Editor’s note — This is the first of a multiple part series as the author relives some of his childhood trauma.
Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.
Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy!
RUN OVER BY A TRUCK
Yep. This happened.
When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.
Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin or anything we could find in our parents’ garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.
If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.
So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.
One day we’re having our races and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.
All was well until I saw the truck.
It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left toward me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly toward me, and it was too late for me to ditch.
I was going to be hit.
At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young me.
Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30 mph from a height of about two feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines. Or perhaps they were laughing, I cannot be certain. Anyway, the guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43 miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.
But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one: “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”
Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.
Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.
After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.
And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late ’60s.
THE FRIED HAND
When I was really young, around 3 years old, I was at my grandparents’ farmhouse. They had a wood stove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I now realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.
I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).
Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see if you ever want to take a gander at it. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.
Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.
Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.
Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:
“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”
God, that’s just too perfect.
Dave Shoemaker is a retired teacher, athletic director and basketball coach with most of his professional years spent at Paint Valley. He also served as the national basketball coach for the island country of Montserrat in the British West Indies. He lives in Southern Ohio with his best friends and companions, his dogs Sweet Lilly and Hank. He can be reached at https://shoeuntied.wordpress.com/.