…set entirely within the country of Lithuania
Ok, as promised and voted upon, the first of this months entries.
My Wild & Misspent Youth
Ok, so, where I grew up, way out in the sticks near Loma Rica, California, we had a pretty good sized hill behind our house. About 2.5 miles, straight line, from our house at it’s base to the top of the hill, which mostly had rolling ups and downs leading to level ground. Except for that area we called “The Slide”. That was a damned near humpless stretch that went all the way from the top to the bigass pasture across the road from, and slightly kittycorner, from our place.
We kids called it The Slide because it kind of looked like a playground slide. In point of fact, it really was caused by some ancient landslide millenia ago, tho I didn’t find that out until I was near 35. To us, it was just a really cool place to slide down on big hunks of cardboard (in summer, when the grass was dry), roll down on coaster carts (anytime except winter), ride down on our bicycles (if you were suicidal, which, being young boys, we mostly were) or even run down just for the hell of it.
Then, one day, we (myself, Danny, Warren, Terry, Steve, Tom and Mike) got to thinking about the old wagon that was up near the top of the hill. Maybe we just ought to see if we could ride that sucker down The Slide. Forget the fact that the large (about 20 foot long by 6 feet wide) flatbed wagon was probably built before 1900 or that it had been, according to my mother and her siblings, sitting in the same spot since Old Man McCullough has abandoned it around 1929 (and the date of our big brainstorm was spring, 1965) or that our mother’s would boil our asses in turpentine just for THINKING about what we were considering, that fucking wagon was DARING us to ride it down The Slide.
And so, a few days later, on a Saturday morning, we seven (along with about ten other youngsters of both sexes) trudged up The Slide and then, over about a 90 minute period, muscled that old wagon about 500 feet to near the top of The Slide. Many were invited to ride down with us, but none accepted the invitation. My sister, Rosie, even went so far as to question our sanity and ask if she could have my stuff after I died. Cynicism in one so young is truly tragic.
And so, seven brave and, in retrospect, overly confident, 11 and 12 year old boys climbed onto the wagon and said “Ok, give us a good push” to the assembled multitudes. Within seconds, we were rolling…within a minute, we were going faster than our pushers could run…within two minutes, we were hauling serious ass, maybe 25-30 miles an hour. It was cool and thrilling and scary and it even purger from our minds any idea of how we’d stop at the bottom before we plowed through a barbed wire fence. We were flying, baby!
Our ride, safe so far despite the wagon’s groans of protest, was just entering a rather bumpy section of The Slide when we all noticed that many bolts were shaking loose all over the wagon. After several rather jarring bumps, we also took note of the fact that the boards upon which we were sitting were starting to crack or come loose or both.
With a cry of “It’s breaking up!”, Danny, ever the most level headed among us, jumped off. Amazingly, despite bouncing and rolling for several yards, he landed unharmed. Seconds later, Warren bailed off the other side, taking out a small bush or two as he bounced along the hillside. Steve, who sat next to me at the very rear, stood up to jump off just as we hit a bump. He went flying off, along with several boards, into a blackberry bush.
By now, Terry and Tom, at the very front, were rightly concerned about the boards underneath them breaking. Terry jumped left and Tom jumped right. Terry hit a muddy patch and slid at least 100 feet down the hill, his slide finally stopped by a rock the size of a Volkswagen. Tom, like Steve, landed in a blackberry patch, only this one was 20 feet across and 5 feet high.
That left Mike and me. Mike seemed paralyzed by fear, but I saw a relatively easy and painless way off our rolling deathtrap. Up ahead, coming up fast, we were going to pass under a small scrub oak, which had one limb at a height I could grab if I stood up. And stand up I did, primarily motivated by the fact that jumping off would lead to unwanted encounters with rocks, blackberry bushes, small trees or just hard earth. The branch approached rapidly and I reached up, victory assured.
Or not. See, just as the branch got near enough to grab, the wagon hit a bump and I was tossed up into the air, causing me to hit the branch with my chest.
Friends, if you ever have the desire to remove a large portion of shirt material and a nearly as large portion of chest skin, I cannot recommend hitting a tree branch at 30 miles an hour, then spinning around it a couple of times, enough. Really gets the job done fast, with the added 10 foot drop to the ground on your back being a little bonus feature.
Although I didn’t witness it, Mike actually stayed on the wagon until it hit a really big bump, at which point it simultaneously became airborne and disintegrated. He bounced several times until finally coming to rest in a large fresh cow patty.
Later, after regaining consciousness and limping back to Tom’s house (because his mom was not home, so we could apply first aid in peace), we all agreed that the ride was a qualified success. Still, it was midsummer before anyone thought about rolling down the hill inside large tractor tires.
But that’s another story.