Thursday, January 18, 2007

6'4" No More

This story may be difficult to write.
First of all, I've never tried to tell this story without the visual of me sitting on the floor with my hands and feet up in the air in a "V" for victory pose. I'll leave that up to you to imagine when we get to that point. I'll cue you.
Second, I usually tag-team tell it with the husband... and usually right after he off-handedly tells someone, "You know, I used to be taller..."

In the year 2000...
My brother and his family had rigged up a really cool zip line between two trees in the woods behind their house. A long cable was hooked up taunt between the trees, up a high branch on one tree and on the bottom branch of the other. A pulley wheel welded to an old set of bicycle handlebars was attached to the cable.
The idea was, you climb up to the taller branch, position the pulley/handlebars on the cable, hold tight to the handebars and step out of the tree. The pulley wheel rolls along the cable as you hang below it, hurling faster and faster toward the other tree until you reach a spot where my brother's family had piled some old mattresses, and plop! you land softly there.

That was the idea.

To demonstrate, the youngest niece climbed up to where the cable was attached to the higher branch, she grabbed the handlebars, zipped along the cable, wheeeeeeee!, and neatly dropped onto the mattresses.



After much prodding (alright, not that much), the husband decided he would try it.
Now, I don't need to point out how much heavier the husband is compared to the youngest niece. But I do need to bring to your attention that when the niece flew down the cable, the cable barely sagged from her weight.

Because when the husband stepped out of that tree, the cable sagged.

A lot.

It sagged so much that the husband had to lift his legs up to avoid dragging them on the ground. The farther he sailed, the lower the cable sagged until at one point, he was hanging with his feet and legs pulled up as high as he could hold them (okay, insert visual here) with his butt nearly scraping the ground.


Here, is it important to remind you that the other end of this cable is tied to the bottom branch of the other tree. And that branch, while it IS the lowest branch, is still about ten feet off the ground.


Here comes the husband, feet above his head (again, insert visual here), butt nearly dragging on the ground.
And there is a point at which this cable must begin to rise in order to reach its final height of ten feet.

When the husband reaches this point, traveling at a great rate of speed, feet above his head (insert visual), he ROCKETS upward!

It's as if someone has snapped a giant sling shot, and the husband is now Wile E. Coyote.

I must pause here to explain a few things:
1) If you've ever experienced one of these zip lines, you know that once you get to the end of the "ride", the pulley wheel catches at the end and you simply slide/roll back to the lowest point of gravity,
2) when the niece demonstrated this particular set-up, she was traveling much slower, and
3) she let go before she reached the end so she could drop onto the mattresses

No one pointed out #3 to the husband before he stepped out of the higher tree.

Okay, back to the rocketing husband...

As he is thrust suddenly and violently upward, he sees the pile of mattresses flash by. And he is thinking, "I probably should have let go there. At least when I get to the end, I'll roll backward."


When he gets to the end, instead of the wheel catching and reversing, the handbars snap off the cable!
And the husband, legs up, rocketing forward, continues to rise!
And spin.
Handle bars are still clutched in his hands, only now, with the sudden loss of tension, the bars have been pulled up tight against his chest.

By the time he stops rising and begins to fall, he is upside down.

And that's how he lands.

On his head.
On the ground.


As I raced to the place where he fell, I honestly didn't know if he was alive.
And I mentally mapped out a path for the ambulance to get into the woods.

After stock of all his parts was evaluated, here's how he walked away:
- scratches and a giant bruise that would turn his chest brilliant shades of yellow, purple and green over the next month from the bicycle handle bars that acted as a mini-spine on his chest preventing the rest of his body from curling onto itself and wrenching his actual spine in ways it aught not be twisted
- a neck that made awful grating sounds when he tried to turn it
- soil embedded into his scalp with which he had pressed an inch-deep indent into the ground where he landed... precisely between two thick, exposed tree roots... which he, by God's grace alone, had missed

Later, we would learn that he had fractured a vertebra in his neck (explaining the grating noises).
Which was thankfully treatable by a very skilled chiropractor.

No long term effects from his injuries.

Except now, he is a full inch shorter than he used to be.

And he winces watching America's Funniest Home Videos when people are shown falling on their heads.


Richmond said...

Heh. And I still think he's plenty tall. :)

Anonymous said...

ouch, poor guy. hope he's recovered fully, but ouch. he's still tall, but now has stories to tell his grandchildren, lol.

Bitterroot said...

Ack! I'm still grimacing from this image...

" God's grace alone..." indeed!

I'm glad everyone is okay. And for the record - I won't even watch the AFHV videos when I know someone is about to get hurt. Can't do it, and I certainly DON'T think it's funny!