Here’s a chapter from How to Survive When the Bottom Drops Out. It’s one of my favorites.. Hope you enjoy.
DON’T “F” YOURSELF UP*
There is one thing harder than plugging through this life with no money or job. Try getting it done when your body is severely damaged. An accident is just that, an accident, although the pain feels much worse when it happens due to your own stupidity*.
When you’re a young buckaroo you tend to heal pretty fast, or so I was led to believe. There are those precious moments in time when that’s not so much the case. If you’re going to play with fire, you’d better have a bucket of water nearby. As it turns out, health insurance is a damn fine thing to have when you tumble down the mountain. Literally.
So there I was, about twenty two years old, when my friend Matt said “I’m going skiing this weekend, you want to come?”. “Sounds like a great idea!” I said. Oddly enough, not so magnificent this time.
It had been about eight years since I had skied. We got to Brianhead Mountain in Utah on a Friday afternoon. Into the night we skied. It was probably seven thirty or so when Matt’s phone rang. Someone in Vegas had died and the wake was on Saturday, the very next morning. He looked at me and said “I’ve got to drive back to town tonight, but I’ll be back by tomorrow night. I need to make this last run down the mountain fast, so don’t try to follow me! I’ll see you at the cabin tomorrow.” Well because I was a genius, I deduced that if I went down the double black diamond trail I could beat him to the bottom by ten minutes. Bad idea.
Why is it always on the infamous “last run” of anything that you tend to do something incredibly stupid!?! I might as well of said “hey y’all, watch this!” I’ve heard that’s the last sound you hear before a Texan dies.
I made it about half way down when I tried to make a right cut off a mogul. Every part of my body executed a sharp right except for my right leg. It was still pointed left and showed no signs of following the rest of me. You would of thought my ski would have came off, but no, they were shitty rentals.
The most blood curdling “POP” you’ve ever heard echoed through the canyon. I flipped head over heels and as I was flying through the air upside down, I watched my leg flop about like a piece of overcooked linguini.
I landed in a heap of myself, unable to move. A pretty girl stopped to check on me and said “I’m a nurse.” She did a quick survey and said “I’ll get the ski patrol up here to get you, don’t move.” That wasn’t going to be a problem.
They showed up in minutes. One of the guys strapped a board to my leg and they piled me in the sled. The guy in control squeezed the lever on the sled handle and said “This is the brake, we can go as slow as you need to”. “Screw that” I told him. “I look stupid enough as it is! Make this thing haul ass!”
He didn’t hit the brake once and I received resounding applause from the chair lifts! Down the mountain we flew to the convenient hospital at the bottom.
They threw me onto the slab on my back. The doctor raised my knee upward and pushed my foot close to my ass. He sat on my toes, got a firm grip on my calf and slowly began to pull towards himself. I watched my calf separate about a half an inch from my thigh when I heard the doctor mutter “EEWWW!” I looked at him and said “What the fuck do you mean EEWWW!???? You work in an E. R. at the bottom of a ski slope! You MUST have seen worse than this!” “Nope” he said with absolute confidence. “You’ve completely ripped your ICL. You’re gonna need surgery immediately”. “How much is that gonna cost?” I queried. “About fifteen thousand, or so.” “SWEET!” I said. “You buyin Doc?” “Afraid not.” he answered. “Guess I’m gonna limp!” I told him.
It took me almost a year to walk normal again. I lost everything I had and flopped on my mom’s couch in Illinois while I healed. It was a humbling experience to say the least.
The one thing I refused to do was limp. It was a long painful road but I worked it, and worked it until I managed to stop hobbling. Kinda like losing my upper Michigan accent. If yous guys work at somting hard enough yah, yous can do anyting, eh?
When I finally recuperated enough to work I landed a bartending gig at Corey’s Bluff. I had been hanging out there for a bit and the owner Andie, who had become a friend of mine, hooked me up. I worked there long enough to scrape together the dough I needed to get back to Vegas and start company number three.
I had a trick knee that would twist out and leave me in horrid pain for days. One day when it went out on me the guy I was working with told me “Dude, you have a trick knee!”. “What the hell does that mean?” I snapped. “Lye on your back and give me your foot” he demanded. A little twist and a pull and the damn thing snapped right back into place like nothing had happened. No pain, no limp, no nothing. “You gotta be kiddin me” I said. “I’ve spent days on end in crippling pain and that’s all I had to do?” “That’s all” He said. Well, shit.
For about a year after that every time my knee would go out of place I would grab whoever was standing next to me and make then grab my foot, twist and pull, whether I knew them or not. It was kinda ridiculous, but it got me through.
After a while I figured out a way to do it myself. It got to the point where it would only go out once or twice a month, then once or twice a year, then not at all.
That was the first time I got a real taste of my own mortality. I’ve had a few heapings of it since. Not as yummy as one might think.
It took many years for me to realize my leg was never going to be the same. No more acting like a moron. I eventually figured out that there are things I simply cannot do anymore. Like skiing, or run a marathon. Although I can still cut a mean rug better than most!
After enough time had passed my leg got to the point where the muscles had built up enough to compensate for the missing ligament, and it no longer popped out. As long as I didn’t do anything stupid, that is. I could lead a somewhat normal existence. The memory of the pain and suffering I endured defiantly keeps my inner dumbass at bay. Ligament, shmigament, they’re overrated.
Dirt bikes, three wheelers, rock climbing, rappelling and cliff diving are still my favorite things to do, just with not so much reckless abandon as I used to. With age comes great wisdom… and caution… not sorrow.
*(Webster’s footnote-FUCK UP: TO RUIN SOMETHING BY BEING STUPID OR CARELESS) Yeah that’s actually in there!!!!
*(Webster’s footnote-STUPIDITY: A QUALITY OR STATE RUSULTING FROM UNREASONED THINKING OR ACTING)