Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 27, 2012

Teenage snow ramp antics lead to a sore and painful Christmas

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Christmas is a time to remember what it was like to be a kid. Unfortunately, you will get a reality check if you don’t watch what you’re doing.

I arrived at my parents’ home on Christmas Eve just in time for lunch. Not long afterward, my nephews A.J. and Alex decided to go outside for some sledding and I decided to join them.

The slope outside the house is pretty gentle, so it wasn’t nearly challenging enough for two teenage boys. As A.J. likes to say, “If it’s safe, it can’t be any fun.” The boys quickly scooped and pounded a snow ramp into place. They got out their saucer sleds and started running at the ramp. This produced a few YouTube moments such crashes and dead stops. Being young, they bounced right back up and searched for more hazards.

I tried going down the hill and managed to pull a muscle that still hurts. How do you pull muscles while riding a sled down a hill that wouldn’t challenge Charlie Brown? Then Alex decided to try some improvised snowboarding. He stood on his saucer and managed to wobble a few feet down the hill before nimbly jumping off.

I decided to try that stunt since regular sledding had been a dud for me. How did it go? Not too well.

Carefully standing on the saucer, I moved a few inches before the saucer shot out from under my feet. Alex says that I “went vertical” with my arms outstretched and crashed straight down into the snow ramp.

The packed snow jumped up and punched me right in the left ribcage. A shockwave went through me and pain followed in its wake. I couldn’t even talk. I thought I was going to vomit. I managed to get up and tried to talk, but I couldn’t get the wind for it. Words such as “that wasn’t too smart” and “this is going to leave a mark” went through my head.

You know those scenes in the movies where the hero falls off a cliff, smashes into the floor and gets up after a few seconds? Well, they’re a lot of baloney. Those heroes just got up. I felt like I needed a stretcher.

I staggered to my feet, gasping with pain. “Are you OK, Unk?” A.J. asked. If I could have talked at that moment, my answer would have been unprintable. I’m sure A.J. would have thought it was funny. Alex said he tried not to laugh, but my pratfall was “hilarious.” I’m so glad nobody had a camcorder running. I would have ended up on one of the shows where people do stupid things and get hurt while a laugh track is playing. Now I can’t help but wince when I watch those videos.

My sister, Karen, saw my performance, too, and asked if I was going inside as I tried not to wobble as I headed for the garage. I managed to get my shoes off and limp to my bedroom where a dry change of clothes was waiting.

Later, I sat down in the living room, aching and realizing that getting older wasn’t for the faint of heart. Karen, in her professional opinion, said that a guy in his 50s wasn’t as nimble as a teenage boy known for his amazing sense of balance. Both A.J. and Alex can take falls and shrug them off. My shrugs take a lot longer than their shrugs.

Karen was also surprised by the fact I had tried that stunt. I was always the cautious one in the family who followed the rules and didn’t take lots of chances. Well, Alex made it look so easy I just had to try it. Somehow, I thought I could just hop off if things got too wobbly. I got off, but not on my feet.

I know that I didn’t break any bones, but that shot to the ribs didn’t help my pulled muscles. Getting up and sitting down still inspire some pain, but the pain is subsiding, I think. Mom kept asking me if I was OK and I kept letting her know that I was fine — sore and embarrassed — but fine. Later, I wondered how close I came to spending Christmas Eve in an emergency room or flat on my back in bed with bandages pasted over my ribs.

I’m sure my fall will become part of the family stories told around the table during Christmas dinner. A.J. and Alex will retell it with glee and I’ll smile and wonder if my ribs have any marks on them. If archeologists dig me up a thousand years from now and examine my bones, they might find some odd marks left by a snow ramp. I’m sure they will fine a mysterious straight line on top of my skull; that’s where Karen hit me with a hoe when we were little. She still claims it was an accident. Oh, she didn’t hit me with one of those plastic hoes we give children today. Our toys were made of metal.

I doubt if I will try imitating my nephews’ unsafe, but fun activities anytime soon. I’ll politely watch their efforts and carefully sled down the hill while sitting down where God meant for me to be. I have my memories of jarring impact and pain to keep me safe.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at