When I was a boy growing up in Somerton, Arizona, I fancied myself to be vastly more skilled in the art of athletic competition than I was, and I suffered significantly for my foolishness.

     For example, I played football as a boy, and couldn't make the cut playing with my own year-group of kids.  But the big boys were so short handed that they welcomed another moving body.  I broke my collarbone.

     But nothing can compare to the abrupt learning curve gleaned from my experience with a pitchfork.  The most deadly tool on the farm, as I discovered about the age of ten.

     Every farm kid has done this, to one degree or another.  But I had seen some pretty fancy pole-vaulting done with some successful flair.  Even my little school had an old aluminum pole which I had used to make a few modest leaps with.  And it only made me itch to try a REAL jump.  I wanted to polish up, show Coach Moon I had some promise, and use that pole in the pit.  With real sawdust, a fall-away bar, maybe some kids to watch.

    Anyway, I found an old broom handle laying around and tried to vault with that.  But it was pretty short, and besides, it slipped each time I really tried to dig it in for the vault.

     Then I found the pitchfork.  It looked pretty tall to me.  I tried it, and it seemed to work pretty well.  Several times, in fact, and I got better each time.  It was tall enough to get a fair vault, and it really dug in.  And, as a bonus, it was just springy enough to let me imagine that I could get a serious launch.  

     Now, Dad had built a fence around our front yard, about 40 inches high, I think.  Posts, on which rested 2 x 4s, with wire stretched around the outside.  It kept the dog in, and more importantly, seemed like a reasonable goal for a ten-year-old Olympic hopeful pole vaulter.

     I did the typical thing.  I looked for the part of the fence with the softest landing zone on the other side, and I launched. 

     I did not ponder the fact that the ground on my side was especially soft.  Nor did I consider that there were certain mission-essential parts to the jump; first, that I get the altitude; second, that I clear the fence; third, that if I didn't clear the fence, that certain precautions should be taken to protect my most delicate parts, even at the expense of broken bones.

     I will never forget what happened next.  I am sure it caused me to arrive two years late to puberty. 

     The fork dug in deep and ceased its assent about a third of the way up; my ego insisted on trying to will myself over the fence but succeeded on getting only one leg up; and I landed squarely on the fence.

     The pain was all consuming, to the exclusion of all else for a considerable time.  I can only remember two other times I ever suffered the anguish I did at that moment.  No humorous thoughts have ever crossed my mind to cover this moment in my life, probably because I can still remember being afraid that I might be cursed to live through it...

     Beware the temptation to use a tool not designed for the job.  It may save you an enormous amount of grief.

Letter to My Grandfather

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Dick Pellek (website) on Monday, 18 March 2013 22:34

Spoiler alert!! I started to giggle even before I came to the climax part....sorry that we humans so much enjoy our little episodes of schadenfreude.

Spoiler alert!! I started to giggle even before I came to the climax part....sorry that we humans so much enjoy our little episodes of schadenfreude.
Ernest Daniel Kingsley (website) on Friday, 29 March 2013 00:39