I Think I Died in 1974: Knucklehead’s Blog-Off 2011, Round 1

by Fred

Scientific research was one of the main ways we passed our time in the days before cable television. Our laboratory was a dairy farm with lots of outbuildings where young scientists could concentrate on their work without answering lots of irrelevant questions from parents who were glad as hell you weren’t in the house watching re-runs of “The Partridge Family.”

Like most males of the species, my brothers were very interested in manned flight. The first experiment I remember was my brother John climbing the clothesline pole and jumping off with an umbrella in his hand. It turned inside out and stretched his arm a little, too, I think.

The next attempt at manned flight was made the following winter by my brother Jim who noticed that the roof of the hog shed had about a foot of snow on it. The hog shed was the most gently-sloping roof we had, pointing skyward at about a thirty-degree angle. There was also a nice drift of snow off the south eave. Jim formulated the hypothesis that if he went all the way to the peak and rode the Flexible Flyer off the eave, he would float gently to Earth and land softly in the snow drift twelve feet below. At first, we started to argue with him that it wouldn’t work. Then Steve made us all shut up. Jim tossed the sled up onto the tin roof and scrambled up to the peak. The ride to the eave was as smooth as the winter olympics. But Jim had overlooked any mechanism to provide lift for his craft. The sled took a nose dive at the eave and stuck in the drift directly below. Jim continued some feet farther before his trajectory also arrived on Earth at a much thinner part of the drift. His red stocking cap with the white and green puff ball went the farthest and landed in the water trough which was kept thawed by an electric de-cier.

In the after-action report, we described to Jim how he looked just like Jesus when his arms went out to the sides while his feet pointed straight down. He told us to shut the fuck up. He said all he needed was a ramp at the eave and he would have, like, gone up like Evel Knievel. So, well, that was the next step in the experiment.

That was a helluva winter for snow. We spent entirely too much time on Rattlesnake Hill about four hundred yards behind the house, well out of sight of concerned parents. Rattlesnake Hill is very nearly a one-to-one slope, nearly a 45-degree angle. It was a mother to climb, but we did it over and over. There was so much snow that year, that we built the proposed ramp that Jim would use to prodvide lift for his next flight. We were using ten-foot lengths of corrugated tin for sleds on Rattlesnake Hill. It was the best way to get over the long prairie grass that still stuck up through the foot-deep snow.

The snow ramp we built was not much more than an immense snowball with extra snow packed around the base. It jutted away from the hill at another nearly forty-five degree angle so that a sled would hit it at nearly a ninety-degree angle. Not one of us considered what a change of vector by ninety degrees in that short space and that velocity might do to the human body. I think we were doing about fifty miles an hour when we hit the fucker. Oh, yes. We all had to ride on this historic occasion. I had to sit in front because I was most aerodynamic. All I remember is my chest caving in, then this ten-foot blade of sharp tin flying away from me toward Kansas City. Somehow I must have done a complete flip because I saw each of my brothers in full view Jim, John, and Steve who had been sitting behind me at the beginning of the flight.

We looked like this. I’m the one flying highest.


After we landed, Steve took charge, lying in the snow and groaning. At last he spoke in a trembling voice, “Is ev—-ry—body . . . . all . . . right ?” I was sure I was dead. I may still be. It goes without saying that we were too scared to replicate the results as all true scientists must do. So, thirty-five years later, I publish the only conclusion possible from the data we collected that day: Spending quality time with family can kill you.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO GO TO Knucklehead’s blog and vote for your favorite among all those participating in Knucklehead’s Blogoff 2011. Voting is open until Wednesday each week during the Blogoff.

HERE ARE CONVENIENT LINKS TO OTHERS COMPETING THIS YEAR.
Wrestling with Retirement
Cardiogirl
If I Were God
Glitter Frog
Musings from the Big Pink
Quirky Loon
Candy’s Daily Dandy
Too Many Mornings

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn Morrison

Wow. That brought back memories. Rattlesnake Hill was legendary! 1974 was 2 years before we arrived in the neighborhood, so this is truly one of the stories that made you guys my childhood heroes!

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Fred

Thanks, Shawn. Brian had you to help conduct experiments. My favorite story you guys told was your kung fu practice with steel traps. That is an awesome story.

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CatLadyLarew

This is precisely why I spend very little time with my family… far too dangerous! Like you, I also grew up in farm country where feats of daring do were a regular occurrence… and I have the scars to remember each and every one of them.

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Fred

Thanks for stopping by, Cat Lady. Family always let us volunteer for dangerous crap because they think we won’t sue them. Why is that?

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quirkyloon

Wow. And you’re not sure if you’re still alive. Now that is one haunting memory.

I loved it!

And how I wish we had our own Rattlesnake Hill in these here parts! How I would love to be one of those “well out of sight concerned parents.” And somehow I think my boys (13 and 7 years old) would kind of like it too.

On the other hand, reruns of The Partridge Family aren’t so bad.

I mean Danny Bonaduce turned out ok, right?

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Fred

The show was okay. I think it was the music that got on Mom’s nerves. Maybe it was just us, though. At least we all turned out better than Danny.

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TessaLeFae

This is why I get nervous whenever my son is out back with you. Glad he grew out of wanting to play Quidditch. The game always ended with one of you crying.

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Fred

We need to revive the Quidditch games. We need a heavier ball and a longer bat.

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Chris@Knucklehead!

Ah, sledding, I remember it well. We’d sled down a hill that led to the frozen lake. Once we hit the lake, the sled actually accelerated. Fun times.

Good luck in the voting!

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Fred

That would have been nice. Our hill had a cut bank at the bottom and a five-foot drop to a frozen creek. If you were alone on a good sled you could jump the creek to the opposite bank.

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Meg

I laughed until I cried. I needed that today. Thanks Fred.

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Fred

Good to see you, Meg. Hope everything is well with you. I think of you often.

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vickilikesfrogs

I like the fact that you flew the highest. If you’re gonna kill yourself on a sled…do it BIG, dammit!

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Fred

Hey, your story about throwing rocks at the mean kids was a pleasure to read. Lots of things are worth taking a beating for.

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Eva Gallant

Great story. I grew up in the country, too. We had some awesome hills to sled on! Those were fun days.

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Fred

After I studied geology in college, I realized that the little creek at the bottom meant that our “hill” was actually some kind of bluff. Yes. we we sledding down a bluff. Now that’s fun!

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Linda Medrano

Being a city girl saved me from some of these things. I did love to climb trees though and loved swinging from one tree to the next like Tarzan (or Jane for that matter). Boys are daredevils and I’m glad you weren’t killed! Wonderful story and drawing, Fred!

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Fred

Thanks, Linda. City kids have concrete bleachers and skateboards. I’ve seen the YouTube vids.

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Junk Drawer Kathy

OMG, laughing my ass off here. The Jesus thing and the cartoon you drew has me crying.

Corrugated tin? We used those plastic accordion room dividers. We always thought death was imminent. Death being so fun and all.

Hilarious story! Nice job.

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Fred

Yes. Dancing with death makes winter much more fun. The universe is trying to kill you anyway. Might as well join the dance. Thanks, Kathy. I’m coming over to check out your site.

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injaynesworld

When I think of all the crazy shit we all did as kids, it’s a wonder any make it to adulthood. I can only imagine the fierce competition between you four. Very good story and well-told. This competition is going to be tough.

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Fred

There were seven of us, boys, actually. Two were in high school and college, and the youngest was home licking the beaters from a cake Mom made. Someday, I’ll tell the stories of skiing behind yearling cattle. Cattle run fast. Who knew?

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Brandy

My brother talked me into jumping off the roof one time. I did, and was fine. He of course couldn’t be out done by his lil sister, so he jumped too…and landed on a screw.

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Fred

One of my wives had that happen to her. Only her brother let her use a pillowcase for a parachute.

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sparkling74

Wow, we are a family of girls, thank GOD because we did 1/2 of your experiment. BUt it wasn’t to fly. it was because our father always plowed and our mother had to answer the phone calls from customers needing to be plowed, so we could never go sledding. One time, we realized that the barn roof would be perfect because ours also came to a nice, flat eave that wasn’t too far off the ground. So, we hauled the sled up there and slid down a time or two. I was worried we’d fall at the end, but there was enough snow to cover the fall, if we did. This went on for a few years. Until one year, my sister fell through the flat part up to her chest. I’m not sure that stopped things completely but it did slow down the works.

4 of you on a 10 foot piece of metal. Talk about staring death in the face. I read this to k-ster and before I was halfway through, he was recounting his own version of this tale and agreed that your picture was a perfect description of way too many incidents in his childhood.

Sadly, so few kids today have any idea what this is like. Too much protection. too much worry about kids getting hurt. Too much time inside. Remember being told to get out and play and not come in until you were told to? And no one knew where you really were or what you were doing? Not so much anymore!!

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Fred

Yes, and I remember coming back in the house and supper was made and you were “STARV-ing”! My mom and sisters are excellent cooks. It was torment.

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Pat

Great story! Don’t you ever wonder how we survived our childhood? I laughed out loud several times reading this!

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Homemakerman

“In the after-action report, we described to Jim how he looked just like Jesus when his arms went out to the sides while his feet pointed straight down. He told us to shut the fuck up”

Now that is an authentic feeling slice of family life right there.

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Fred

The family that prays together farts together. It’s so hard to pray when the guy next to you is farting.

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If I were God

Thanks for your note; I did start slow, but we’re both ahead of the curve at the moment, which I’m glad of. I think you can count on your readership to carry you through ‘wild card weekend’.

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Fred

You are an awesome god.

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Sharon

My childhood was spent in the south doing experiments very much like yours. I do love the moral of the story at the end! It’s a thousand wonders we ever made it out of childhood alive!

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Fred

I hope that’s what people take from this. Whatever you do, avoid quality time.

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If I Were God...

Definitely one of the better reads and more enjoyable stories. I knew you’d come up with something good, despite earlier whinings to the contrary. Many have faith in me (especially when pinned under burning oil trucks) but I had faith in you, my friend. -and you delivered.

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Bodaciousboomer

It’s stories like this that make me so glad I had only 1 boy. I’m imagining your mom’s hair turned white before she was 40.

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Fred

Thanks, Michelle. She’s 78, and her hair’s still kinda reddish blond. She reads this, so she’ll be pleased.

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cardiogirl

Awesome description of your brother taking flight — sort of — off the hog shed. I can totally see him falling like a freaked out, snowsuited pre-teen Jesus. I also enjoyed the illustration of the flying Miller Brothers.

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Helle

Fred, I am wanting you to win.

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Tarheel Rambler

What I remember most about corrugated tin is that it’s sharp as hell, but as you relate made great makeshift sleds. Another good substitute for the old Radio Flyer was the hood of a 49 Chevy. But like the tin, it had a lot of sharp edges.

My cousin put me in a similar position to the one you occupied. After we hit the second tree, I figured out my role was similar to the padding on the dashboard of a car. More to protect my cousin from injury than anything.

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Kim Wright (Pinkim)

Good Grief! It is a wonder all of you Millers survived!! You do have a way of telling a story! I love the moral of this one…You shall win, my friend!

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MikeWJ

I love the conclusion to this story because it’s just so damned true and everybody knows it. Quality time with your family can kill you. Amen, brother.

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If I Were God...

It’s so nice to see what a close group the bloggoffers are becoming, practically a tightnight little family ourselves. Now everybody get on the sled. I’ll push.

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Melissa

Love it! I most definitely agree with your hypothesis!

And I’m totally jealous of your hog shed. All I had was woods next to my house and we would go there to play in our “flower shop” to save my mother from the Partridge Family (but she really hated “The Brady Bunch”).

Melissa

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Fred Miller

Same here. Our mom called it “The Brady Brats”.

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If I Were God...

Fred-rum, Fred-rum!

They are ganging up on you over at Cardiogirl’s! I WON’T HAVE IT. You grab the scyth and I’ll get some leftover bolts. We might have to get Biblical up in there!

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cardiogirl

Just for the record — Mike started it.

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Katie Phillips

Hey Fred I really liked your story. Wasn’t I out there that day with you boys. I know I was one day but this must of been another day. You know that some of that is on the VHS tape that Aunt Mary made for mom and dad’s anniversary. “Days gone by” There was a crap load of snow that year. That was the same year that we had the drive way so slick with our make shift sled out the 10 foot tin sleds that the milk truck had to put chains on the truck to get up the hill, if we got enough speed up we could turn and get all the way to the bridge. Love the memories…..

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Fred Miller

This wasn’t that day, Kate. I think we were too scared to talk about it for many years. If we had been older in our twenties or so, I think the impact would have broken our backs. It really was like being on top of an explosion or something. It was a huge impact and then your were flying. It was insane! The other guys remember it. I know. We’ve joked about it recently.

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Monique Diaz

I like the fact that you flew the highest. Thanks Fred. She’s 78, and her hair’s still kinda reddish blond.

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