Sunday, July 24, 2011

Near Death Experiences

The term defies definition. You live a near death experience every time you get into a car, climb a ladder, go swimming, walk across a slick concrete floor. The list goes on and on. The news is full of what we consider normal daily life, yet someone succumbs to a daily misadventure slipping on a wet concrete floor etc.  We reason,  "Well, it was just their time". The common denominator for all things unexplainable in life and death. "Couldn't happen to me, the odds are to great, more than winning the lottery". People win the lottery everyday. That's why I don't play.

I have had two memorable "near death" experiences that qualify.

My Mama had drug me over to see a classmate of  hers in Floyd County Virginia, who was not well. I was about 7 or 8.We were sitting in a living room, me beside Mama, when this kid comes in...about 12 or 13 with a pistol he had been playing with when we first entered the house.

All I heard was a loud explosion and everybody screaming, the boy crying, and Mama grabbing me to her bosom. Apparently the gun was real and  loaded . He pulled the trigger and the bullet passed a couple feet from Mama  and me. It knocked a hell of a hole in the wall...I do remember that. I really didn't get what happened, I just know everyone in the room was hysterical, except me, and we left soon after. Mama said I could have been killed. No nearer to death than climbing a ladder, Mama.

Next "near death" I did to myself. I was on Fraser Island in Australia. It's a real adventure just getting there. Fraser is one of those mystical Lianna Jungles,big trees with every imaginable Tarzan vine rom skinny to rop size hanging from the trees. The island is unique in that it has  lakes on  top of these 600 foot sandunes of which the island is made...just sand. The lakes are very deep, clear, and deceptively big.

I decided to hike around one of the bigger lakes,  figuring it would be a nice walk. About a quarter way around I ran in to vines,  and all sorts of biting stinging insects. I thought, "Enough of this, I'll swim to the other side, and walk to camp". Here's where the spooky music starts.

I used to be a good swimmer, lettering at Georgia in my college days. I had no hesitation about the swim, looked to be 1/2 mile. I swam for about 10 minutes, looked up and wasn't any closer than when I'd left the worries, mate, just keep swimming. Another 10 minutes and I'm getting closer, but not much. I rolled over on my back to decide what to do next. I dropped my shoes from around my neck, took the shirt off, and looked up at the blue sky and said to myself, "Well, it's a good day to die", as the old chief in Little Big Man. put it.

The whole swim took about an hour. It was a real rush to put my feet on sand. Life was good! Stupidity not so good. I've thought about that swim and my choices and the ones i made and how i made them many times. I'm still baffled how and why I made the life and death decisions I made. I could have gone either way. The picture below depicts what happens if you don't make the swim.

I now ask myself, "What SHOULD Patrick do", every time I get the tractor on a slope, or crawl up a ladder to clean a roof off, or start messing with the clay grinder... with it running.

Obviously, I didn't die, but I almost made the Darwin Awards. It turned out the trees on the side I started on were short, the ones on the other side were 100 footers...they just looked small from my perspective. I made it without panic, the lesson here being "Things ain't always what they seem".  THAT was a eye opener. You can go to Frasier Island on Google Earth...or's a REALLY cool place. Above are a couple pictures...not my storied lake, but one like it.

So, there are really no hyped near neath experiences. You either die or you don't. I'm still here, and so far, my male ego and native stupidity that goes with all that ain't killed me yet.

I just turned 70, and my ability to do stupid stuff is still there, but it's just too much trouble to mount a campaign to do seriously stupid stuff anymore. I have enough trouble with less serious stupid stuff.

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