He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

This one isn’t funny, and it’s a true story; a story about how sometimes we can do things in a moment of crisis that would ordinarily be beyond our capabilities. It took place in the late seventies or early eighties (have y’all noticed I’m terrible with dates) during the two year period of my life after the big tree had chased me up the mountain and broke my leg. If you missed that story, it was posted on this blog on March 29, and it’s called The “Old Man” and The Tree.

I had three operations on the leg during that two year time frame, and spent a lot of that time on crutches. But just prior to this incident, I’d recently had my second operation and the doctor had put my lower leg and foot in a waterproof cast. That way, he’d explained, I could take a shower, and even go swimming if I wanted to. I deemed that to be awesome, seeing as I’d spent almost a year not being able to do those things.

One weekend, Ken and his wife Jackie were going camping and water skiing, and invited me along. After a day of watching Ken ski, I was chomping at the bit to do it, too. After some discussion, we finally decided that if I could stretch one of his older skis enough to get the cast into it, he didn’t care if I gave it a try. Long story short, I did it, and I know there are people all over the northwest with a picture of this crazy guy skiing with a cast on his leg. Ken was laughing because when we’d go by close to shore, where people were camping, somebody would yell, “There he is,” and all these people would come running to the edge of the water with their cameras; my fifteen minutes of fame, I reckon.

But back to the real point of this story, it was the last day—I think it was a long weekend—and we were headed in to load the boat, pack up, and head for home. At the last minute, Ken said, “I gotta have one more run.” With little or no discussion, Jackie took over the driving chores, I was the spotter, and Ken bailed out of the boat.

It was a joy watching him—he’s always been a great skier (I shouldn’t say this, but much better than I ever was) and he was really showing his stuff as he cut and got air over the wake; loving every last minute of his one more run. Then something went wrong; it was one of those things where everything went just exactly the way they shouldn’t go.

Ken zipped across one wake, and as his ski slapped back to the water, it did so as he was coming to the second wake; the back of his ski hit the water first, slapping the second wake. That caused the front of his ski to fly up and hit him right in the face. He went down like he’d been shot.

“He’s down,” I yelled, and Jackie immediately began to circle around to pick him up. When we got to him, he was facing the other way, and I was laughing, yelling, and teasing him about showing off. The laughter stopped abruptly when he turned to face me. All I could see was blood.

Ken being Ken, he handed me the ski first, and I dropped it in the boat. He reached up to grab the side of the boat, and without a thought, I reached down, grabbed his arm, and lifted him into the boat in one smooth swift motion. Ken grabbed a towel and pressed it to his forehead, and mumbled something about needing a doctor, then said, “Holy crap, Chuck!” Jackie was beside herself, in a near state of panic, but got the boat moving and we raced toward our camp. I kept checking on Ken—looking back at him—and every time I did, I’d see this wide-eyed Jackie looking at me like I was a ghost or something. Ken—towel pressed to his head—had an equally amazed look on his face, but I attributed that to shock and concern over how bad he was injured.

I don’t remember all the details of breaking camp and getting Ken to an emergency room, but I remember sitting with Jackie in the waiting room as they sewed up the gash on Kens’ forehead. She just kept looking at me with an amazed look, which I took to be fear for Ken, or simply the trauma of the incident.

When she finally calmed down and told me why she’d been staring at me like I was some kind of freak, I understood.

“You don’t even know what you did, do you?” she asked me.

I immediately thought she was going to tell me about how I’d messed up, or done something wrong. I was just as shocked as she was, though, when she told me, and the memory and realization of it came rushing back into my mind.

Jackie said, “You picked Ken up with one arm and lifted him over your head to put him into the boat.”

It was my turn to be wide-eyed and open-mouthed as what she said sank in.

I’d heard stories about people performing super-human feats with the aid of adrenaline rushes; now I’d found out they were real. Ken and I probably both weighed about 175 at the time. There is no way I should have been able to lift him the way I did.

Pretty crazy what a person can do when someone they love is hurt or in danger, ain’t it.

1 Comment »

  1. Sherry said

    Good story, and nothing in it surprises me . . . superhuman strength or being crazy enough to water ski with a cast on.

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