Rogelio, Crackin’ Skulls Again

A couple of months ago, before all this travel, I was sawing apart assorted ice storm damage, when a falling branch clocked me upside the head and dug out a chunk of my scalp. I didn’t cut its base correctly and it fell the wrong way…namely, onto me. I was wearing a hoodie, and didn’t realize the tree had done anything more than bounce off my skull until a minute later, when I felt that characteristic warm cascade of liquid dribbling down the back of my neck, and around both sides of my right ear. “Bummer,” I thought…I would have to waste the waning daylight tending to a busted-open head instead of finishing the chore at hand.

Elke was tilling soil in a flower bed, and I casually strolled up to her and said, “Wanna help me patch up this hole in my head? It’s a might messy.” She used to be a vet assistant many years ago, and she has cut up hundreds of rats to feed to her mom’s hawks and eagles. It’s good she is not squeamish about blood. I’m certainly not…besides, men tend to have high iron levels and should shed or donate blood sometimes. So all was cool as long as it didn’t need stitches. We went inside to the laundry room sink…she chopped off a bunch of surrounding hair, cleaned the torn scalp out really well, dressed it old-west style and sent me back outside to fetch the tools.

A pint or two of blood lost and a knot on the head later, I healed up for a few days then got right back to tree trimming. I probably sawed down 200 limbs and branches, and half a dozen whole trees, and only one of ’em tagged me. A 99.7% is an A+ in my book. The hair has grown back and all I’ve got to show for it is a bumpy scar underneath a full, thick growth of new hair. Can’t complain…many men in my age bracket are getting bare scalp there anyway.

A few nights ago I was corresponding with an old friend from the Metroplex, who was giving me some grief about that, and we got around to discussing the last time anything like this happened. I was about 15, biking on a sidewalk, while roaring downhill at speeds that may have been illegal for a car. Suddenly, thanks to a badly buckled segment of pavement on that sidewalk, the bike wasn’t under me anymore and I was airborne at that very velocity…head-on into the trunk of a big ol’ hackberry tree.

You might guess who won that collision, but it would be only partially correct. At that age I was known for having a very hard head (the head-butt being a fantastic tactic to gain quick advantage in close-quarters fighting), and it showed. I actually tore off a few square inches of bark, but left some of my scalp and hair in the remaining bark that was still there over the following week or two. To this day, my hairline is a bit higher on the right side of my forehead, as a result of that very incident. The tree is still there on the north side of Oram St., 150 yards east of the corner of Skillman, and for a couple years, had a little scar too. Call it a draw!

After wincing away the blinking points of light and that annoying buzzing sensation between my ears, I asked, “how the hell did I get over here, this far from that tree?”, gathered up my unnaturally bent bicycle, and strolled down to the Eckerd’s drugstore a block away. Blood poured down my forehead and face as I calmly asked the pharmacist if I could use his wash basin, some soap and some wrapping. The look on this dignified old gentleman’s face was priceless, at least what I could see of it through my own ugly mess of dirt, hair and blood. I probably looked like Bruiser Brody after one of his chair-swinging, ice-pick dodging ringside riots with Abdullah the Butcher. Lots of free gauze and iodine for me, though…

My mom was rather aghast at how I appeared when I got home, but saw I would be OK in a few days. My dad, of course, being a former rodeo man and still tough-as-an-old-boot Texan, shrugged off my own injuries as nothing special (“Hell, you ain’t dead and you ain’t crippled, so what’s the big deal?”) — but was absolutely furious because of what I did to that bike. He must have spent a couple hours straightening the rims and handlebars, and fixing the tire, occasional staccato bursts of profanity tightly glued to my name as his wrenches slipped or a spoke broke. His frustration mounted by the minute with both my recklessness that caused this ordeal and with his own lack of coordination using knuckle-busting tools. I didn’t dare to even go say “thanks” when he was done, for dread of uncorking the lid on an already seething temper that by then was on the brink of pyroclastic explosion.

It may have been as close as he ever came to backhanding me halfway to Houston, and I couldn’t claim I didn’t partially deserve it.

Or was it that Pyrex beaker full of new zinc pennies that I melted down on the kitchen stove burner a few weeks before, only to see it break and spill molten zinc all over the stove’s innards?

Or the time I climbed up to the top of the kitchen cabinets at age 4 to go catch some spiders I saw up there, found a shoe box filled with hundreds of metal nails of all shapes and sizes, and dumped them all over the floor far below?

Or that time at age 6 that I found the prized watch that his late older brother took off a slain Japanese soldier in WWII, and hurled it against the wall in a horrifically successful effort to “crack the metal nut open” and see what was inside?

Or the time at age 9 that he got home from work and I hollered howdy to him — at 4 a.m., on a school night, from our roof top, through howling wind, while I was trying to get a better view of an approaching thunderstorm?

Or the time my mom was in the hospital when I was 7, and I hid days and days worth of his uneaten cooking between my toy box and the wall?

Or when I threw dozens of water-soaked pieces of toilet paper onto our painted bathroom ceiling at age 5 to see them stick up there and drip all over the room in fun patterns?

Or was it that time at about age 8 that I thoroughly dissected his wind-up alarm clock down to its tiniest gears, and in what I thought was a favor, laid it all out neatly on his nightstand for him to reassemble?

Or the time at about age 10 when I wired together a bunch of old TV and radio parts at random with part of a string of Christmas lights, and plugged them into the wall to see what would happen (blew multiple fuses in the fuse box and filled the house with acrid smoke)?

Or was it…forget it…I’ve made my point. :-O

Fortunately, he tended to calm down and forgive about as fast as he could boil over. After that crash, I healed up fine but for that prematurely elevated hairline on one side. I think I kept the blood-and-iodine soaked bandages for a few weeks as a souvenir until one of my parents found out and made me throw them away. I wonder why…

Now I’m the father of a 14 year old who already is taller than me (and I’m 6’3″), even clumsier, and more injury prone. At least neither he nor I experiment with molten zinc or wet toilet paper these days. Still — poor Elke…she has to deal with both of us!


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