My final paragraph advice: “It’s really scary out there. Avoid roofs, bungee cords, raging rapids and even high weeds where snakes hang out …” I had earlier included horses as another potential game-changer, so if my brother Paul did read …
Well, once again, a family member either didn’t read my column or failed to let it sink in, and with extremely painful consequences.
If you’re wise, you read my recent column warning how life can tragically change in mere seconds if one isn’t ever-vigilant and doesn’t insist on living life on the edge. At the risk of painting myself as boring and slug-like, I had written, “Sure, I too live on the edge …on the edge of my couch.”
My final paragraph advice: “It’s really scary out there. Avoid roofs, bungee cords, raging rapids and even high weeds where snakes hang out …” I had earlier included horses as another potential game-changer, so if my brother Paul did read that column, he obviously let it go in one eye and out the other.
So there he was last Saturday, riding his young horse Pearl at a fast lope, alongside Brian Edwards in the McCullough Peaks, when his hat blew off. I don’t know what kind of hat it was, but since Paul has been playing cowboys and Indians since he was born, I’m assuming it was a Stetson.
Regardless, when the hat flew, this 63-year-old again imagined himself lightning-quick and agile, leaning to make a one-handed snag. He was charged with an error when the saddle shifted, and Paul hit the ground with what I imagine to be a resounding “OOF!”
Thankfully, a cactus broke his fall — but the fall broke five ribs. Probably imagining what Trampas on the old “The Virginian” would do, Paul staggered back onto Pearl and told Brian he thought he could continue the ride — another foolhardy idea he aborted after 100 excruciating yards. He recalculated, groaned and grimaced the entire ride back to the trucks rather than throwing caution to the wind to join his hat. In his own pained words, “You’ve heard of the Longest Yard? Well, this was definitely the longest mile!”
At the emergency room, his wife Shelia and two nurses had a cactus-pulling party removing needles from Paul’s back, arms and face. Ol’ Festus was a hurtin’ unit. Sure, I have fallen off my couch a time or two, but obviously never landed on a cactus. Once, my heel was impaled by a toothpick embedded in the carpet, but that extraction was minor. Couches are safe; roofs, horses and rivers are not. Paul will be in tremendous pain for four to six weeks; I will not.
When I ran into Shelia in the Wal-Mart parking lot, she recounted Paul’s accident with sympathetic concern. But my keen perception also detected a trace of irritation, since they now must cancel next week’s long-planned family vacation to their son Rusty’s in-laws in Oregon.
Incidentally, Pearl — who bears absolutely no blame … there’s enough blame to go around, and it’s distributed evenly among five ribs — is the daughter of Jasmine, who bucked Paul off and broke his rib years ago, just before another planned Oregon trip. Like they say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the cactus.
As I said, Paul has been obsessed with horses since he was a kid. Seven years younger, I still remember him constantly doing pencil drawings — one after another after another — of horses. I watched and learned, so to this day it’s the one thing I can draw half-decently. With this repetitive drawing of the same thing, I wonder if Paul might share my OCD, renamed, “obsessive cowboy delusions.”
I also remember the day his horsey love affair cost me dearly. I was maybe 8 when Paul talked a farmer he worked for into letting our family keep his black pony, Fury, in our rural neighbor’s barn for the winter. I wasn’t exactly giddy about Paul’s suggestion one day, but allowed him to lift me onto Fury’s bare back with Paul behind me as “protector.”
It wasn’t more than 30 seconds before that stationary nag spotted a nice patch of grass and dropped his head for a snack. I rolled down his neck like a Slinky down a staircase, landed on a rock, cried like a kid who was never gonna be a cowboy, and went “wah-wah-wah” all the way home.
When I told Paul, Mom and Dad my arm hurt and felt like “snakes are running up and down my arm,” I was suddenly the “boy who cried wolf,” even though I had never cried wolf before.
I had a fitful night’s sleep, and the next day when I insisted the snakes were getting worse, they finally took me to a doctor who diagnosed what I thought was obvious: my right arm was broken just below the shoulder. Now that I remember the torturous itching under that plaster cast for half a school year, maybe Paul’s latest horse spill was a blessing in disguise. Or maybe it’s karma.
Or maybe…just maybe, he’s too old to be playing cowboy and too slow to be making one-handed catches on a dead run. Even Little Joe Cartwright would have been lucky to pull that one off.