Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Seventy Five . . .

Attractive Nuisance
By Stormcat

By such a beautiful trestle over Loco Canyon, heavy
locust timbers safely translate the weight of the
heaviest of the heaviest trains through tried and
tested structure to the canyon floor. Seventy three
feet below the track, the dark surface of a deep pooled
stream beckoned fisherman and swimmers alike to take
the not so gentle hike and reap the reward thereby.

No one knows what year the diving started
demonstrative manhood testing from one of the eleven
cross supports or the top itself. Jack-knifes, cannonballs,
gainers, swans n flips from the lower perches, jumps
feet first from the upper. Each leap point referenced by
number "Did you hear? Steve did a cannonball off four
last Saturday but then, not to be outdone, Rocky did a
seven without shoes." (Rubber soled, worn to stop the
sting of breaking the surface tension.)

Finally someone did a twelve! Then twelve
was the only number worth gossip.
"Someone's gonna get hurt!" complained the
old timers outside Loco Village's local "Or
worse . . .

There were some accidents . . . "Jackson got
drunk, fell on the slippery wet rocks, and shattered
his hip bone, had to have surgery for three hours, now
he has a plate, pins and screws holding it all." "Mork
slipped and fell climbing up past three. Caught a nail
and gashed his back wide open. Sam pulled him
out n stopped the bleeding. Took 23 stitches!" But then:
"Mark Wilson got Mayor Colby's daughter, Jamie,
pregers the night after after doing a twelve" That's when
Dave at the regional office talked to the attorneys.

Attractive nuisance they called it! The Railroad has
a duty to "warn and protect" even trespassers
at least of the innocent category!     Strict liability?
Signs were posted!      The hiking trail blocked!
The fisherman complained! The tourists complained!
But the bar had been raised . . .  and the teens?
They still jumped!
Witnesses were essential, events were planned now!
Who? What approach? Should it be photographed?
So the railroad put up a fence!

Chain Link! Stretched across the top between
the electrical poles, seven feet high, attached to the
ties at the bottom supported by pipes at the top, Still
the jumpers climbed and jumped.
Now the top number was thirteen!
So fence was extended . . . twelve feet of chain link
with three strands of barbed (or should I say razor) wire!
Motion cameras, placed along the trail, tied
to the local security office, reported any breach.
Finally . . .                      the jumping was stopped!

But the legend lived like a war cry
Legend holds strong motivation to seekers of manhood.
Achilles' spear-kill thrown from beyond vision
and for a loco boy     to jump from, never before
attempted, fourteen!
                          Off razor wire no less . . .

Christian's father was in the Air force. But he lived
with mom off mill street in Loco suffering the stigma
of divorce and poor. At fourteen Christian was secretly
in love with Valerie the most gorgeous, long haired
sassy girl a fourteen year old could ever imagine
Valerie occupied Christian's every thought. When
called upon in Biology class to name the frontal bone
of the skull, Christian answered right out loud "Valerie."
Everyone laughed and Valerie blushed.
But love was not to be a given for them . . . Christian
needed a quest! An act of ultimate bravery solely
performed for the purpose of proving his undying love
for the girl of his dreams. And in a small rural setting
such as was Loco there was only one possibility
Christian was destined to be the first . . . Fourteen!
"For Valerie!"

Once realized the quest took on a life of it's own . . . 
everyone seemed determined to make it happen.
Of course only those "in the know" were aware of
the plan and what a plan it was. Finally the date was set.
Friday . . . June . . . Thirteenth . . . Early afternoon,
when Bish Janko, the security guard who monitored the
trail cams at Loco railroad station would be out on
vacation. No one would be watching but they'd come
in from the top, anyway, where there is no trail, “just
to be sure.” Both Blake Brown and Josh Ramsford
volunteered to video the event although neither had
ever even had a conversation with Christian before
becoming “his best friend.” No one knew anything but
anyone who was anyone was going to be there!
Valerie told everyone that she didn't care what
Christian did, "He can break his neck for all I care!"
she declared. But with all the pressure from friends
and classmates she ultimately decided to attend
"Just to watch!"

The morning of the thirteenth was quiet for Christian.
He slipped into the stables where he worked on the
weekends and borrowed a thick saddle blanket to lay
over the razor wire. He reviewed the plan, in his mind,
with all the advice he's been given about keeping his
elbows in, holding his nose, and pointing his toes so
that he wouldn't hit bottom. He considered whether this girl
was "worth dying for" and decided that living without her
would be like dying anyway. . . He imagined his father
flying jets in the war and thought he needed to maintain
the image of the lone warrior protecting the one he
loved, or at the very least demonstrating his courage and
commitment to do so. Even as the hour drew near, even
as the anxiety escalated, even as the fear threatened to
subvert his resolve, Christian remained undeterred.

Never had such a crowd gathered before . . . Christian
looked in awe through the chain link even as he climbed.
The saddle blanket was thrown over the razor wire array
and the process of climbing on top began. He could hear
the hum of electricity surging through high tension wires
just a few feet over his head and he felt the hair stand on
the back of his neck as he ducked his head in response.
Suddenly the saddle blanket covered razor wires gave way
under his weight. He felt himself teeter on the edge, loose
balance, and instinctively grasp for anything
to stabilize himself.

For anyone who has ever experienced a moment of
impending disaster, where instinct takes over and the
conscious mind ceases to control, it will be recognized that
a person is never smarter or more rational that in those
moments. Whole new plans are contemplated and
rejected over and over in milliseconds until finally an action
is enacted. This was one such moment for Christian. Here, the
natural desperate act of grabbing an energized electrical wire
was at the last minute replaced with the realization that this
was not going to be a jump from fourteen
but a dive from fourteen
by a boy who had never done a dive before in his life. The
crowd below gasped as Christian prematurely left that perch and
watched, as if in slow motion, as the falling body slowly
realigned itself midair until, head first, back arched, it cut
the surface of the water as a knife through whipped cream.

To say that a hush fell over the crowd would be a gross
understatement. It was more like dead silence. No one
was even breathing. All eyes were fixed on the dark surface
and the seconds passed like hours. It was as if everyone had
died and life itself was waiting for Christian to reappear;
such that, a giant collective sigh was audible when his
head broke the surface, and everyone realized that they
had witnessed the birth, 
however reluctant or intentional it was, 
of a living Loco legend. . . .
                                       “for Valerie!”

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