|Clark - age 10|
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Naaah! It’s Just a Scratch, I’m Fine
I woke up this morning thinking about some of the painful injuries that I endured during my childhood. I suppose my pain was pretty much the same as what most other kids endured. Anyway, I remembered the following painful incidents.
In a previous letter, I believe I mentioned the application of my teeth to the street pavement after flying over the handle bars of my bike while our family was living with Grandpap in Altoona. That was the first appearance of the “Flying Clark Show” and it was a stunt that I was proud of for a long time. My crooked teeth continued to remind me how acrobatic, daring and entertaining I could be, especially after picking myself up from the concreate while screaming in pain. However, this morning I remembered that my self-mutilation did not end with that smooth move.
Let’s skip a few years to when we were living in a fairly rural neighborhood on West Plank Road. I was in maybe third or fourth grade. Evidently, the pain and humiliation of my teeth-to-the-pavement trick didn’t instill much fear (or wisdom) in me. I loved the swings in the playground area of my elementary school. As I think back now, I realize how high those swings could go when you really pulled on those chains and leaned appropriately. It felt like I was flying when I was on them. Of course, hanging onto the chains and keeping my skinny butt on the seat of the swing was not really flying, and my friends and I really wanted to fly. I’m sure you remember what the consummation of wanting to fly required. It required flying off the swing and through the air as high (and far) as you could go. Yes, flying on the school playground was strongly prohibited and the consequences of flying were not something to be trifled with. Those teachers were like concentration-camp guards. However, us grade-school guys were not going to be intimidated by them. We had to fly and we did it anytime those guards were not watching. We also tried to get as high in the air as possible before leaving the plane (I mean the swing seat). I wasn’t going to be outdone by those other guys either. I could get higher than they could and fly higher and longer than they could. Unfortunately, I didn’t always have a very well-functioning landing gear, which finally resulted in a very unorthodox landing from that high-flying swing. I was told by other playground friends that the landing was very comical, but I wasn’t laughing. My left arm was screaming in pain, but I did not scream or cry. The guards would know that I had jumped from the plane and I did not want to face their rage. I also did not want my comrades to think I was a sissy. Luckily my flight took place late in the day and I was able to sit in my classroom the remainder of the day and to ride the bus home without showing my pain (I think). When I got home, I cried and screamed a lot until Dad got home from work. Then I screamed a lot more at Dad because he took me to the hospital, where they examined me and x-rayed my arm, and informed him that I had fractured a bone in my arm. I proudly wore a cast on that arm for a while and thought of it as a combat incident. Luckily, it healed very well and has never caused me any more pain. Also, I was much more careful about flying after that experience.
However, that wasn’t the end of my pain. A few years later, after riding the bus home from school I had another agonizing encounter while roughhousing with a neighbor from across the road. You probably remember Mike O. He was several years older than me, but like the other older boys in the neighborhood, he would hang out with us younger guys sometimes after school. Actually I believe our parents encouraged some of the older boys to try to keep us squirts under control and safe. Mike O was a good guy, but he was also a bruiser, which meant he was a big boy who was very strong for his age and liked physical contact. Us younger (and smaller) kids got along very well with Mike, but we had to be careful to protect ourselves. Well as I said, Mike liked physical contact and we often got caught up in wrestling or some other contact-type activities. I don’t remember what exactly we were doing, but during some type of roughhousing in the backyard after school one day, Mike (The Bruiser) accidently stomped on my middle finger (yes, the one you Flip The Bird with) on my right hand. One of Mike’s huge feet, with a huge and heavy shoe on it, just squished my finger like it was a worm. It hurt like hell and I screamed in pain. Boys in our neighborhood had to be tough and crying and screaming in pain was not acceptable. Therefore, I muted further expressions of my pain as much as possible. Mike knew what he had accidentally done, and he was very sorry about it. He didn’t know what to do to help me, but I told him I would be okay, although I didn’t want to play anymore that day. He went home and I went inside and cried with pain for an hour or so until our father got home from work. He was somewhat irritated about Mike smashing my finger, but he understood how boys liked to play rough and knew that it had been an accident. Surprisingly, he didn’t take me to a doctor or anything. Instead, he cleaned the blood and dirt off the finger and then soaked it in some warm water with Epson Salt, which was a popular home remedy for bruises, minor cuts, strains, contusions, and all kinds of other painful afflictions back in the day. I don’t remember that the soaking helped much, but repeated soaking seemed to help some. He also applied some antiseptic cream and band aides to the finger. That injury was another lesson in dealing with pain for me. It took a while for that finger to recover. The finger nail has never been the same since that stomping day. It still remains mutilated and needs frequent attention. In addition, the joint near the tip of that finger remains noticeably deformed although it functions well and without pain. Every time I look at it I remember Mike O and wonder where he is and hope that he is well and happy.
There were certainly other minor injuries that I endured but nothing worth remembering, until my Junior High days. Surprisingly, I decided that I wanted to play football in 9th grade. I was tall and felt indestructible and strong at that time, but I was also very thin. Our parents were not enamored with the idea of football. Instead they encouraged basketball, and of course I played baseball every summer. However, I wanted to be a football star! Although I suffered an injury during preseason practice, I got through the preseason training fairly well and played an “End” position during most of the season. You can read about my football prowess (or lack-there-of) in a previous letter entitled: I Don’t Wanna Play Football.
Bill - Since you are eight years older than me and you finished high school in Altoona after we had moved, you were not around much during most of those times, except during some summers. Usually, you were either in school, spending time with friends in Altoona, playing in the Altoona HS Band or in the Tyrone Gardner Guards Drum & Bugle Corps, or working. As I got older, you were off to college at Clarion, PA. The parents and I missed you, but you did what was right for you and you certainly deserved to do so. I appreciated that you still kept in touch with me and made time for me when you could.
Anyway, I hope these letters evoke some fond memories of me and that West Plank Road neighborhood “Back In The Day.”
I also hope all is well with you and your family. Take care.