Monday, April 23, 2012

23 APR 12

The art of prediction ...
Years ago, while stationed in Japan, a group of us was out for an evening of bar-hopping through Fukuoka's Nakasu District. At some point we were walking along the canal, smokin' and jokin'. There were vendors' carts and tables set up, under the lights, all along the canal bank.

We came to one table where an old woman was reading palms. She enticed me to sit for a reading. She took my hand in hers, turned it over and proceeded to study the various lines and crevasses in my palm. After a minute, she began to speak. We could have used a translator ... between her Pidgin English and my broken Japanese I don't know just how accurate her predictions may have been. One thing she did make clear to me was that later in life I'd have problems with my lungs and feet.

I'm 40-some years older now and having trouble with both my lungs and my feet. Whether she was truly precient or just a keen observer of human behavior, I don't know. I smoked back then and it could be that she predicted my current physical condition based on the effects of prolonged cigarette smoking on one's health.

Another time, another place ...
Millinocket, Maine. New Year's Day, 1989.
There was a dog-sledding competition... this was not a formal race, merely a 30 mile informal warm-up run. We probably should not have been running teams. Though it was bitter cold, there had been little snow that winter. The trails were ice covered... not the best conditions for handling a team and sled.

I was driving an eight-dog team for the first time (we were going 30 miles, after all.) When it was my turn, the dogs took off like a shot from the start-line. Came to the split, a Y-junction, where outbound teams were to bear right, inbound teams would be coming from the left. My leads took the left! I braked, yelling, "Whoa, Whoa... Whoa!" It didn't faze the dogs at all. They were primed and wanting to
Go! Go! Go! I finally stopped them on the edge of a field, near a small stand of trees. The ground was snow over ice and I could not emplace the snow hook to anchor the sled. Each time I eased off the foot-brake the dogs continued pulling, in the wrong direction. I managed to inch the sled close enough to the trees to snag a small one with the snow hook. Using the tree as an anchor, I turned the team around, walked them back to the outbound trail and was on my way again ... with miles of hill-'n-dale woodland to traverse by late afternoon.

Half an hour later, we came upon a series of moguls in the center of the trail. The sled bounced... bounced again, harder... bounced yet again and my right foot came off the runner and into a shallow depression, hit the bottom straight-legged, popping my knee joint. My knee-cap (patella) ended up on the outside portion of my leg. I was stuck there, balanced on my left leg, not able to use the brake with my right. The dogs plodded on. I wondered just how in hell to stop them. Shouting, "Whoa," didn't seem to work without them feeling the brake being applied. Finally, I just threw myself over onto my left side, flipping the sled with me. That got their attention... suddenly, all that drag on the line. They stopped. After a short wait, Kaptain, the senior lead, pulled the team around while he came back to inspect me. After much sniffing, he lay down next to me, with the rest of the team gathered too. Finally, they all lay down as if trying to keep me warm. Harnesses and lines became a tangled mess.

We remained like that until one of the trail guards came by on a snow-mobile. He radioed for the EMTs to come out... and I was hauled back on a towed wagon. Then on to the hospital. The trail boss took care of the dog team. I was released later the same day with a brace and some crutches. The doctor said that I'd likely heal just fine but "You're gonna have trouble with that knee later on."

Well, that "later on" has arrived...  and I'm beginning to experience real pain in that knee when I use the steps. It's tolerable. I'm just hoping that it doesn't become any worse over time.

                                              ( twice-told tale )


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