the true stories
Much study has been conducted into the realm of accidents. Primarily for the insurance industry. Ask any actuary and they will probably tell you that most accidents occur at home. It is safer to fly third-class with grizzly bears than it is to get your breakfast each morning. Perhaps it is because at home we are safe and our defenses are down. I have come safely through more dangers than I care to recall from the jungles of Guatemala to the Coastal Range. But none of this made me wary of a rocking chair on a warm evening.
Recently, I have been studying to obtain a Canadian Outdoor Recreation Education certificate. The course book is about three hundred pages and there are other booklets of a couple of hundred pages to learn as well. After a period of study at home, I was to attend classes on two different occasions for two different aspects of the training. It is interesting material and covers many different fields.
There is a section on orienteering and map and compass work, a section on firearms, ballistics and such, a section on the classification of fishes, birds and mammals, a section on ethics, ecology, sustainability, conservation, a section on survival, a section on camping, a section on emergency first aid in a wilderness setting, a big section on the laws of this land and its many facets and interpretations, be it Provincial, Municipal, Federal or Aboriginal. Next time you see a guy or gal in a blaze-orange vest, resist your urge to stereotype them according to popular media. Chances are they might surprise the hell out of you with their rich store of very practical knowledge.
In my case, I had read the books fully through and was on the second reading when my turn came up for the classroom sessions and the final exam. It was a Friday after work and I was cramming in the Ikea Poang chair in my living room. I remember reviewing that the wattle over the eye of the Blue Grouse is yellow while that of the Spruce Grouse is red. That is, in the males of both species only. I thanked the Great Spirit that he made them without adipose fins, just before falling very fast asleep.
My wife was also passed out on the couch after watching her stories in the humid eighty degree evening. Presently I came to. It was the lack of Alex Trebec's dulcet tones that snatched me unceremoniously from the embrace of Morpheus. Now I was hearing a trans-gender forensic pathologist cracking jokes with a purple-haired NSA type around a stainless-steel table. I knew I would likely hear the catch-phrases in their banter on a mass transit vehicle within a week and decided I could do myself a big favor by turning the TV off.
The remote was on the coffee table where my wife had put it. My book was in my lap and I am proud to say that my mug of tea was still in my fist, albeit long cold but not spilled. My legs were crossed and if you had passed by a window you would have never figured me as being asleep at all. I closed the book after dog-earing the page with the Grouse wattle data. (I can recognize the raw material for a trick question.)
I sat the mug gently down on a coaster on a doily and moved it away from the edge of the little coffee table. I was refreshed from my nap. I planned study the Gallinaceous birds again at breakfast before class and so the only logical place to leave the tome was on the dining table immediately behind my chair.
After all, there was the matter of introduced birds having no feathers on their legs, while our native birds are equipped with feathers right down to their toe-nails. I felt confident about distinguishing a puddle duck from a diving duck by their manner of flight and leg placement in relation to the body but it wouldn't hurt to memorize the silhouettes one more time.
I rose like the sun over a canyon rim, still clutching my book. I turned to the table behind my chair and noticed that my body was at a 60 degree angle to the floor. Realizing instantly that I had no justification for such a saucy cant, I attempted to straighten up di di mao. Now I was 80 degrees off the perpendicular and my head was on a collision course with a hard wood arrow-backed chair. As I traveled toward the aforementioned meeting I took the opportunity afforded by the wonderful slowing of time usually present in such circumstances of looking at my legs. Could they be the culprits? Aha! My right foot was turned over 65 degrees and I had been standing on my ankle-bone. As I had felt no pain nor pins and needles, there was no indication prior to being physically out of my normal plane of locomotion to indicate any problem whatsoever.
With great relief at having solved a mystery, I grabbed the chair with both hands and pulled it down as I fell backwards. I recollected the only other time in my life that I had experienced complete lack of feeling in a limb. It was after my first kava-kava ceremony of which I will tell the tale in another post. It all happened because I had crossed my legs. As I processed these memories and revelations, I simultaneously realized that I could not afford to let that chair break my glasses so I thrust the offending furniture away.
Twisting like an ocelot, I latched onto the Poang chair just before I would have hit the floor and caused the laminated bent-birch to creak in pain. At the apex of the weight loading, the Poang released its potential energy like a long English bow at the Battle of Agincourt and launched me, Parthian-style in the direction of the coffee table.
As I flew backwards my mind searched for yet a new reference. All I could come up with was Jerry Lewis in the Disorderly Orderly or perhaps Geisha Boy. I spun around like the rear wheel of a motorcycle on a dirt-track and landed with both hands on top of the coffee table on either side of my tea and my face inches from my wife's sweet face. Just as the Poang came to rest on my back, she opened one eye.
“Tchh, do not try to kees me. It is very hot. My neck eeso esticky. Why is the foornitour down?'”
I gave a her a brief explanation and when the feeling returned to my leg, I began a process of thawing everything I could find in the freezer on the eggplant that used to be my right foot. I went onto the front steps outside and brought the book and my tobacco pouch. In an hour, my wife came out to water her flowers and beans. She expressed her concern and condolences and offered to refresh my stock of frozen foodstuffs. Being practical, she realized that in my weakened condition I might be more suggestible than usual. She came near with the hose and drizzled water on some potted plants. I rolled another smoke as I watched her.
“Papi, can you not lessen your esmoking. You are conshooming tobacco like a ca-tair-pee-lar. Tchh.”
“No te precupes, mi amor. Alles ist gut. It's a Cherokee thing.”
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.