Broken Legs and Priorities

The impact threw me from the motorcycle into the air in the opposite direction of the way we had been traveling.

Physics is funny like that!

I landed on my right leg, which snapped like an unlucky baseball bat in the hands of an angry Bo Jackson, who just struck out.

Things were worse for my friend Tim, who lay screaming on the ground because the car’s chrome trim had peeled off and sliced into his right leg, making just a big mess.

Let me back up a bit:

We’re in the eighth grade at Adams Middle School (now Saraland Middle School). And I’m struggling academically, which was par for the course for me. I am sure I didn’t know the word ‘academically’ at the time. But I knew my grades were pretty bad. It’d help if I actually opened a book every now and then.

But why? There are so many things to do outside.

It was my friend Tim’s birthday. His brother had given him a motorcycle, which is just way too incredible for words. Imagine an eighth-grader getting such a present. There was one catch, well besides not having a driver’s license:

No brakes.

Let me say that again: There was no viable way of stopping the bike absent the tried and true Flintstone Method.

And to be fair, his brother did say not to drive it until he repaired the brakes.

But we are eighth-graders, and such nonsense is just that.

What, not ride?

Not possible!

Tim did have the good sense to put on a helmet. I, on the other hand, had neither good sense nor a helmet.

After riding through a new housing development, we headed home on a back road.

But there was a slow car in front of us so Tim did what any reasonable person riding a motorcycle without brakes would do: tailgated her. And just when she is ready to turn left into her driveway, he passed her … on the LEFT!

I don’t remember her name. I just remember the loud thud the front wheel made as it impacted her pretty grandmotherly car.

The sound of the car’s trim being scraped off by that same front wheel was not really pleasant either.

Don’t picture the usual fingernails on chalkboard pleasantness. No, think, industrial-sized razor blades on a football-size chalkboard.

After my leg snapped upon contact with the earth again, I tumbled onto my head, which would have interacted well with the soft Alabama topsoil, had it not been for the tree root upon which my head eventually landed.

A helmet would have been nice.

As I mentioned, Tim was not so lucky and spent the next several hours in surgery.

Even without cellphones and such, news travels fast. And for some reason, my dad was actually home. But he was not in the best of health. His back was in no shape to carry me.

He drives up quickly (it’s only a minute or so to our house) and picks me up and heads to the truck. But it’s obvious that he can’t carry this 14-year-old kid.

Although I didn’t show it at the time, I was (and am grateful) that a local policeman, who lived one house down, was right there and insisted that he carry me — over my objections — to the truck after seeing dad struggle.

After a quick trip to Springhill Hospital to set the leg and install a useful cast, we were back home.

I am sitting in my bed watching a 13-inch black and white TV with my leg proudly propped up on some pillows when my mom gets home. She had been over in New Orleans for something all day and comes sashaying down the hall. Mom walks in and sees, for the first time, her (favorite) child in bed with a full cast on his right leg.

She was not happy.

Hey, no cellphones right? And well, she didn’t call home or anything.

So… Surprise!

Tim also gets a cast.

And we both get to hobble around Adam’s Middle School for the next several months.

Besides building up my then skinny arms to just slightly less skinny arms, there were a few consequences to having a broken leg in the 8th grade:

First, my grades improved dramatically. And I am not being dramatic! I was drafted, inducted, or whatever you call it, into the Junior Beta Club. That was a first. (But after my leg healed, the good grades didn’t last).

Secondly, I got to leave class early to avoid the maddening rush of crazed middle schoolers in the hallways between classes. And we all know what a chaotic horror that can be.

Finally, girls started to notice me. OK, well one red-headed girl felt sorry for me and saw her chance to also escape early from class by offering to carry my books.

Here’s what’s clear to me now: When I could no longer do what I wanted, I did what I was supposed to be doing. That is, studying instead of finding distractions. Perhaps the current virus situation can encourage us all to focus on the things we could be doing to make us better folks as we’re confined to our homes.

Just avoid motorcycles with no brakes.

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