanded universe, and finally, just a reflection in the time-fogged rear-view mirror of fond memory.

Instead of remaining a carefree child, he would become one of millions of parents.  While he would not do so, most of the others would allow, even urge, their millions of children to embrace myriad electronic distractions and babysitters, till they could not think or act for themselves, instead of encouraging them to read and learn.

In the name of protecting the children, the parents would cocoon them, and change them into hydroponic couch potatoes, denying them the chance to run and play, to enjoy the sun and fresh air, to commune with nature and build strong, healthy bodies and minds.  And so would begin the slow, perhaps inevitable, slide into oblivion, of the great, free society.

 

This is the expanded version of a thought which recently triggered a 100 word story on the Flash Fiction stage, along with some observations, feelings, and pretty pictures.  Much of this has previously appeared here, but I like the redecorating job.  How about you?

 

The Pace Of Friendship

Several years ago, to increase sales by getting more people to eat TexMex type food, there was a salsa commercial.  It resembled the eat-beans-and-fart scene in the movie, Blazing Saddles.  Five or six Stetson-wearing good-ole-boys, sitting around a campfire, alternately dipping salsa from a bowl, with tortilla chips.

As the salsa bowl neared empty, one of them commented, “We’re almost out of salsa.  I’ll go get some more from Pecos.”  “No, no, don’t do that!  This here’s PACE salsa, made right here in San Antonio.  Pecos buys salsa that’s made by a company in New York City.”  (All together) NEW YORK CITY??!!

Somewhat more recently, the wife went into La Commida Latina, a small bodega, specializing in south-of-the-border food, to get Ceratex flour to make some Salvadoran pupusas.  Before we got out, she had adventurously purchased a bottle of Goya Salsita Ancho Pepper hot sauce.  She found she loved it, although Shimoniac stays with Rants’ Sriracha, and I like a Chipotle BBQ sauce.

When the bottle ran dry, and we tried to get more, we found several stores which carried the Goya brand, but not the Ancho flavor.  In doing a web search, I found that it is bottled in Secaucus, NJ.  Not exactly New York City, but still a somewhat unusual place to find “Mexican” spices.

Several months ago, I shipped a Loonie and a Twoonie, Canadian one-dollar and two-dollar coins, to Madame Weebles.   She’s a born and bred New York City gal, and proud of it.  She moved over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey before Chris Christie shut it down.  She says that she crossed the river to pursue employment and a marriage.  Weebs is a sweetie, and a wonderful lady, so I’m ignoring the rumors of villagers with torches and pitchforks.

She lives close enough to Ellis Island to look up Lady Liberty’s skirts.  She asked if there was anything she might do to repay my tiny gift.  I jokingly said that she could drive a few miles over to Secaucus and get me a couple of bottles of the Ancho sauce, but insisted that I could not have her doing my shopping for me.

Imagine my pleasure and surprise, when I recently received an email from her, saying that she had been able to locate two bottles of the sauce, and was sending them to me by mail.   Finding two coins to send to her was as quick as sticking my hand in my pocket, and mailing them almost as easy.

Finding two bottle of hot sauce meant shopping, something I’m not much better at than most guys.  Shipping them meant carefully packing them first, and the cost of the sauce, as well as the freight, was well beyond what I had expended.  I am humbled to receive consideration like that from someone who only knows me long-distance, from reading a few of my posts, and a few of my comments on hers.

Used to years of loner-ship, it was a pleasant startlement to be treated so kindly, by a stranger, who is a stranger no more – and then my received kindness/friendship doubled.

White Lady in the Hood had read my post where I patted myself on the back for donating a couple of coins, and knew that I had not managed to complete my set of the 50 US State quarters.  I take so much US coinage back, on our infrequent visits, that I don’t receive enough in change to find the ones I need.  After over five years, I still needed three.

WLITH now handles the book-store at the elementary school where she works, and sees lots of coinage from kids buying small school supplies.  When I told her that I needed ones from Arkansas, Hawaii and Kansas, she replied within a couple of days, saying that she had the A and K, and had seen H, and would keep an eye out for it again.

Her email request for a mailing address mysteriously fell into the delete file.  I suspect the cats were ordering pizza online again.  Feverishly digging it out before it disappeared into the ether forever, I responded affirmatively, and the two coins have now made their happy way to me.

By the time I published this post; she has also found and mailed the Hawaii quarter – and “something else interesting, just for luck.”  I am excitedly looking forward to it, but I have so much good luck, having friends like this, that I don’t know where I would keep any more.

Having cultivated an almost solitary lifestyle, I am seldom treated badly, but the chubby old word-spewer is seldom treated so well, and by two lovely ladies, nearly simultaneously.  These demonstrations of blogoverse friendship just take my breath away, or maybe it was the second trip downstairs for ice-cream, to celebrate.

Let’s have a round of applause, in appreciation for what these two gals have done for your favorite old Archon.  They are both competent and entertaining writers.  If you haven’t already, click on the links above, and give their sites a visit.

While neither of them is exactly a “stranger”, do any of you have a tale of someone you didn’t really know, who went out of their way to help, or do something nice for you?  Perhaps the “Me” generation hasn’t completely taken over, and there’s still a spirit of goodwill out there.      😀

Police Dog

I am not particularly impressed by police officers.  They do a tough job, and I respect them for that, but I’ve been exposed to cops all my life.  I’ve seen the good, and the bad.  “To Serve and Protect” doesn’t thrill me any more than “To Serve God.”  There’s always at least one who’s anxious to get into the sacramental wine, or forbidden fruit-of-the-loom underwear.

For years, in my youth, my home town only had one policeman.  After they ceded the little park/lake to my boys club, that expanded to a chief, and two constables.  Tough enough in the winter, but busy in the summer with tourists.  For a couple of summers, my brother volunteered for Friday and Saturday-night ride-alongs.

Once upon a time, you could throw a drunk in jail and set him free in the morning when he sobered up.  Then it became necessary to have someone to check on him.  After he retired, my Dad took that job.  He’d get a call, pack a book, a sandwich and a thermos of coffee, and be gone all night.

My brother-in-law wanted to become something political.  In his mid-twenties he took some training and became a justice of the peace, because that gave him exposure and contacts.  Our town already had two JPs, both real estate agents in their fifties, who didn’t want to be awakened at 2 AM, to sign a warrant for some drunk.  The town five miles away had one JP, just as sleepy and grumpy.

Sister and B.I.L. liked to go out and party with the movers and shakers.  From 12 to 16 I was drafted to babysit their five kids, Friday and/or Saturday nights.  They often partied till after sun-up, but it wasn’t unusual for them to return earlier than that, accompanied by police – our town cop, the one from down the road, an Ontario Provincial Policeman who patrolled local highways, the R.C.M.P. officer who was responsible for the attached Indian reservation, and later, Indian police.  I’ve been in rooms with up to five on-duty officers, drinking coffee, beer or whiskey, waiting for paperwork to be signed.

In a small town, at the ass-end of nowhere, most officers were older, and sedate.  The young Mountie, however, was sharp, and aggressive.  I was walking home from high school one June day, when I heard a hot-rod.  Car-crazy, I knew that sound.  It turned off the highway, and proceeded up the street I was walking on.  At a time when a policeman could just pull you over and give you a ticket for excess noise, this thing howled!

In 1962, this was a ’52 Ford convertible, loaded with paint, chrome and muscle.  Bbrraapp, half a block and 30 MPH in first gear.  It zipped past me, and I recognized my unfavorite Mountie driving.  Bbrraapp, past the elementary school, five minutes before closing bell, at 50 MPH in second gear, in a 30 zone.  Bbrraapp, into third gear and still accelerating as he went up the hill towards the B.I.L.’s house.

Sure enough, when I got there ten minutes later, he was waiting to show off the new toy he’d bought.  I mentioned the amount of noise he produced, and told him that I’d seen him doing 50 in second gear, in a school zone.  Instantly, he went all lawyer on me.  How did I know it was 50 in second??  It could have been 30 in first!  Because I already saw and heard you do 30 in first.  I’m just pointing out that someone other than me might have seen the same thing, and lodge a complaint, especially in a school zone.

A month later, just as school vacation was starting, he showed up one night for a warrant.  While others did things in the kitchen, he joined me in the living room.  Out of the blue, and purely coincidentally, he wondered if my friends and I might like to party.  If I just told him what we liked, he could get it for us, beer, wine, liquor, grass, pills, just name it.

I asked him how he would “just get it.”  Oh, he’d just impound it from some guy he caught, and “forget” to log the evidence.  The guy would be released.  What’s he gonna do, complain??  At 17, I didn’t party like that, and not with a group.  If I had accepted his offer, he’d have had something to hold over me.  My previous comment about noise, speeding and dangerous driving was never mentioned.  I think he was disappointed when I graciously declined.

I wasn’t out to get him, or any advantage, and never mentioned the occurrence to anyone but him.  About seven years later, I was reading an article in the Readers’ Digest, about the R.C.M.P. cleaning up the Mob and the drug traffic in Montreal.  Guess whose name was given as the head of the Montreal narcotics squad.  They shoulda heard him comin’ in that noisy hot-rod.

Learner’s Permit

In an unchanging small town, I went to elementary school with pretty much the same thirty-some students for eight years.  When we got bused to high school, we were blended in with other area students, now in four different classes of thirty-some students.

Provincial law insisted that students could not leave school until they were sixteen.  There was a local girl whose birthday was in the spring, as opposed to mine, in late September.  She had an older friend who worked in the local beauty parlor, who would train her to be a hair-dresser.  She finished grade eleven, and quit school to take the job.

She quickly established a clientele and made decent money, some of which she saved, to buy a car.  Her house was on the street behind my sister’s.  When she got off the school-bus, she cut through the property, sometimes stopping to talk.  She was a very mature young lady, unlike my immature, scatterbrained sister.  Despite the ten-year difference in ages, they got along well.  When 21 was the legal drinking age, my 26-year-old sister and her just-as-silly husband, used to take her to hotel bars.  My sister drove her to the county seat, to get her learner’s permit.

The next spring, she bought a small car, and practiced her driving skills.  By this time, I had turned 16, and owned a car I couldn’t legally drive.  It was time to get my learners permit.  I spoke to my sister about it.  She said that my ex-classmate had an appointment to take her road test, and if I wanted to come along, I could write my learners exam.

On a lovely, warm, sunny, June day, we set off, the two gals in the front and me in the backseat.  Imagine a triangle of roads, each side 25 miles long.  From our town to the county seat was 25 miles from A to B.  We got to the edge of town, where the road to the county seat split off the main highway.  Instead of taking the A/B road, we continued on the A/C side of the triangle.  I thought we had to pick up something, or someone.

As we entered the next town, five miles on, I asked where we were going.  To the county seat.  But the road back there takes us to the county seat.  We’ve never been that way.  We’re afraid of getting lost, so we’re taking this route.  Oh well, I’ve got all day.  Sure enough, we drove 25 miles south before turning left to drive 25 miles east, on the C/B side of the triangle.

We got about halfway across, when we had a flat tire.  Not a sudden blowout, we must have run over something.  Just a steady TTtthhhh, lub, lub, lub, and the left, rear tire was flat.  The driver pulled the car well off the paved road, and we got out to look at the problem.

Long before Japanese cars reached North America, hers was smaller than any Detroit iron.  It was probably a Taunus or Vauxhall, imported from England.  Two females and me, guess who got volunteered to change the tire!?  Neither of them knew how.  “Where’s the spare tire and jack?”  “I don’t know.  I’ve only owned it a little while, and I’ve never needed them.”

I pulled crap out of the trunk, and finally found what I needed.  North American cars had bumper jacks, because the cars still had bumpers.  I was faced with a scissors jack I’d never seen before, and had to figure where to place it under the car.  Impact-wrench-installed, rusted-on lug nuts finally surrendered, and I got one wheel off, and the replacement on, and at last we were on our merry way again.  Well, they were merry.  I was rust and grease stained, with bloody knuckles.

Of course, she was late for her scheduled road-test.  She tried to convince the examiner to fit her in, but he had a full day.  She had to rebook for another day.  While she was doing this, I wrote my little test and was awarded my learner’s permit.

After a couple of months’ legal driving practice, I drove my Dad to work, took the family car, and my Mom accompanied me as the licensed driver when I went for my road test.  At least we took the short way there.  The capital of the neighboring county was the same distance away, but it was the little city with the big hills.  Tales circulated of testees getting half-way up the cliff road, when the examiner would reach over and turn off the ignition, to see how you dealt with the problem.  I preferred the flatter city, and managed to get my full license on the first try, something that not every teenager accomplished.

The winner loser in that competition was a British woman who took 49 tries, over 22 years, to finally get a driving licence.  Ah, the freedom of the open road.  While I’ve not driven as much as others, like my brother, I’ve been able to visit some picturesque and interesting places.  I’m not sure Detroit qualifies, but that’s where I’m going next month.  Feel free to tag along.  Right now, I’m going to drive over to SightNBytes place, and pick up my most recent blogging award.