Posted by: cordy74 | April 20, 2009

Chronicles of Dad 4: Watch Out For That….ditch?!

Disclaimer:  In no way, shape or form do I intend the posts in this category to imply that my dad is a buffoon, clumsy or accident prone. He is a very intelligent, albeit somewhat deaf, man who just happens to occasionally stand in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Growing up with my dad could sometimes be exciting – perilously so. Several people have enjoyed hearing these stories from time to time. I now feel it is time to bring them to a wider audience.

I may have mentioned this before but my Dad loves auctions.  I think it is partially the fact that you can see so much interesting stuff at an auction, especially at the farm auctions.  You can see antiques, odd appliances and equipment and even obscure tools.   The other reason I think he enjoys auctions so much is the idea that he could find a real “treasure” and bring it home.  When I was about 13 or 14 I went with Dad to an auction where he found a treasure in the form of a Honda 250 motorcycle.

The auction was being held on a rainy November day at a farm near where my Grandma lived out in the county.  Dad had driven my mom’s car, a ’78 Gran Prix, so there was only so much room for Dad’s treasures without running back home to get the truck.  After being at the auction for a while I had retired to the car to get out of the rain and probably read a book to pass the time.

After sitting in the car for a while Dad came over and told me I needed to drive to my Grandma’s farm, get a portable air tank and bring it back to the auction.  Before I left to do Dad’s bidding I had to find out why.  He then took me over to show me the Honda 250S he had just bought.  It had 2 flat tires and no working lights but that motorcycle started on the first kick.  After I asked why we didn’t just go home and bring the truck back to haul the motorcycle off Dad sneered and said he would just drive it home after we aired up the tires.  Off I went to get the air tank.

About 15 minutes later we were ready to go.  Dad was going to ride the Honda home and I was to follow him in Mom’s car.  Even at 13 or 14 this wasn’t a big deal for me to drive alone along these roads.  Dad taught me to drive when I was 10 years old so at this point I already had 3 or 4 years of driving experience.  Off we went!  For safety’s sake I gave Dad about a quarter mile head start.

Everything started out just fine.  Dad was being careful.  Not just because it was drizzling out but also due to the fact that he hadn’t ridden a motorcycle in my living memory.  I knew he had owned an old Triumph street bike at some time in the past but I’m pretty sure that was before I came along.

There was a pretty good mix of blacktop and gravel roads we would have to travel to get home without getting out on any major roads.  Since Dad didn’t have a motorcycle license at that point he didn’t want to take the chance of getting pulled over.  Luckily we started out on blacktopped roads which allowed Dad to get back into the swing of riding a motorcycle.  I’ve got to hand it to him-not once did I see him waver as he sped off down the road.    Everything was going fine for the first couple of miles – until we came to the dreaded S-curve.

We were cruising along at a sedate 45mph when I saw Dad glance down a couple of times at the motorcycle.  To this day I have no idea what had attracted his attention.  At the time I thought he was having trouble with something on the bike.  Suddenly, he glanced down again.  This time his gaze remained fixed on the bike just as he came up on the curve.

The road meandered to the left while Dad continued to go straight; straight into the ditch, that is.  The road was lined on either side by a pretty good-sized, grass-lined ditch.  Just as the bike left the pavement Dad’s head jerked up in time to see where he was headed.  I tapped the brakes and either said a quick prayer or a quick swear as I anticipated watching my dad catapult over the handlebars and into the field on the other side of the ditch.  Never once did leave the seat of that motorcycle.  And never once did the motorcycle fall to the ground

What I saw next was a series of amazing feats of agility, daring, willpower and shear luck.  Dad decided to go ahead and ride it out in the ditch.  As his speed dropped I could see the bike wavering from side to side in the bottom of the ditch as he rode over the uneven terrain.  Attempting to maintain a constant speed I watched as Dad’s feet left the pegs and began kicking furiously against the sides of the ditch to keep himself vertical.  I would later learn that one of the kicks had proven quite painful.

Like I said before, Dad stayed on that bike for the entire trip through the ditch.  The whole time he was kicking out at the sides of the ditch he was formulating his escape plan.  What seemed like an hour long ride could only have been about 10 or 15 seconds.  Dad saw his chance and took it.  He gave the motorcycle a little more gas and was able to aim the bike up the side of the ditch and back onto the road.  Did he stop to let me pull up beside him to make sure he was okay?  Of course not.  He didn’t even slow down.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful.  He pulled the motorcycle into the yard near the house and I parked the car in the driveway.  I did think it was a little odd that he was still straddling the bike by the time I got out of the car, though.  As I walked up to Dad he leaned the bike to one side and asked me to help him put the kickstand down.  Once it was down and the bike was supporting itself Dad swung his leg over and proceeded to hop on one foot to the porch, up the steps and into the house.

Once inside and safely ensconced in his recliner Dad told Mom and me that he thought he might have hurt his ankle.  Once his boot was off and we could see the ankle had started to swell.  Mom got him loaded into the car and set off for the ER.  Apparently one of his kicks to the side of the ditch caused the toe of his boot to catch on a hummock of grass, kicking his foot backward quite painfully.  A few hours and a few x-rays later would reveal one of the small bones in Dad’s lower leg to be broken just above the ankle.

He was very lucky to have only suffered a broken leg.  I think the only reason he fought so hard to stay upright and moving in the ditch was because he was not wearing a brain bucket.  Otherwise he might have decided to take one for the team and “ditch” the bike in the ditch.  I would tell you more about what happened after he came home with a cast on his leg but it looks like this post has run a little long in the tooth.  We’ll let that be a story for another time.

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