Death and Dirty Hands

While speaking with the Brain recently, he reminded me of a time in which I very nearly died because of his aversion to red clay. He didn’t initially go into detail about it and just referred to it as “The Dirty Hands Incident”. Seeing as how my entire childhood is rife with incidences of both literal and figurative dirty hands, I had to ask that he refresh my memory. Then it all came back to me in a flood of memory filled with innocence lost following a scene I am pretty sure was observed by Disney and replicated when Scar let go of Mufasa, except that the herd animals at the bottom of the ravine were already dead and there was really only one instead of a herd. Also, he momentarily refused to take my hand rather than let go so I could fall to my demise. So maybe it was nothing like The Lion King incident except that there was a ravine and two brothers.

The Brain and I stalked these woods with a small arsenal of BB guns, shooting at anything that sat still long enough. The Daisy Red Rider was my primary weapon, but I also sported a CO2 powered sidearm made to look like a Luger. Its barrel had a distinct bend to the left which made it great for shooting around a tree I suppose, but it was as inaccurate as a Red Rider. It was great though for shock and awe campaigns designed to impress my Lugerless contemporaries. None of this has any bearing on the story except that I just wanted you to know that nothing was in any real danger of the mild bruising our weaponry could produce IF we were actually able to hit a target.

*Just as an aside to any young people out there wishing to explore while armed with BB guns. If the muzzle velocity is so low that you can watch the BB as it arches in the general vicinity of that at which you are aiming, do NOT shoot at a coiled viper. Also, why are you sitting here reading this? Go get a BB gun and get into the woods. Avoid snakes.

Our inquisitive natures led us to explore a ravine we’d stumbled upon during one of our explorations. There was a cool stream of crystal clear spring water ran at the bottom of this small canyon strewn with boulders and lumps of Alabama red clay.  We began at its shallowest point on higher ground and worked our way deeper into the abyss. As we reached the end of our long trek, the walls seemed twice as tall as the ancient pine and oak that clung precariously to the edges. These old growth trees were huge and blotted out the sun where they arched over the expansive void between the cliffs. At the end of the canyon we met a rain swollen, silt blackened river and no outlet other than the way we’d come. A great buck had apparently tried to leap from one cliff to the other. He’d failed and plummeted to his death, dashed on the water smoothed boulders below. At first glance we could see through the scraps of remaining skin that his fall left him with no single unbroken bone. It was truly impressive. Despite our fascinating discovery, the sun would be setting soon and we required sustenance. Rather than trek back up the way we had come, we opted for a climbing adventure. The short cut was not simply a matter of expedience however. At some point we became convinced of a possibility that was of no concern on our way down. The thought of a flash flood striking suddenly out of the clear blue sky imbued us with superhuman speed and primate-like climbing abilities. In short order, we had scaled the vertical face on the southern wall of the ravine. It could have actually been a side affiliated with any one of the cardinal directions since I was pretty terrible at telling directions, but in an arbitrary proclamation I deemed it the southern cliff. The Brain went up first and I followed closely in the hopes that I could save him should he fall. Knowing his proclivity for maximizing every opportunity to gain new stitches, it was just the right thing to do. He skittered over the lip unscathed and looked down at me with a blank look on his face. This is it, I thought. Today is they day he deposes me as the heir apparent. I also marveled for a second at the realization that he was still clean. Loose dirt and scree began to give way under the crushing bulk of my 110-pound frame. I handed up my trusty Daisy Red Rider then reached out my dirty and now bleeding hand.

“Brother,” I pleaded. “Take my hand. Pull me up”.

He looked at my hand, his visage blank and calculating.

“Your hand is dirty,” he stated in a flat, mechanical tone.

I held myself in place by the crook of my left arm around a rapidly loosening root while he poured the contents of a canteen into my hands for cleaning. Then and only then would he save me from the same fate as the once proud buck lying dashed hundreds of feet below.

Despite the fact that it was I that had a brush with death, it seems that the Brain suffers some misplaced trauma and to this day has something just shy of a phobia regarding red clay. I’m pretty sure it’s his way of coping with an uncomfortable affection for an older brother he nearly killed. Me? I just have a fear of asking people for help because they might dump their backwashed water on me. Shudder

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