Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Dare to be stupid

Two conversations recently juxtaposed to make me recall something from long ago.

The first involved a question raised about angels. See, a friend of mine knows someone who claims to see and talk to them on a regular basis. He was wondering what we thought of that idea.

The second was when my 18 year old son told me he was four wheeling earlier this week with some drunk friends and they rolled a truck. Fortunately he wasn't hurt, he landed on his head.

So while considering the stupidity of my son, it occurred to me that many people would say "oh he must have had a guardian angel watching over him". I think maybe he did, but I am reasonably sure that the angel is also calling him a dumb ass, like I did.

But in fairness, I have been just as stupid in my life, and the accident reminded me of one I was in when I was 17...

There I was....

My best friend Steve and I went for a drive one day. We had borrowed a van from Bob Binford, our Young Life leader. It was as I recall a Ford 1/2 or 3/4 ton van, configured for construction use, with a large rack on top for hauling lumber. We were on a mission to procure some gravel from a large mound of it that we had noticed up a windy road in Los Gatos. So we drove up the road, parked and loaded more then a few buckets into the back of the van.

We jumped in to head home and discovered a dead battery. We flagged down a passing motorist, but their cables would not work. It was then I discovered that side post terminals are a real pain in the rear. We walked a few miles to a friend (a teacher actually) of Steve's and they drove us back to the van where they too failed to jump start it.

It was now dusk and we were unsure what to do. I was in favor if coming back the next day, but Steve's teacher had the bright idea to roll start the van. I protested...."Its an Automatic" I pointed out. He insisted that if we could get it up to 25 or 30 mph it work. (once upon a time, it actually was possible, but that was only on older cars....but I digress) Steve voted to go along with the roll start plan.

So now the stage is set. We have:

A large van with inoperative power steering and power brakes
A young driver
Its night time
The battery is dead so the headlights are ineffective
Its a downhill grade on a somewhat windy road
The van has a cargo of several hundred pounds of gravel

Scared yet? I was.

So we piled in, they pushed us off, and away we went on Mr Toad's wild ride.

Our goal was a long straightaway near the bottom of the hill where we would build enough speed to try the roll start but there were several sharp turns between it and us.

The first couple turns as we gained speed were ok, but each progressive turn we were moving faster and it was getting harder to slow us down and turn. We had one final turn remaining until we reached the straightaway, a fairly sharp right turn. As we turned it, Steve lost control, and we crossed over the center line, sliding to the far edge. We couldn't see anything beyond that, it was too dark

There was a loud BANG and we were back on the straightaway heading downhill very fast. Steve tried the roll start. It didn't work.

Big shock there. Somehow I think I resisted the urge to say I told you so.

We parked at the bottom in a dirt lot and took stock of the damage. We were unhurt, but the van was not. The lumber rack on the roof was bent, as was the bumper, and there was a dent to the rear quarter panel. We didn't find out from what until the next day.

Steve's friends arrived and drove us home. The next morning Steven got his jumper cables (heavy duty side post compatible), and I drove us back up to the van. Of course it started up immediately.

I think we scared it.

I drove us up the hill to see what had happened. We found that the road where we lost control bordered a pasture/orchard, which slopped a long way down hill. Had we left the road, we would have rolled at least a dozen times easy, if not more.

So why didn't we? Here is how we reconstructed it.

Along the road's edge was a large tree. As we approached the edge, the weight of the gravel forced the van to fishtail. The rear end of the van impacted dead on to the tree, and the impact bounced us back on to the road. The roof rack took most of the impact as we were leaning from the turn, so the damage to the van was minimal.

The tree was not too good looking, the impact cracked a 10 inch thick branch.

So had the van left the road a little sooner or later, we would have been toast. As it was, we were just stupid....and very lucky

So when people accuse kids of being stupid, I say "yup!"

And when people ask if Guardian Angels exist, I also say "yup!"

Mine apparently is a tree.