Trauma Room One
A story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. As much as I would like to lay claim such words of wisdom, they ain’t mine. They belonged to Mrs. Newsome. She was my 10th-grade English teacher at Briarwood High, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. Although she didn’t say what order the story should be in — just that it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Here’s the end. On the first day of summer, The Wife and I ended the day at our local hospital — in Trauma Room One. See, this time you didn’t have to read the entire story to find out what happened.
Now the tradition of seeking out a doctor’s care for an injury on the official start of summer didn’t start in our small town. Nope. For that origin, and the beginning of this story, we’ll have to travel back to an all too familiar place – 110 Flamingo Street.
Here’s the beginning. For the kids that lived on Flamingo Street, the start of summer vacation was a magical time. Riding trees back down to the ground, mining away at the three-year dig called Cliff Condos, or diving into the frigid waters of Cripple Creek. All were what made the summer fun.
And every year, on the first day of summer, someone was rushed to a doctor to seek medical attention. Guess who that someone was for three years in a row?
The first year: the art of riding trees. Seemed harmless enough for any kid. Climb a hardwood tree about the size of your leg, reach the top, hang on tight with both hands, and then jump off. Ride the tree gently down to the ground. The art? Upon reaching the ground, aim and then let go. The tree rebounds and knocks your unsuspecting brother out of his.
Getting knocked out of a tree isn’t how I got hurt, though. Picking too thick a tree is. Halfway down to the ground, it stopped bending. Suspended 10 feet in the air, with all in attendance laughing and throwing pine cones, the option I chose was to let go. I didn’t say it was a smart option, just said it was the one I chose. Yes, I still have the scar.
The second year: the big dig called Cliff Condos. The builder deemed the vacant lot down from Neighbor Thomas not suitable for building. Because it fell off to a sheer cliff about 20 feet from the street, us kids considered it perfect to dig into. After climbing halfway up the cliff, we started to dig caves. The dirt tumbled out and down to the base of the cliff, eventually making a long slope.
After only two years, we started jumping off the cliff into the soft dirt below. Good way to have summertime fun ... and find the long lost shovel from the year before. Guess Mom was right. Wearing shoes really do protect your feet. Yep, still got that scar too.
The third year: Cripple Creek. The frigid waters wove behind Neighbor Thomas’s, our house, and eventually around the cul-de-sac where Old Mrs. Crabtree lived. A bend in the creek formed a pool. The far bank was made of gray clay that disappeared into the water and sucked shoes off any feet that dared venture near. Guess whose feet did just that?
After failing to jump Cripple Creek with Red Rocket, my trusty three-speed bike, I landed waist deep in gray mud unable to move. Red Rocket hit the bank and bounced back, landing on my head.
The middle: Memorial Day, present day. The Wife and I saw the downtown parade, a tradition. Afterwards we bought furniture, also a tradition. Once home, The Wife went to the bedroom for a short nap. I should have too. Instead, I went to the attic to measure a filter and got injured. We spent the next three hours in Trauma Room One.
It seems Mom was wrong after all. A BB rifle won’t put your eye out, but a fast recoiling metal tape measure will come darn close. The patch comes off next week.
With each of my childhood mishaps, I learned important lessons. If you ever find yourself being pelted by pine cones while suspended 10 feet above the ground, don’t let go. Crawl back down the tree hand over hand.
If you lose a shovel while digging a cave in a cliff of a vacant lot, just take off your shoes and start jumping around. You’ll eventually find it.
If issued a double dog dare to jump your bike across a creek at the bottom of Flamingo Street, don’t.
Finally, this summer if you go furniture shopping with your wife, just go home and take a nap afterwards. Sure will be less expensive that way, and a lot less painful. Please heed my advice.
After all, Dear Reader, The Wife and me weren’t the only ones in the emergency room that day.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]