I was so sorry to hear about your broken arm. From abundant experience, I know how uncomfortable wearing a cast can be. Trust me, after a week, you will get used to it and by the time they finally take the cast off, it will feel strange not to have it on. I am sure that next year, you will be playing football again.
It has always been surprising to me how many people have never broken a single bone in their entire lives. It you lead an active life, participating in sports, or just trying to see what’s over the next hill—it seems impossible not to have the occasional injury. This is the price we pay for enjoying a full life: we were not meant to live our lives sitting on a sofa playing video games.
About half a century ago—way back when I was in high school—I was on the track team, despite being a slow runner. I was nowhere near fast enough for most of the events, but I had fairly long legs and was pretty good at clearing the high hurdles. It has been a long time, but I seem to remember that the hurdles were set at 39 inches height. The real secret to making it over the hurdles was to hit the approach cleanly and not ‘stutter step’ just before you made the jump. The object was to make clearing the hurdle part of your stride.
It took a lot of practice to learn how to hit the approach cleanly. Using a piece of light bamboo, I made a hurdle in my backyard. I probably hit that old fishing pole with my knee a couple of hundred times before I could work out how to pace my steps where I could clear the hurdle without having to adjust my last step.
This was probably the only event in track where I showed any talent. However, for whatever reason, the coach also insisted that I also compete in the 440 events, but I never finished anywhere near the top. They probably could have timed my efforts with a calendar instead of a stop watch, but as you well know, you have to do what your coach tells you to do, so I ran the 440. Coming in last gave me a great view of the rest of the runners!
In the hurdles however, it was a different story. Your grandfather (my brother) was two inches taller than I was, but our legs were about the same length. Maybe that was why I found it so easy to clear those hurdles. For whatever reason, I never broke stride and always hit the hurdles cleanly (probably because all that practice in my backyard made me confident of being able to clear them). In about half the matches we held, I came in either first or second.
My other great love in high school was airplanes. I loved everything about them, and was taking flying lessons whenever I could save up enough money to pay the instructor. When I was broke, I just hung out at the airport looking to do odd jobs so I could talk to the pilots. I washed a lot of planes just so I could hang out with people who would talk about flying.
The people who were teaching me how to fly also repaired and restored old airplanes. One day, they had a scaffolding erected around an old 1930's plane, a large twin engine plane, that they were working on. I was fascinated and the mechanic, a friend of mine, said I could climb the scaffolding if I wanted a closer look. I went up that scaffolding as fast as a stabbed rat.
And just about as fast, the scaffolding collapsed. I found out later that someone had used a soft aluminum bolt on one of the joints instead of a steel bolt. Bigger and heavier people had been up that scaffolding all day, but the bolt sheared when a lightweight, skinny high school kid climbed up onto the scaffolding. Sometimes, you just can’t figure out why accidents happen.
I fell onto the concrete floor of the hangar, busting an ankle and breaking small bones in both feet. As accidents go, this was a small one and none of the injuries were that serious. I was young—not much older than you—and the bones mended cleanly and quickly.
Naturally, that was the end of my track career for the year. I was heartbroken at the time, because I missed the big district track meet a few weeks later. I watched that track meet from the side of the field. It would have made a great story if I could tell you that the winner of the hurdles was someone whom I had beaten earlier in the year, but the truth is that a guy from a different school flew over the hurdles like he was half gazelle. His time that day was shorter than my best ever had been
All of that was a long time ago and, looking back on the events, I am proud that I worked so hard at learning to jump those high hurdles. I remember how happy I was to compete in the few events held before the accident. I don’t regret the long hours I spent practicing.
Strangely, though, I don’t regret climbing that scaffold, either. Oh, I wish it hadn’t collapsed and I wish I hadn’t fallen and broken my ankle. But, I still want to be the kind of guy who needs to climb a scaffold to get a closer look at an old plane. If offered the chance today, I would still climb up a scaffold.
I’m not telling you to be foolish, but to be proud of the things you have done, even when occasionally you end up having the small injury. You earned that cast on your arm: it means you did something most people can’t or won’t do.
Life is too short to be safe all the time, for it is a terrible fate to be bored to death.
Hope you’re back on the field and doing what you love, soon,
Your (occasionally) Great Uncle.