I guess you have figured out by now, that I do not do fiction. Too much work. Why on earth should I bust my backside, when all I do is reach into my oatmeal-encrusted brain, and start prattling? It’s not as though I am going to forget the time I flipped the quad, and I do not have to worry about getting my facts correct, because I was there. It was a day, no different than any of the preceding ten, except for that quad thing. When I prattle on around here, ear blinders go on. What? Oh yeah. I meant to say, earplugs go in. Whatever.
The accident occurred on March 31st, a year ago, in approximately a lot of snow. I know it was the 31st, because the next day was April 1st, even though it was hard to spot the joke. I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled with John Glyer, down in Willits, for an unrelated reason. The appointment I had scheduled weeks before the accident was cosmically timed for April Fool’s Day. You see what I mean? I can’t make this stuff up. Who would ever believe it? Yet every word, every detail, in this narrative, down to [up to?] Casey sitting at the top of the hill watching the entire escapade, having gone before me up the hill, is Buddha’s word.
When we first bought the quad, Benny was placed in charge, by none other than Benny himself. Benny likes power, sees the advantage of it, and besides, he wasn’t making the payments, I was. What’s not to like? So he got the top model, whatever that is. All I cared about was it came in my color, red. Actually, that’s RED. I have always been partial to fire-engine red, and all variations therein. And the quad is a behemoth. Keep in mind, that my experience on motorcycles is limited to one ride on a Honda 90, back in about 1967. I guess it must have been just too much fun, because it has sufficed all these years, until now.
Our monster quad comes equipped with the capability, of functioning as a tractor, for use on Happy Days Farm. It is a stud. When I so much as think about giving it a little gas, it surges forward, expectantly. You may be able to guess where this is going. Monster quad, touchy gas trigger, and a steep, north-facing slope. Who was in charge? No one, because everyone is always trying to outwork the other guy, so no one assumes that role.
I meant to have my winter’s worth of firewood, cut and stacked, by the time the floods came, but last year, they arrived early, and often. I began the winter with three cords of oak/madrone, figuring I would replenish as I went along. But I began an addition in November, and when it was framed and sealed, I wanted to continue with the interior, especially upstairs, which was slated to become a studio for Annie, exclusively for the purpose of offering sewing classes.
The result was that we ran out of firewood at the start of January; I bought one more cord after Christmas, before I found myself lacking the pecuniary measures to defray the cost of an additional infusion of wood. That’s the funny thing about not teaching anymore. Not only does our health insurance run out this August, (How, exactly, does insurance “run out?” Where does it go?) but I no longer get a paycheck. That’s inconvenient.
Casey was not out of firewood, but could not work outside, on either Happy Days Farm, the Community Sponsored Agriculture program, which furnishes fresh produce for our community all year, or on construction. This year’s mild winter, has done nothing to discourage his thought process, as far as growing year-round produce. He is a hard guy to slow down, so last winter we cut wood every fourth or fifth day, but never for more than three hours at a time, so the old jaboney could keep up.
If I misjudged the snow depth, then it would be to the conservative side, because up here on the ridge, it started snowing in the beginning of February, and spewed regularly enough, that we had snow perpetually through the end of March, if not over every square centimeter of land, certainly for much of it. Can you say north-facing slope?
No one can point a finger at Casey as allowing the old guy to hurt himself, just because I was inexperienced on the quad, in the snow, up a steep slope, with two tuppies of wood on the front, and two on the back, because that’s not fair. As my profile suggests, anyone who knew me before I got rid of panic attack syndrome, knows that I am a different person. Therefore, I had been driving the quad, in small bursts, since we acquired it. What that means, is that it was indispensable in getting me back and forth to Mama’s place, in the snow, a twenty-minute walk, or a five-minute drive, but not much else, until this winter. If necessity is the mother of invention, then it is also the uncle of instruction, because I got schooled in the art of efficiently transporting manzanita wood back to the homestead.
I got good at it, because unlike many folks, I do not get off on going fast; baby steps for me work best. And fastening two twenty gallon tuppies on the front of the quad, and two on the back, allows for a worthwhile amount of return for my effort. I never worked by myself, and until now, had had nothing more exciting happen, than the fact that in powder, I can go pretty much anywhere on our twenty acres. I just don’t. But let’s talk about those four tuppies. Two on the front, and two on the back. It’s all good, right?
Seasoned quadders are just shaking their heads, back and forth, at varying speeds, thinking to themselves, “as long as the wood in the front is the same (preferably heavier) as the wood in the rear.” No problem there, right? Mark’s one of the smartest dudes I know. He’s even smarter than an elephant, and they’re huge!
When I loaded my four tuppies up, I simply filled them as it was convenient. I took the most solid of chunks and surgically inserted them, into the tuppies on the back, so all that weight was behind me, sucking me back. Of course I balanced my load, by placing comparably weighted wood, as compactly in the front, right? Actually, no. You see, there was this issue with kindling wood, as in we had been issued none since the previous fall, so having a couple of tuppies of kindling seemed like such a good idea at the time.
So I sat perched at the base of the rise, having eased my way down the opposite side of the gully, we were tying to transverse. Casey had gone first, and I had watched, not from a technical perspective, but from that of the triumphant view, as in you can’t stop us snow! I can vividly remember thinking that this was so different, than anything I could remember. This machine is savage. I remember thinking, “This baby’s not even going to hesitate.”
I didn’t have a plan. I had not gone over the whole procedure, in the razor-sharp recesses of my mind, the the way I might have normally. Either that, or the razor was rusty. No, I was thinking about hunkering over that toasty wood stove, in Casey’s house, steam rising in gentle puffs, drinking some piping hot coffee. I glanced up at Casey, already crested, idling while he waited for me to join him. Exhilarated by the angle of the slope, I gave it a trial rev. I studied the left side of the track, and noted the protruding edges of rocks, upon which the snow had not adhered, the fierce March winds having escorted it to more distant parts.
One more rev, and I punched that baby, and let out a bellow of monumental proportions, which ended abruptly, as I boarded the ferris wheel. What else is it, that takes you on a ride, head over heals, only your bottom remains in your seat. Mine did not. This is what the VHS machine (my techspertise is very limited) in my head recorded. I was aware of the surge in power, until there was suddenly nothing, like a glider plane, whose engine is suddenly shut off, and all you hear is the sound of rushing wind. The only sound I heard, was that created by my own vocal chords, not to downplay the volume.
I saw the sky, kaleidoscopically rotate through my range of vision, Lead gray, snatches of oak green, the subdued alabaster of the snow, there being no sun, to bring out the Elton John in us. And then the slipper dropped, with my body hitting those rocks, directly on my back. How could it have been otherwise? I started up, but then accelerated at such a rate, that the front end just kept rising, while I pulled off the best wheelie of my life. I know it was the best, because it was the only wheelie of my life. I ended up doing a 360 in the snow. Fortunately, when I got to the turn-off at Junction 180, I bailed to the left, being a southpaw, and the monster exited, stage right.
I had landed on my back, and created a fault-line of lacerations, that extended from my right shoulder, all the way down to the base of the back of my right leg. Those rocks made minced meat out of my skin. And the back of my head-well, I do not want to contemplate that. All I know is I’m not smart enough to have known to balance the quad, but I was smart enough to wear a helmet, and the dent on the back of that helmet is the proof of that.
The only part of the story still to be related, deals with the fact, that after a conference, Casey and I decided, seeing as how I had that doctor’s appointment and all, that we would not share the information with Annie. After all, why worry my sweetest of apple blossoms? We told her that I had fallen backwards, and crashed and burned on the rocks, and when all is said and done, it was just a little stretch of the truth. I was also afraid, that having survived the accident itself, I may not survive the wrath of Annie.