Winter Olympics evoke memories
I was one of those hands-on kind of kids.
If I watched something on television, either a great war movie, an episode of Superman or the Wide World of Sports, I wanted to take the enjoyment of my TV viewing outside afterwards.
For example, after watching the movie, “The Dirty Dozen,” which starred my all-time favorite football player in Jim Brown, when Jim’s character ran from chimney to chimney, dropping a hand grenade down each venitlation shaft, I felt compelled to do the same with a handful of rocks around the backyard afterwards.
If it were an episode of Superman, before dashing out into the yard I would first call out, “Great Scott, Lois is in trouble,” and bolt for the linen closet and one of my mom’s good bath towels.
You see the developing trend here. It was February 1968 and we’d been watching the Winter Olympics on our tiny 19-inch black and white TV. It was my first such Olympics. I was 10 years old and in fourth grade. I was fascinated by this stuff, and after the giant ski slalom I threw on my winter coat and idiot mittens to head outside and try some slaloming of my own.
So did everyone else living in my neighborhood, Tommy, Roger and Mike, Moose and Skeeter, Ricky and Greg, and Jeff from across the street.
We wanted our own downhill slalom ski course but we were faced with one big logistical problem: Few significant downhills and no snow.
We did, though, have some cold, so the whole snow thing providing a slippery course was just a temporary inconvenience.
You have to remember this was the Age of Imagination, where we could take a crooked stick and turn it into a Thompson .44 caliber machine gun.
Direct me to the nearest water faucet and thou shalt haveth ice.
All we needed was the nearest hill.
This presented itself in the form of Jeff’s driveway.
The temperatures that Saturday afternoon hovered around 22 degrees.
Cold. Ice worthy.
It was Tommy who turned on the faucet and directed its flow down the concrete hill of Jeff’s front driveway. It was a good hill as driveways go. Not too steep, with a nice patch of front lawn to use as a stop zone at the bottom. Great for a giant downhill slalom course. Since it was his driveway, we gave Jeff the honors of running the course first - not a good idea. You see, Jeff was what we called a bleeder growing up. He was always cutting or bumping something and then he’d bleed like he lost a limb.
I remember his first day playing baseball, all decked out in his bright white uniform. We were playing catch before his game and I showed him this new pitch I’d just learned - a curve ball.
It curved just fine, away from Jeff’s glove and “SMACK! to hit him square in the nose. He bled all over that white uniform like he’d been shot.
So we sent Jeff down the driveway first when it would have been more prudent to wait until good ice covered the entire driveway.
Jeff hit a dry patch.
Jeff pitched forward.
And left some significant DNA on the concrete at the bottom of the hill. Our second problem arose when we saw all that blood.
We run at the sight of blood. It’s every man for himself.
Yes, we left Jeff crying in a wounded huddle along the sidewalk.
Our third problem presented itself when Jeff’s dad came home from work three hours later and tried to navigate a frozen driveway.
This happens when you forget to turn off the water.
We weren’t allowed to play outside again until baseball season started.