The pull of adventure can sometimes feel like gravity.
Calvin and Hobbes captured the moment as if they were there.
I’m not sure if this memory is a Prologue to a cautionary tale about an untimely death or the first paragraph of a legend starring me.
The scene is me at about 4 years old. My butt and my right leg are plopped inside the big brown coaster wagon, it wasn’t a radio flyer but it was along those lines. It was a lot of work to pull the wagon up to the the top of the east hill. Grandpa Loeffelbein’s little orchard was divided east and west by a deep gulley and the gulley had a small creek at the bottom. There was a bridge across the creek, just wide enough to drive grandpas Fordson tractor over. The road to the bottom was a gravel two track trail. The west side road was the steepest. Dead mans hill. Only fools tried riding the wagon down the west side. I had pulled the wagon down the west side and up the east side.
It would be epic I thought to myself. I was sure there was an award ceremony in my near future if only. If only I could over come the crippling fear that kept my left leg on the outside of the wagon extended with my heal dug in. I had my hand on the tiller. I don’t know if I squinted as I stared down to the bottom the hill, charting the course. It wasn’t that complicated. The road went straight to the bottom of the hill. All that was required of those bold enough to try was use the tiller to steer the wagon and keep it on the road and get over the bridge. On the north side of the bridge was about a three foot drop into the creek. On the south side it was more like a 4 foot drop and there was the barb wire fence and stinging nettles. If I had to ditch I would head for the north side. I didn’t know much about stinging nettles but rumor had it that it could result in blindness and death. Nettles were to be avoided. The course charted, and the plan made. As soon as I could swallow the fear I would begin.
I don’t remember what the trigger was that released my left foot emergency brake. I have an older brother and I suspect that there may have been taunting or some other challenge. It could’ve been the thrill effect where the excitement and anticipation of a thing fills up and over flows the brain bucket to fill and over flow the logic bucket and boldness bucket. Like a teeter-totter these three buckets on one side tipped the scale. The left foot came up, brake off, left leg got pulled over and in, tucked in and gravity took over. The part that I couldn’t have or at least didn’t anticipate was the vibration of the wagon and how it affected the steering. I was all over the road. As the speed approached Mach 10 and the vibration took over the controls I did the only rational thing my preschool brain could think of, I ditched to the north. As an adult I look back at this scene and see some dangers. The water in the creek isn’t deep to me now, shin deep. As a four year old my shins weren’t that tall. I remember that I was suddenly very wet and very cold.
The house where the adults were was at the top of the west side hill. There were some stairs that were made of old truck tires stacked and terraced into bank of the hill. Somehow my parents and grandparents were alerted to my catastrophic accident and near death experience. I don’t remember those details but I do remember the thrill of the ride down and the moment of deliberation before the thrill.
There were consequences. I did crash. I did get wet. I did cry. I don’t remember the wagon being at grandpa and grandmas house on the next visit.
I have dreams not of this but like this. One where I am sitting in a parked car the car is parked on a steep hill which turns into a cliff. In my dream the car starts to slide toward the edge. Not matter how hard I press on the brake it continues to slide down the hill.
Why are these stories in my head? I was trying to think of an example of getting pulled away from safety into danger. How the excitement can overcome reason, and reasonable fear is pooh-poohed away. I walked away. Like a good landing is any landing you can walk away from, what doesn’t kill you makes you maimed, wait no, makes you stronger? Hmmm. Same guy who said that also said God is dead. Not a fan of the man or his philosophy.
Anyway, I did face a fear, I took a chance, had an adventure, scared my grandparents, (I’m not sure my parents were ever concerned about safety, they had a bohemian mentality in some areas), I had fun up to a point. I started writing this because I was feeling the pull of sin like I felt the pull of fun and adventure and sometimes it feels almost like the pull of gravity. Becoming a Christian didn’t make all of that go away however I have this working for me.
“Romans 6:15-23 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(There’s an epilogue to the story about the wagon itself written by my uncle Jerry.
“I shared my story with my uncle Jerry who grew up at my grandparents orchard and he gave me the back story to how he the wagon came to the family.
“That wonderful wagon came to be as a result of the Great Flood of 1948. The Wenatchee River flooded the area north of the Loeffelbein Addition of Cashmere, where Art Lobe had a barn and corral. That area is now the levy, which was built as a result of that flood. When the water went down, I walked with Uncle Art and Dad to view the damage. Much sand had been deposited, and my 3-year-old eyes spotted the tongue of a wagon sticking up out of the sand. I don’t remember the particulars of how they got the wagon out of the sand, but we dragged the remains home. My next memory of it is that it had wheels. They were the old pressed tin narrow tread scalloped typed, and they were in rough shape. Delvin scrounged up some better wheels, we painted them puke yellow, and I had a wagon! Delvin notched a long pole so it would stay on the rear axle, and he would push me around, at top speed, of course. That wagon made many trips down those two hills, and as often as possible ended up in the creek. I also remember piling 6 – 100 pound bags of feed on it, and pulling it across the driveway (with great difficulty.) It got used for anything and everything, and every time I’d break it, I’d take it to Uncle Bill and he’d weld it back together with the acetylene generator and a bottle of oxygen. Mom once told me I had to be more careful, as I was overdoing Uncle Bill’s generosity. After I left home, the wagon remained, working hard in the yard, orchard, and garden.”)