Near misses

My dad took my mom on a hunting trip when she was about eight months pregnant with me and she nearly had a miscarriage.

When I was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I came out all blue.

When I was just starting to walk we went on my parents’ friend’s fishing boat. They were up in the wheelhouse and I was amidships, wobbling towards them. I had my eyes on them, and did not see the open hatch till I was falling down into the hold.

When I was about seven my dad and all his friends were in the woods felling trees to build somebody a cabin. My friends and I were in the same area running around having a great time. Suddenly everyone around me was gone and I heard a lot of shouting above the noise of the chainsaw. Then I heard a lot of crackling and whooshing and branches whipping past my face as a tree fell down right next to me.

Around the same time I was up in our treehouse showing another boy how to get down. I lost my grip and fell about 15 feet onto some big tree roots, right on my back.

At age 12 I went on a week-long hike in the mountains with a big church group. I was going to have to tent with my mom since I didn’t have a buddy to tent with. Somebody in the group sympathized and offered me their extra one-man tent, which was just big enough for a sleeping bag. During the night I started to suffocate. Although I had gone camping and slept in tents plenty of times, I didn’t know that you needed to open the flap a little bit to let air in. I was cold and delirious. It seemed to be raining inside the little tent, and as I gasped for air I tasted blood in my mouth. I knew I was going to die but I did not know what to do about it.

When I was 19 I was working on a salmon fishing site. We had six inside nets that went from the beach 125 feet out into the water. We had six more outside nets 100 yards or so out in the water which we accessed in aluminum skiffs. Late one stormy night in the middle of the salmon run we were picking the outside nets, which were completely loaded with fish. It was slow going. By the time we finished picking our nets our boat was so low in the water, and it was storming so hard I thought we might sink. We had been instructed to wait for a signal from the beach, then ride the swells in hard to beach the boat as high up on the sand as we could. My job was to pull up the motor just as we hit the beach, to keep the prop from dragging through the rocks and sand. I did this, but it didn’t seem like the motor was locking in the up position. I kept pulling on it to get it to lock. By this time they had the bow rope attached to the tractor and the boss was beginning to pull. Normally you don’t start pulling until everyone is out of the skiff, but if we wasted any time there was a risk that the big breakers would flip the boat over and we would lose a lot of fish. I felt the boat lurch. There was a blue flash that lit up the night and then I was down, up to my chest in fish, holding the back of my head. The boss was yelling, asking why the boat wasn’t moving (I heard later), but nobody knew. Except the boss’s wife, who had just come down to tell us that there was food up in the crew house. What she saw was that the steel ball hitch had snapped off the back of the tractor and sling-shotted into the back of my head. I got a trip to the emergency room in the wee hours, with only a concussion and five stitches in the crown of my head.

I often wonder about all of these near misses. I think, my story is not done yet. Maybe ALS will be a near miss too.

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One thought on “Near misses

  1. I think near misses during our formative years are a prerequisite for continuing to adulthood. I’ve also had a fair number of close calls and near misses. To this day I still fear them, knowing I would probably not survive as well as I did in my formative years. For me it was, in no particular order, drowning, falling off a 50 foot cliff, getting struck by lightning, suffering a stroke, cutting off my left index finger (reattached), to name a few. But for me it continued right into adulthood, and hence my morbid fear of having a close call that is too close.


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