I believe my earliest recollection of surviving a scare with death was when I was approximately three years old. I was taking a nap. I NEVER wanted to take a nap. I mean, geez, when I’m taking a nap I might just be missing something! Apparently, my dad had mentioned something about the hot water heater needing to be drained. My brother overheard this and I think his four year old thought process went something like: "Hmmm.. if Dad doesn't drain the well, it will have so much water in it that it will explode. It is almost to that point, otherwise, Dad wouldn't have mentioned it. It MUST be a matter of time. WE ARE DOOMED!!!" I know. It went from hot water heater to well, but EVERYONE knows what a well is at that age. What does a hot water heater do? Water? Well? It’s perfectly logical to a young mind!!! Now that I have that straight and it was the hot water tank that needed to be drained to remove rust and stuff like that, I guess I can get back to the nap... well... I did finally fall asleep and I was awakened by a voice screaming... "The well is going to blow up... the well is going to blow up!!!!!" It was my brother, Mike, yelling, "The well is going to blow up!" Well, from all indications the well was going to blow up. Hmmm… maybe I was really two. My mom was making a bottle for my baby sister, Jan. She had left the water running… hot water, that is. After a while, all these hot fluids rushing through the pipes started causing them to vibrate. Now these pipes weren't clanging, they were wailing!!! It was a really high pitched sound almost like a pipe organ run amuck. Mike was leading the way as we RAN out of the house in our Fruit of the Looms and all the way down to the road. Well, the well never exploded. And on top of that, no cars were coming as we darted across the road. At this point about the only thing we had to fear was the wrath of mom for running away... not to mention crossing the road without an adult. I blamed my brother. Blaming an older brother is part of the joy of being a younger brother. I refer back to the time my brother "pushed me off the porch".
Winter survival tips: steer clear of stationary objects when riding a sled. That is easier said than done. Just ask Roger. While going down the hill behind Bobby's house on a sled, Roger thought it might be fun to go over a jump. The only problem was that beyond the jump and just before the garage was one of those really fun umbrella type clotheslines that are fun to swing on... uh... different story. Anyway, after going over the faux jump, Roger stuck out his arm to either signal a turn or grab the pole and... well… he wasn't successful. Perhaps he had cartoon-like visions of grabbing the pole and spinning around and around and around and around and around... he stopped and it snapped. Oh, the pole didn't snap. It was cemented firmly in the ground by Bobby's dad and it was built to last. Bobby and I walked Roger home and went back to sled riding. We all signed Roger's cast on his broken wrist when we saw him the next time.
THAT SAME DAY!!!! Perhaps within minutes of getting back to Bobby's Homeland Winter resort, we all tried to go over Roger's jump. Someone could do it. The chance for mistake was minimal. Only a small corridor existed where one could make the jump and survive to tell about it. Beyond that jump lay the infamous clothesline and the garage. Well... some say my brother threw boxes over my head, but I know that wasn't true. I know that now. I was in Spain while in the US Navy when it all came back to me. I remembered going sled riding once when I was eight years old. It was December 15, 1960. I remembered Roger breaking his wrist. THEN I remembered that I tried to go over the jump, but steered clear of the clothesline. The jump didn't "jump" and I just went over it and down it and it veered me off course and directly into the much bigger target. Over...down... but not through the garage. It was too big and too well constructed by Bobby's father... my favorite, gold sweatshirt ruined and four more stitches and two black eyes and one lost tooth and no memory until I was an adult of going outside to play let alone be the world famous daredevil and no cast to sign ... geez… no cast again.
Humpty Dumpty books made great fires for young boys. All it took was a couple pages, some matches, and some deception so your mom wouldn't find you... Of course we were found. Contrary to the exaggerated "You could have burned the house down!!"... we didn't. I would advise all young persons not to try this at home. You could burn your house down. Of course, you'll have trouble finding a Humpty Dumpty magazine. By the way, we were using a magnifying glass as an experimental ignition tool and just helped the process along by using the matches. It was, after all, done in the name of science! We were punished... we never did it again... I think it was the idea of finding out just exactly what "not being able to sit down for a week" was all about that kept us away from further research.
As cliff climbers, we excelled at escaping injury. I really don't remember any injuries from climbing cliffs, but we tried. We would climb up about 8 feet and jump... 10 feet and jump... 15 feet and jump. Really it was "jump and roll". I think we were trying to be like Hoppy and jump on the bad guy as he tried to ride through the pass. They NEVER made it through the pass and we always survived... amazing. Oh... there was one time that I came to within an inch... We were climbing the cliffs, a.k.a. high walls, at an abandoned strip mining site. Bobby and I got to the top of the cliff and well... as boys do sometimes and can… we decided it was time to go to the restroom. Now seeing that there were no public facilities on the top of this hill, peeing over the edge of the cliff seemed like a really good and fun idea. Wouldn't you know it that Mark and my brother had decided to climb up behind us. It made it a "not so good idea" when they got to the top of the cliff. Did I mention that I was one of the fastest runners in my school? I really didn't want to ever find out what "to within an inch of my life" meant. Yes... just another tale of survival!