Pioneer to Extreme Sports III

Eight days  remaining to get those Christmas gifts purchased!

A little old man  with a cane in a hole in the wall diner forever changed my life and outlook.  This unassuming  gentleman had a wry sense of humor and a heart as big as Texas.

If you missed Part I, you can read it HERE.  Part II is HERE.

Hank had just regaled me with how he first started his roof surfing endeavors thanks to his pregnant wife Mary.

 Part III:  The Thrill Seeker

Like any true adrenaline junkie, Hank was not deterred.  This pioneer in extreme sporting would get a do-over.  One time occurrences are a fluke. After all is  said and done, bones are healed the memory remembers the adrenaline rush not the dangers. For me personally,  I would think that  I had a guardian angel protecting me to keep me from dying  on that one and only episode.  I avoid climbing onto roofs at all cost, hiring someone to even clean my gutters.  Ladders are scary enough to me!  Not Hank.

We tend to view life from our egocentric view of where people are now forgetting that they had a life before coming into our radar.  Logically we know that they are older and yes, they experienced life but we tend to not think about that person and what they were like when they were young men and women.  We see the weathered, aged features  not the events of life that created each line.

In January of 1982, he attempted a second “roof surfing” event.  There had been record snowfalls followed by strong winds that caused snow-drifts to pile up to six feet deep in places.

“You could hear the roof creaking from the weight of the snow.  I was afraid that it would collapse under all that weight.  Then we’d have no roof in January with sub-zero temperatures.  Couldn’t have that!”

Hank and his two sons climbed up on the roof and began shoveling away the snow.  Underneath the snow was a sheet of ice from freezing rain at the beginning of this winter storm.  They’d cleared about half of the roof when Hank lost his footing.  In perfect surfer stance, shovel in hand, Hank surfed down the roof, through the snow drift, and sailed right off the roof-edge two stories to the ground below.

Moments later the underlying ice released.  The snow followed Hank over the roof to the ground covering him.  His sons dug him out of the snow and loaded him into the family car.  Two  fractured ribs and a fractured pelvis were added to his list of injuries.  Weeks of lost wages and expensive medical bills didn’t make the doctor’s instructions to “slow down” any easier to swallow.

“Worst damn month of my life.  Stuck at home with them boys. ‘Bout as useless as tits on a boar hog.”  He shook his head reaching for his coffee then levels me with a serious expression. “Thought about enlisting  the both of them right then,  or shipping ’em off to military school.   I never  heard such moaning and whining  from a couple of boys.  My girls didn’t whine as much as those two.   Geez!”

He smiled a genuine smile at the waitress as she refilled our cups. “Thank you Shirl, how’s Marvin doing?”

“Oh, he’s getting on.  Recovering nicely after his knee surgery.  Sitting at home planning that fishing trip.  You and Mary still going, right?”  Shirley crossed her arm over her waist holding the coffee pot in her right hand.

“Wouldn’t miss it.  Tell him  I might stop by early next week,  got a new catalog from the Sports Store.

One of the  things I hated most about  small towns was also one of the things that was endearing, the fact that everyone knew everyone else.  As I sat there enjoying the easy comfortable exchange between longtime friends,  I felt a little twinge of jealousy for  their friendship, wishing I had kept in touch with  my high school friends.

“Where were we?”   He asked as he scooped up a forkful of mashed potatoes.

“You were telling me about having to stay home after  falling from the roof.”  I made a note to look up Shelley or Lisa on Facebook when I got back home.

“I didn’t fall.  It wasn’t falling.   I slid off from the ice.  Weren’t you listening?”

Why did I suddenly feel like a wayward child being corrected by the school master?  “Yes,  I was listening.”  Trying frantically to think of  questions to ask him so I would be off the hot seat.  “Did you manage to get all the snow off the roof from the drifts?”

“Yeah.  Well, not me but the boys did.  Had to keep on ’em. Ended up standing  out in the yard directing them to keep them on task. Let me tell you standing out in the cold does nothing for broken ribs.”   He shifted in his seat,  a brief twinge of pain evident on his face, then it was gone.  “After that, I figured I was better off paying someone when it involved a roof.”  Hank swirled the coffee in his cup then took a sip with a distant look in his eyes.  “Yeah, me and roofs.” He set his cup down. “Not such a good history.”

He recounted dangers from the war that he’d survived, and near misses on the job.  Then he leaned forward, leveled his eyes with mine “Survived D-Day, Ramagan, an entire war but roofs. . .”  Hank shook his head slowly.  “At the lodge they call me Hank the surfer.  I hate that.”

Tune in tomorrow for more of Hank’s story.

Write on my friends, write on!



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