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My Five Dumbest Injuries

Like everyone else, I've made plenty of mistakes in my life. Some were embarrassing flubs like tripping in front of my seventh-grade crush. Others were funny blunders like when I cut my own hair in high school. But then there were the painful ones, many of which I deserved for being dumb and reckless.

Perspective: Dumbest Things I've Done

Some of us are blessed with common sense and a healthy aversion to pain. Then there are those who lack the basic instinct to avoid injury and possible death. I'll give you a hint as to which one I was. You got it. I was a straight-up dumbass who treated his body like an expendable piece of hardware.

From a positive perspective, I've lived a life full of adventures others would have avoided. Nowadays, with limitations placed on me by chronic illness, I can look back on all of my stunts and the stories behind them with pride. I survived myself. I lived a life full of awesome moments that others wouldn't have considered.

For the Record: While I don't endorse being a dumbass, it did serve me well.


One day I woke up in a hospital with a volcano-sized lump on the back of my head, having forgotten most of the day skiing. Back when I was a teen, skiers where just starting to wear helmets, and I certainly didn't want to count myself among that "wimpy" crowd. I felt like it was a badge of pride to be tough enough to not need one.

Like a dumbass, my favorite thing to do was wait until my friends made it halfway down the slope, then bomb down like a penguin with a jetpack. I had overly-long skies that meant I could reach mach one even when I wasn't straight-lining it. I'd be turning and sliding the whole way down, dodging around and between slower skiers.

Apparently, I woke up in the hospital four times that day. I only remember the last one. I was told that the ski patrol found me laid out in the middle of a run with my skis and poles distributed widely in a wide-area garage sale.

That was just one of my seven known concussions. Yes. You read that right. Seven. They all happened within five years, and I never considered wearing a helmet in any of the activities. The thing about concussions that I didn't like was losing time. It wasn't puking (twice), the pain, or the dizziness.

Did you know you can get brain damage after three concussions. Yeah. I didn't learn that until my forties, though it probably wouldn't have impacted how my younger self acted. Then again, brain damage might explain why I never wore a helmet after my first or second one.

This was just one in a long line of skiing accidents. Here are a few:

  • I ran into a rope with my face.

  • I sprained an ankle because I was too lazy to tighten my boot on a green run.

  • I dislocated my arm when I planted a ski pole.

  • I skied so many moguls my knees are trashed.

PSA: Use a damn helmet.

ROCK CLIMBING There is nothing dangerous with rock climbing if you are diligent, habitual, and climb with like-minded people. The equipment is bomb-proof if you treat it well. Redundancy ensures that no single point of failure will screw you up. Choosing skill-appropriate routes for lead-climbing or top-climbing more challenging walls means you'll never fall far.

While I didn't wear a helmet back then (again a point of pride), I did maintain my equipment diligently and treated the activity with the respect it deserved. I never let my guard down when I had anyone on belay.

So, where did I go wrong? I was far more concerned with someone else getting hurt than myself. That's why I let a guy who had questionable judgement belay for me on a lead climb.

Bill got "distracted" by some pretty gals a little way down the crag. I was placing an anchor, which is the point where you're at your maximum distance above the last anchor, meaning you'll fall twice that distance if you slip. Well, I slipped before I could clip into the overhead anchor.

Sure, I would have hurt myself by falling about ten feet (3 m) and smacking into the rock wall. Yes, I might have knocked my knee or head hard enough to put me out of commission. What I wasn't prepared for was the extra ten feet (3 m) of slack Bill left in the line because he was watching some athletic ladies.

Fortunately, I didn't break a bone when I swung back into the wall like a human wrecking ball. Instead, I split open a three-inch (8 cm) gash that sliced all the way to the bone. Fun times.

The good news was that we were in Norway at the time. I had just finished a year studying at University of Leeds in England, and those two countries had reciprocal healthcare, meaning I didn't have to pay a thing. Even better, I was in and out of the hospital in forty-five minutes.

In case you're wondering, rock climbing isn't as easy when you have a dozen sets of stitches holding your knee closed. Why sets? Because the doctor recognized I needed a deep set so I wouldn't tear a single set. That brought my trip to a near halt. I say "near" because I did other stupid stuff that I shouldn't have.


I grew up in a redwood tree forest. As is the case with some twelve-year-olds, the pull of tree climbing hadn't lost its charm. Of course, I didn't think about safety. I was invincible after all. Nothing had killed me yet.

So I climbed redwood trees. The view from the top of a hundred fifty foot (45 m) tree is spectacular. It was almost as good as the weightlessness you feel during a stupidly large ski jump at the top of a mountain.

Being the well-established idiot that I was, I leveled up the challenge, danger, and adrenaline by climbing during storms. The way those trees sway was intoxicating. The fact that the wet branches were slippery didn't weigh into the equation of risk and reward.

Like happens when you do anything reckless enough times, I got my comeuppance.

I fell.

Because you're reading this, you know I lived. It wasn't a given, though. Luck saved my ass. I hooked my arm on a sturdy branch. I have no idea how far I fell. It wasn't the scrapes or bruises that I accrued on my way down that bothered me. It was the fact that I dislocated my left shoulder. Do you know how hard it is to climb down a redwood with a dislocated shoulder? Well, I do.

The good news was that it popped back into its socket by the time I reached my transition point.

Oh, wait. I haven't described the transition. Because I didn't use ropes, I usually had to climb a smaller tree to the point where I could jump over to the taller tree, usually twenty to thirty feet (6-9m) off the ground. Completely safe, right?

I didn't tell my parents about the tree climbing or the dislocated shoulder until decades later. How I managed to hide the fact I dislocated my shoulder from them is a mystery to me, particularly when my brothers and I constantly wrestled.


Swings seem so innocent, right? Weeeee. Back and forth. No problem. A thousand kids have swung on them and a thousand more will.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Any tool can be the right tool."? For me, that translated into, "Any toy could be a dangerous toy." From sharpening broken parts of plastic toys on the course pavement of the driveway to throwing matchbox cars like waterbaIloons, I had a knack for the art.

That's why I always jump off swings. My brother and I were jumping off a tire swing at a friend of my mom's one day. It was on a sloped hillside. On the uphill side, you had to leap off a four foot (1m) tree stump. On the downhill side, you were fifteen to twenty feet over the forest floor.

We weren't dumb. We jumped toward the uphill side when we were swinging back so we'd drop a few feet (1m) as we flew through the air. It was a blast! I loved that freeing feeling of soaring like a bird. Ski jumps? Flying. Jumping from the high dive? Flying. Swing jumping? Flying.

Of course, me being me, my foot got stuck inside the tire when I lept toward the uphill side. Nope. I didn't sprain my ankle. Nope, I didn't smack my head on the tree trunk. Nope. I didn't scrape myself on the forest floor.

I swung back out to the downhill side, dangling upside down the whole way. If I'd flown off the tire when it was at it's maximum, I might have been flung away at twenty-five to thirty feet (7-9m). I'd probably be dead or paralyzed if that happened.

I was lucky to fall about fifteen to twenty feet (5-6m). I was also lucky that I mostly stopped myself with my arms. I'm told that landing on your head from that height can cause lasting damage. The fall may have broken both bones, but my head was still intact and my neck only had a slight soreness.


When I was about fourteen, my brother, some friends, and I wanted a zipline because who doesn't want one, right? Did we have the right equipment to make one? Nope. Did that stop us? Nope.

Being industrious and creative, we scored some rope, pilfered some PVC pipe, and walked into the woods. We threaded the rope through a foot-long section of PVC, then pulled one end to the midsection of a redwood tree. We tied the other end to the base of another tree.

We weren't dumb, having thought ahead to leave enough slack on the bottom end to slow us down. Being the diligent, safety-conscious teens that we were, we even tested it by strapping a large rock to the PVC and letting it zoom along the rope.

You might be thinking I got hurt because I was the first person to try it. You'd be wrong. It was every bit as exhilarating as you could imagine. Have I mentioned that I love the feeling of flying? Yes? Well, this was about as good as it gets.

After I demonstrated the thing's safety, my friends and brother tried it. Everyone came away with that elated devil in their eyes. You couldn't beat it. Hoots. Hollers. Laughing.

After they'd all gone, it was time for round two. That's when the friction from the PVC pipe running along the rope at speed melted through the PVC. All of a sudden, I was sliding along the rope with my bare hands. After a few more feet of bare skin sliding on rope, I couldn't hold on any longer.

I probably only fell about ten feet (3m), but I'd already gained a lot speed on my way down. Speed was the goal after all. Boom! I landed in more of a splat than a bounce. All of my friends' joking, laughter, and manic display of adrenaline euphoria immediately silenced. With the wind knocked out of me, I was also silent.

It took a moment for me to figure out if I was hurt-hurt or just hurt, so I laid there trying to figure out what I'd broken. My brother knelt at my side, panic in his voice. That's when I popped to my feet, threw my hands into the air, and started laughing. Nothing broken. Nothing but a few bruises and torn skin on my hands. It was a few weeks before we did the zipline again. This time, we used a well-oiled section of metal pipe on a metal cable. We also wore gloves.

While I don't recommend being such a danger to oneself, I did learn my limits through all these accidents. Remember, what doesn't kill you only maims you.


As always, I appreciate your support of self-publishing and indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.


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