Memories of a Childhood Moron

StuntMan: Head Over Heels

Even Stuntman is vulnerable to Cupid’s arrow. This is the story of the day my wife and I met. In spite of my poor showmanship that day I was still able to land Mrs. Right.

The horses’ name was Marmaduke. My buddy Wes warned me that his nickname was ‘911’.    He had sent several folks to the hospital with a variety of broken bones, lacerations and other injuries.   I have ridden horses off and on for most of my life.   I may not have always sat in the saddle perfect, but I could always ride pretty good.   He was a good horse, he just got spooked real easy.   You could be walking along and all of the sudden Marmaduke would jump to the side because something moved in the periphery of his vision.   If you weren’t ready for it you could fall opposite of the direction he jumped.

It is March.   Ryan and Wes ask me to go to the farm with them to ride horses.   Little did I know it, but I would meet the future Mrs. Stuntman that day.

It was still a little chilly that morning so we were all dressed up in blue jeans and flannel shirts or overalls and flannel shirts.   It had been raining recently and the drive back to the farm was flooded over.   Water was up to the headlights on Ryan’s Thunderbird.   Wes had a few of his friends over to ride horses to keep them in shape.   There were 3 or 4 guys and 3 girls, one of which was Lori.   I immediately saw something in her personality that piqued my curiosity.    She was always laughing or smiling about something.    She had a great laugh…….still does.

Ryan and I were the last ones there.   Everybody else was already saddled up and ready to go.   Marmaduke was readied for one of the girls who had ridden all her life.   Since I was going to be there they decided to let me have Marmaduke and she could ride her normal horse.   As I swing up into the saddle, I realize that the stirrups are pretty short.   I’m 6’1” and the saddle was set up for a 5’2” girl.   Everybody is eager to get started so I figure I will just fix the stirrups later on in the ride.

We start out slow.    Marmaduke has a very smooth gait.   His trotting doesn’t even bother me too bad.   The only thing that bothers me is the fact that I feel like a giant riding a tricycle with my knees up around my ears.

Not knowing where I am going, I let everybody else go in front of me.   Marmaduke obviously doesn’t like taking a back seat to any of the other horses.    He is grunting, throwing his head around and keeps trying to take off for the lead.

It doesn’t take long for somebody to take off running across the field.   This is what we have been waiting for.   I relax the reigns and we take off like a bullet.   We overtake all the others in short order.    As we pass Wes, he hollers out to warn me of a big ditch up ahead.   I don’t see it yet, but when I do we’ll stop.

“Crap! Whoa, boy!”   I see the ditch right on the other side of some taller grass.    Not wanting to risk the horse or myself I plant my feet in the stirrups and pull on the reigns hard.

Horses that are trained well are expecting a couple of ‘bumps’ in their bit and then you ease the reigns back smoothly.    This causes them to come to a smooth stop.   When you get in their mouth hard and quick…they stop hard and quick.   Marmaduke took this to a whole new level.

As I planted my feet, I am quickly reminded that I never set the stirrups to a proper length for my legs.   The combination of stopping on a dime and planting 3′ legs in 2′ stirrups catapults me directly over the horses’ head.   I lose all sense of direction and land on the rain softened earth with a less than graceful UGHN!   Marmaduke doesn’t move, he just looks down on me and exhales a snotty snort on me as if to say “Dumb ass!”

Everybody rides up to me real quick to make sure I’m alright.

“I’m OK.” I hop up real quick. The only thing I hurt was my pride.

“We’ll walk the horses across the ditch and on the other side we’ll really be able to open ’em up.”

I can feel all eyes on the idiot that can’t ride.    That’s all I can think about.   Wes and Ryan are the only ones that have ever ridden with me, so these other folks think I’m a greenhorn.    We cross the ditch/ravine, it was a good thing I didn’t try to jump it.

As we all mount back up, the horses are starting to spin a little, excited from the anticipation of the run we are getting ready to take.    Wes takes off and here we go again.    Like last time, Marmaduke takes off like a bat out of hell.    We pass everybody in short order and there is nothing but open field ahead.

Did I mention Marmaduke could be a touch skittish?   We must have been close to being attacked by brain-eating zombies cause here we go sideways.   I almost get thrown and as I reach for the pommel to help regain my balance, I must have hit the eject button again.   I am once again flying through the air with the greatest of difficulty like a human cannonball with vertigo.

To his credit, once again Marmaduke doesn’t try to flee, he just gives me his snort of disapproval.   I quickly scramble up on my feet and angrily start to change the length of my stirrups.   After adjusting them down about a foot each, the rest of the day went by with no incident.

~~

After our third or fourth date, Lori admitted to me she thought ‘Poor fella.   They shouldn’t put somebody so green on such a wild horse.’   She eventually came to love me in spite of my failings.   Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to date a pretty, level-headed woman who could stomach my sense of humor.    Little did she know that she would be spending at least the next 16 years hearing about and re-living my antics.

Stuntman Grows Up

You would think that as Stuntman grew older he also grew wiser. That is true in some instances, but the instinct never entirely leaves.

My 9 year old step-son and I get off the chairlift and approach the starter.

“What lane do you want, Dust?”

“Doesn’t matter.   I’ll beat you from either side.”   I chose the right lane.

The Alpine slide was once a great thrill.   Now that I was approaching 30 I still got a little excited.    In my days as Stuntman, I found this to be a great show of my skills.   Now I was going to impart some of my thrill seeking side to my recently extended family.   My wife waited for us at the bottom of the hill.    Her final plea to me was to be sure that Dustin was at least as safe as he was having fun.

“Push the handle forward to go faster and pull it back to slow down.”  The bored starter drones as he hands us our ‘sleds’.

Summer was about over.   All-Star season had finally ended and we were trying to get in a couple of family outings before school started back.   We had already played miniature golf and ridden the go-carts and were going to do a couple of runs down the Alpine Slide with our wheeled sleds.

3…2…1…Go!   We take off at the same time.   I slam my stick forward and immediately take the lead.    As Dustin gets the feel for it he starts pushing the stick more and is now catching up with me.   The dull roar of four plastic wheels on concrete and the rush of the wind in my ears gets my blood pumping.   In the first turn I swing my weight to the left to bank as high as I can so I can get extra momentum coming out of the turn.   Dustin is yelling something at me, but I am too into winning to hear.

As I turn around to see what he is saying, (and to see how bad I am beating him ) I hear a ‘chank’ and feel something hit the seat I am in.   My keys.   Just as I am about to go into the next turn I tilt to one side to make sure my keys are still with me in the seat.  The sled starts to wobble under me and then I hear the keys hit concrete.   Next thing I know, I see the sled to my left and nothing but concrete to my right.    I try to stay in my seat, but fate would have other intentions.   I am sliding on my butt down the Alpine slide with the handle still in my left hand.   I wasn’t about to let go of the sled!   I plant my feet to stop.    This has a different effect than I had planned.   My feet catch under me and my upper body is thrust forward landing with a face plant but still skidding down the slide.   I finally come to rest, sled still in hand, and realize that Dustin is long gone.   I sheepishly walk back up the hill, retrieve my keys and sit back down in the sled.   It is just then that I feel burning in my right knee and shoulder.   The jeans were torn during the slide as had the front of my shirt.

“Where’s Coy?”

“I dunno. I think he fell out.”

Hearing this, the girl collecting the sleds at the bottom rushes into the office and brings back a first aid kit.

As I roll to a stop, blood oozing from my right knee and shoulder, the girl gets a little pale.   She obviously will not make it in the medical field.   I pull off my shirt to show my road rash.

“Give me the anti-septic spray, please.” Is that a gleam in my wife’s eye?    She shakes the can and takes aim.

“Living Hell!” I shout as the spray contacts ground flesh.

“Quit being such a baby!” She says as she shakes the can and takes aim again.

~~

I had to change my bandages a couple of times a day and my shirt at least once a day for about three days after the ride.   The ‘road rash’ kept weeping through the gauze and tape.    Now that I had aged and become a little wiser I took from that incident a valuable lesson.

Forget the keys, winning and pride is what matters most.

StuntMan

”3……2……1…….go!”

As I start pushing Alex down the driveway, my hands on the back of his shoulders, he is urging me to go faster and laughing all the way down. Well, maybe not all the way. Trying to steer a red wagon by a handle that sticks straight up is no mean feat. Apparently I wasn’t going in a straight enough line and when Alex tried to compensate by pivoting the handle, the wheels bit and turned too sharply causing the wagon to do a face plant and send me up flying over my nine year old friend. As granular chunks of asphalt dig into my young tender flesh that I was sure would be there forever, Alex and the wagon crash into me knocking the breath from my lungs. As my breathing starts to normalize, we discuss what went wrong. Lesson learned: Push straighter and don’t overcompensate.

The name of the game was StuntMan. It was a very simple game consisting of some way to either hurt yourself, your friend or some inanimate object. If it could be hurled, tossed, thrown, climbed on, jumped over, dropped or hit, it was a job for StuntMan. This particular episode of Stuntman called for the heroes to head straight for a new pallet of bricks. Just before impact we are to leap from the wagon and clear all the bricks. One tiny mistake and ‘BAM!’ we are either thrust straight into the bricks or ‘THUD!’ land on top of the bricks.

“3……2……1……go!”

This time we get it right. My new and now scuffed ‘Buddies’ help me push all the way down both driveways. However, trying to make sure he had all the momentum he could get, I give a final lunging push that throws me off balance and sends me once again tumbling onto the pavement tearing skin and brown polyester clothing alike. Alex fared even worse. He wasn’t expecting that final push, so his timing was off. Instead of jumping over the bricks, he looked as if he was standing up just in time to have the bricks cut his legs out from under him. This called for more discussion. Lesson learned: don’t improvise at the last minute. Stick to the game plan.

“3……2……1…….go!”

It was my turn. Alex is shorter than me so he was able to get behind me and push more forward and less downward. I can feel the wheels shimmying side to side as I pick up speed. It really gets nerve-wracking as I approach the launch point. Wait for it…Wait for it……Jump! Dag! Too early. I land right on top of the bricks with a breathtaking UGHN! and roll off the back of the pallet. Lesson learned: Patience is a virtue. Wait until the last second.

3……2……1……go!

After 3 or 4 hours of perfecting our form we headed back to the house for some much needed Kool-Aid and cookies. It was never our intention to cause any property damage. I mean, Hell they’re bricks! It never crossed our minds that we could possibly hurt bricks with a metal red wagon.

Apparently later that evening Alex’s dad, Art, gets a call from the neighbor trying to figure out how his pallet of new bricks had gotten so chewed up. Alex was shortly thereafter chewed up as well. My dad must have gotten the call following the aforementioned chewing from Art informing him of the days’ events. It sure seemed like the end of the world at the time. I was confined to my room for a week. ( aka no ‘Big Show’ after school and no Scooby-Doo on Saturday ) Alex and I were informed we needed to take a week or two off from each other and StuntMan was to be forgotten about.

The sad truth was that by the time the punishment was over, our undiagnosed ADHD had kicked in. Lesson learned: We heard you can do some really cool things with a can of Lysol and a match…….


The Kickoff

It was in the Fall of 1973 that I started my football career with the Cowboys. Being a Cowboy was all that mattered.

We had to practice for about 3 weeks before we could eventually play our first game. Before that we had to get fitted for our uniforms. It was a very sophisticated process. Line up in single file and wait for your turn. When they finally got to you, you get to step into a cinder block outhouse that smelled of sweat, mold and decay and they thrust your equipment at you. So much for ‘fitting’. Before you could set foot on the field, you had to have a mouthpiece. To properly fit a mouthpiece you had to boil the plastic guard for 3 minutes and then place the lava-like piece directly into your mouth and bite down. Gradually over the next couple of days you would regain your sense of taste.

After 3 weeks it’s finally time for the opening game of the year. We lost the pre-game toss so we were going to kick off first. I was lined up on the outside of the line. I loved wearing the uniform, in spite of the musty sweaty smell that crept up from my shoulder pads. I start rolling my head a little for the last time to make sure I was good and loose and could ‘keep my head on a swivel’ so no one could blind side me.

The kicker is setting the ball on the tee. One final scan of the crowd and I can see my Mom in the stands. Her last words to me ( God knows what she has said to my Dad ) were to be safe.

“Mom this is football!’ You just have to worry about the other guy.” was my quick retort.

She is sitting on the third row, on the edge of the what can only be described as a spotlight effect from the bug engulfed field lights. My Dad was on the sidelines with the rest of the coaching staff. He certainly wasn’t going to be far from the action.

The ref blows his whistle. The kickers’ hand is raised high in the air to signal the beginning of the first attack. There is an almost reverential silence. Then the other ten of us on the line start hitting our thigh pads. War drums, if you will, giving the Vikings ample notice of our presence on the field. Rat a ta tat a ta tat a ta tat.

Then the kicker takes off towards the ball. We wait a split-second later to make sure we aren’t off sides. Then……….we’re off. Eleven 7 and 8 year old boys take off to tear the head off the poor kid that decides to pick up the ball.

“Stay in your lane!” my father yells. “Turn him inside where your help is!”

I am screaming on my way down the field. Arms and legs pumping in unison with a purpose. The 3 weeks of practice leading up this finally worth it. All the legs lifts, push ups, laps, walking through the plays to make sure we knew our assignments were about to pay off. Two kids come up to block me, but only give a half-hearted shrug. That’s no way to block! It must be the sheer determination on my face, striking fear in their very soul that is giving them pause.

Crap! The chicken is headed the other direction. Our first guy missed him, but there were 3 more to bring his jaunt to a quick end. Even though I wasn’t in on the play, I had already established my presence on the field. They knew I would be there all day.

~~

The next Saturday morning we were to meet at 09:00 as a team to watch game film. We all crowded in the Living Room of Lamar McNeil’s house to see how good we looked. His dad was the head coach and actually had a movie camera. At first I was a little miffed that I wouldn’t get to see Scooby-Doo, but I quickly got over that as they started setting up the projector. The lights go out and the projector lights up the screen on the far wall. All that can be heard is the tick, tick, tick of the projector. I think this must be exactly like the pros do it.

We then see a few wormy squiggles dart up and down the screen. The cameraman had positioned himself where he could look straight down the line of kids getting ready to take off after the ball. I can almost hear the refs whistle blow. The kicker’s hand is raised high, you can see us drumming on our thigh pads. Everyone is silent awaiting the kickoff. The kicker drops his hand quickly and runs toward the ball. We are starting just after him. I am front and center on the screen. There I go……

“Dag! Look at Hanson’s head! It’s wobbling all over the place! “

“What’s wrong with his neck?”

“Look at his arms and legs. Where did you learn to run like that?”

“It looks like he has to take a crap! Why are you making THAT face?

Sure enough I looked like a freaky marionette in the hands of some demented puppeteer. Legs flailing, arms gyrating in an inexplicable manner. And my neck looked to be about a foot long. My fierce warrior’s face looked much more akin to that of someone being chased by a pack of wild hyenas. Either that or it really did look like I was rushing away to take a crap. No wonder the blockers kept their distance. They must have thought I was rabid. All I could think about was maybe they wouldn’t notice if I climbed behind the brown and white Colonial motif couch and died

“Quiet, focus on the game! Maybe next time you won’t miss your tackle!”

Thanks coach. That will shut at least one of them up. Sure enough our, as of then undiagnosed, ADHD had kicked in and they started razzing the kid who missed the tackle. My shame had been short lived.

I never did make it to pro sports. Hell, I had quit football, basketball and baseball before my senior year in high school. But I still go back to the ’70’s whenever I go to a football game. The bugs swarming the field lights. The smell of the hotdogs and popcorn in the air. Anxious mothers and proud fathers hoping their kid will be the next whoever and still come home in one piece. There is just something magical about it.

I learned over time to use my awkwardness to my advantage. I could do stupid things to make people laugh. I didn’t have the skill set needed to be a superstar in sports, but I could make funny faces or walk funny or say stupid things to get some attention for myself. I had found my niche. And while I never made it to the NFL, I was proud that eventually my moves would make it, in the persona of Merton Hanks. For those of you not familiar with who this is, I have added the link to a video for your viewing pleasure.

I know this is a cheap way to go about posting this week but everybody who knows me knows that I am a true cheapskate.  While on my adventure to become a writer I have happened upon a wonderful blog site.

I was reading Kristen’s advice on novel beginnings and saw this entry. It is very humorous and seems to hit a strong chord with her faithful followers of which I now include myself.    Please check out this blog and I will be posting original content very soon.

Nub,

C

Top Ten Reasons to Become a Writer Today is Free-for-All-Friday, and thus is my choice. I was skimming through some earlier posts and came across this one…that cracks me up even now. So, I thought I would post again for the benefit of the newbies and to give my loyal followers a good laugh. Come on, you know this still makes you laugh. “Easily amused” falls in the writer job description, right? I still remember the day I told my family I was leaving corporate sales to become a w … Read More

via Kristen Lamb’s Blog