Screaming all the Way

My Aunt instantly corrected me. “You weren’t screaming. You were quiet as a mouse and that’s what was so scary.” “No Auntie, I was screaming the whole way.” “No sir, you weren’t. You laid in the back of the car, white. You were WHITE…….Like you were already dead!

I must have been in my mid thirties when my aunt and I were visiting at my grandparent’s home. We were flipping through family memories when she mentioned a farm accident that became part of family lore.

I was recently out of 3 cornered britches (as diapers were called in our neck of the woods) and all available hands were cleaning the tractor building. I was too young to be of any help so I pretty much just had to stay out of the way and out of trouble.

The thing about tractor sheds is that there is a lot of interesting things in a shed and this particular day I was messing with the tread on the rear wheels that were leaning against a wall that had been removed from one of the tractors. See, to me the treads were huge and I figured that I could climb the tread if no one was looking.

Dad hollered at me to get away from the wheels so I did…. for awhile. Pretty soon he hollered again to GET AWAY. So I did……. for awhile. Well, charm ain’t always what we want it to be and in this case, third time was the charm.

Every story that moves along eventually has to have a plot point, you know, where everything is boring and then something happens that changes the course of the rest of the story. We’re getting close to that very plot point for this story.

As I’m writing this the memory is rich and real. Dust, smell of grease, rubber, it’s all living in my body waiting for a memory to resurrect them.

Well, I was doing fine, almost on top of the tire. Just a little more. Whoa, uh-oh, the tire started moving and I was sliding off, hoping dad wouldn’t see me……..

There was a WHUMMP and there was dust and a panoramic, black-and-white snap-shot of Dad and my aunt looking my way. This was bad! Daddy is gonna spank me. They came a-running and somehow lifted that tractor tire off me.

You know that feeling when you get punched really hard in the stomach? Or when you are shoveling snow and the shovel hits a crack while you are pushing it and it pokes you REALLY HARD in the gut so that all you can do is gasp and maybe cry if you’re a sissy or maybe puke? Kind of like that except that it hurt.

Being able to breath…….. God, I hope when you die… I hope it ain’t cause you got your breath knocked out. Some of it isn’t clear. I think my system might have shut off my mind for a while to focus on learning to breath. Can’t breath… it sucks!

Since I hadn’t gathered my thoughts, (they were scattered all over the warehouse floor) nor did I have any idea of dignity, I just laid around and screamed.

While I maintained a decent level of noise, everything else was just a bunch of busy. People running for phones and a bunch of serious big-people talk. I was too young to know what a hospital was but I do remember knowing I was gonna find out.

I’m not sure if we took the ’63 Rambler or if Auntie set me in back of her car, I just remember turning out of our lane onto the highway and she kept looking over the seat at me and saying stuff that I couldn’t hear over my screaming.

This was all before Smokey and the Bandit taught us all to drive and I really didn’t understand the concept of speeding but my older brother told me that Auntie was HAULING ASS!

The phone call had the Cheyenne hospital ready but when we Auntie hauled me in, there was a problem. They understood that it was my Dad that was smashed so they were ready to pronounce him DOA (dead on arrival) and move him down to the refrigerated drawer to keep him fresh untill the funeral. Evidently adults don’t usually survive that level of boot-stomping. Dad said it took a half hour to set up for me.

Auntie came and visited me every day for a week. She brought finger puppets and such. She asked the nurse “Is he OK? Why is he lying so still? Can he move around?” Turns out that when I first got there one of the nurses had told me to lie still. Being a little kid in that condition I took it to heart. The nurse assured her that I was fine and it is OK if I moved around. “You can move around sweetie, it’s OK.” She said I could move so I did. Later Auntie told me that the nurse was sorry that she said I could move!

Come to think of it, Auntie was pretty nice to me then. We haven’t been real close in the past 15 years or so. Maybe I’ll call her.

It took a week to make sure I wasn’t pooping blood and somehow little kid bones bend like grass before a wind so no bones got broke. The tires didn’t have the liquid ballast in them or I would have splattered. Good luck I guess.

Out of all the perhaps hundreds of times this memory was recalled or brought to me by family conversations I ALWAYS remembered screaming all the way. Now Auntie was telling me, “That’s what was so scary. You didn’t make a sound all the way to Cheyenne”. Now that put a different spin on the whole thing. How the hell could that be? Was all that noise just in my head?

Of course, the years don’t stop putting distance between us and the past so more thoughts arrive.

Sometimes now I wonder when petty misunderstandings happen and people don’t understand why no one hears them….. Maybe the screaming is just in their head. (Don’t say that to your wife. It’ll piss her off!)

A mentor of mine used to talk about people ‘acting out’ instead of communicating. I thought of ‘acting out’ as a euphemism for being childish. Now I wonder if he was saying that people have a feeling and they ‘act out’ the feeling instead of communicating and they assume everyone else is hearing the message. (Couldn’t you see by my expression that something is wrong?)

Anyway, I’m starting to wander off.

See you next time.

Tales of Darkness 1

Continued from The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Ghosts, spirits, demons, horrifying dreams. They are guardians of the gateway.

Remember the Great Story of the Garden of Eden? You must not eat of this fruit unless you desire knowledge. The knowledge of Good and Evil.

Witches and witchcraft, supernatural disasters, ordinary disasters blamed on the supernatural.

Well-meaning warnings based on ignorance and superstition abound, preventing most from becoming curious and keep the curious from searching deeper. Deeper into the meaningful.

Some of us looked…. at death…. and felt fear. And looked again, deeper. The fear fell away with understanding only to be replaced with a new fear, a different fear, or both. Eventually and often with Great Terror… look now and you’ll remember a time. You know terror now, don’t you, but one time the Great Terror fell away and …… nothing. Understanding. That fear is gone. The first time is disorienting, an anomaly. Don’t worry, it will happen again.

Don’t get too smug though, understanding doesn’t necessarily make a person any better, just different.

This happens in an evening or over a 25 year span. You don’t really keep track, but.. you do, don’t you. Some part of you. Until…. you start looking for fear, to understand. Understanding feels good. It’s addictive. You need more fear to understand more. We get some version of what we think about and the feelings of fear intensify. You begin to cycle faster, you recognize the cycle don’t you. You’ve seen it before in your life or someone else’s, until… you stop fearing fear. Or it starts driving you mad. Oh, it’s good to    Stop fearing fear.

I wish it was this quick. Nope. Like Hercules drinking from the Cup of the Giants that kept refilling itself because it was attached to a huge lake, you will face thousands of fears you don’t even know exist within you. Your moments will be swirling with depression, fear, anxiety and worry, interrupted only by sex, TV, sleep, books, and more sex and fantasies of suicide. You will get discouraged, you will give up hundreds if not thousands of times, you will walk The Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Early along the way you will begin to question, maybe because it’s funny, then over time more seriously. Easy now… it will suck you in. Then maybe in anger, or genuine curiosity. Careful, those questions are dangerous. Those questions bring attention. Those questions entertain the drunk, stoned, and bored. Those who have given up the quest become uncomfortable, concerned, afraid, angry.

Those who have read about people who question try to analyze and declare your mental illness, and, failing that, they will try to find others like you that they can study to make themselves famous for ‘discovering’ a new ‘illness’. These weaklings NEED you to be a victim to help them feel strong. They feel the pull of the darkness. They want it but they feel afraid so they send you. They judge you for your uncertainty while stoned on their delusions of shared echo-chamber smartness that is lewd, reckless, and stupid backed up by a degree.

Careful… don’t look into the dark. What you find might remove your fear forever. Or, maybe you will choose instead to give up, keep your fears, and instead travel church to church as a paid guest speaker, calling upon all to heed your warning, STAY AWAY FROM WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! Maybe you’ll become a therapist longing for the bravery of the souls who come to you for answers. You don’t have answers though do you, so you ask “how does that make you feel?” and “Are you taking your medication?”

But then, you meet a person here and there who has been here and there. They understand, they encourage. You’ve finally found someone that sees your world. And maybe you are THEIR someone who understands.

It gets lonely as only the most drunk or the most stoned are interesting or interested.

I would encourage you to look away, if that makes you happy. Sure, why not? I always cringe when I see some poor soul circling the drain like a washrag in the toilet. They’ve got a shit storm ahead of them. They’re not likely to make it. There’s no clear map. They’ll eventually become more insistent in their search for answers and for help. All will try to drag them away from their dark obsessions or medicate them. If properly medicated a soul will lose its highs and lows. Try to be a ‘good boy or girl’. Get back to work and STAY MEDICATED.

I can only wish an early death for that poor soul caught forever in human purgatory.

However…. for the few who make it all the way….. you will NEVER be the same again. Life is just like it was before, but YOU’RE NOT. Napoleon Hill suggested that most men who do anything extraordinary with their lives don’t get started until 45-55 years of age. It takes about that long to clear the misunderstandings developed in early training, to clear your head of superstition and ignorance. If you are going for it, keep one foot nailed to the floor of sanity so that you are free to look at truth.

But.. talk as little and to as few as possible about the strains of truth you find. All except few will try to convince you that you are wrong, that you are crazy. Well maybe, but only until you’re not. If what you find is true and you seek truth, you’ll know. Keep at it and you will emerge unflappable, unsinkable. People with the greatest education will come to you for advice. You’ll have none but your best understanding of the compilations of shards of truth that you will package and offer with humble hope that it will lighten their load.

As I tell this long story I hope you look away and read something light-hearted and fanciful instead. If you read this you will see the path ahead, the path you’re on, the path behind you, or if you aren’t out frolicking with new-found freedom, you might read about the path you have successfully traveled and finished. Out the other side.

My question today is: When you emerge (an unlikely IF) will you help others? Oh, who gives a shit. The next entry of this series will get the train a-rollin’.

What the hell?!! Oh, the cat is wearing a green ribbon while leaping after a feather. It must be Saint Patrick’s Day.

Erin Go Bragh

Or as my Father-In-Law always would say ~ Erin Go Bra-Less….




Silent Death: The Drowning Girl

“HEY, HEY!”   I was shouting at my son. “Help that little girl!” The mighty Columbia River was silently culling it’s prey.

Water has always had a piece of my soul. The first time I found myself floundering was in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Head tipped back and toes barely touching the bottom as the next kid went down the slide, swam past me, and then another. Finally, gasping and knowing that I’d had a close one, my hands grasp the rough concrete edge of the pool.

The reservoir North of Casper also made several passes at me. Each time, trembling from exertion, wanting to cry, I promised myself not to go so far next time. Before I turned twelve, 2 of my friends met the Grim Reaper in that very water.

Turtle Creek reservoir in Kansas wanted young meat for the larger fish to nibble on in the depths under the frozen surface of winter and it drew me seductively past my abilities. Again, I made it passed death’s grasp.

Strangely and in my own mind I wondered how no one ever seemed to notice, no one seemed to care. Every single time was a little boy’s silent battle for life. Each close call caused a deep internal sobbing, less now from proximity to death and more that no one seemed to care. As a young child I became comfortably close to death in my casual thoughts. Dreams of death from falling was as common as any child but drowning haunted my dreams. Pictures of water, no mater how peaceful, gave fuel to a mind determined to slip thoughts of a slowly sinking victim giving their soul to Davey Jones.

It is the silence that haunted me the most. Was I wanting to die? Was I too lazy to call out? My dreams of drowning were so common that eventually I found myself enjoying the call. Drowning… what a nice way to die.

Later in life while canoeing I’d find myself half halfheartedly enjoying the capsize, wondering if this was my final ride. Smiling to myself sitting on the shore I’d talk quietly to the river. “Not this time my friend.”

Enter the Reader’s Digest. They had an article about drowning and how the drowning person falls silent, conserving energy and drowns passively among the other swimmers rather than the thrashing and screaming seen in movies. Yup, it’s just like that I thought. With pictures and description, the Reader’s Digest laid the most private of my near drowning experiences convincingly bare to the reader.

Some years later I was walking with the family along the river where families were splashing in the water and lounging on the grassy slope designed by U.S. Corp of Engineers. I walked out onto the dock with my wife and the dog and was coaxing the dog to jump off the dock to retrieve a stick.

Thank God for the Reader’s Digest! My eye spotted and brought my attention to the girl. I paused for a few seconds to confirm. I felt her posture, quiet then loud as the waves from passing boats covered her ears then off. “HEY, HEY!! Help her! I pointed directly at the girl. While my son was trying to comprehend my yelling, her dad lunged into the water and grabbed her up, pulling her out.

“What happened” he was asking. She collapsed crying into his arms and began the panic-relief sobbing that follows near death from drowning.

She was slowly and torturously drowning surrounded by friends and family. I wonder if she occasionally questions that no one seemed to care, why didn’t anyone notice? Well, maybe not. Someone did notice.

We walked on, her memory burned into my mind. I’ve had no drowning dreams since.