Today’s List: Things I’ve Done Once*

(*And don’t plan on ever doing again.)

tractor.jpg

Drive a tractor. I did most of my growing up in Kansas amidst lots of farmland, but I definitely wasn’t a farm boy and I only had one occasion to drive a tractor. It didn’t go well. My best friend Scott helped take care of Waterville Golf Course, a nine-hole sand greens course, and one day he let me try to mow a fairway. I stalled the tractor on a small hill three or four times in just a few minutes, and that was that. Scott made me get off and wouldn’t let me get back on.

Install a ceiling fan. Staying with the “he’s not the most mechanically-inclined person I know” theme…I installed a ceiling fan in a bedroom of a house in which my wife Lee Ann and I lived. The fan worked, I didn’t get electrocuted, and I didn’t have any parts left over, but…let’s just say it took longer than I (or the writers of the instructions) anticipated.

Eat softshell crab. It sounded like a tasty idea at the time. Bleeccchh!!!

Get stranded in a blizzard. I drove home from the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the first semester of my junior year in December 1983. It was the day after an afternoon KU basketball game that I covered for The Topeka Capital-Journal, the newspaper for which I worked that year. I should have driven home after the game and written my next-day feature from the comfort of my own home in Blue Rapids, where I lived, but I stayed in my apartment instead and decided to head out first thing in the morning. The day started badly. My car wouldn’t start, and after getting a jump-start from a service provided by the university (hey, it got cold there in the winters) the snow began to fall. Soon after I started the 2½-hour drive home, things in my car began to not work. Less than 30 minutes into the drive, between the small towns of Silver Lake and Rossville and with the blizzard at full force, my Pinto station wagon just died on the highway. This was before cell phones, of course, and in addition to having no way to contact anyone, I had absolutely no cash. I hitched a ride from a passing truck into Rossville to a gas station, but the station’s tow truck got stuck in the snow on another call. Now I was really stuck. Several hours later a policeman took me to the nearby town of Belvue, where I persuaded the owner of the one motel in town to accept a personal check for the $14 it cost to spend the night – as well as to cash a $5 check so I could walk across the street to a small convenience store for food. The blizzard was so intense that it was two days before my mom could arrange for me to be picked up and brought home. My car had a frozen water pump and as I recall, the repair bill was something like $13. The hotel had a new thing called “cable TV,” though, and I got to eat junk food for two days (no restaurants were open in the storm) so it wasn’t all bad.

Consider fighting two Marines at once. I didn’t consider it very long. In fact I didn’t consider it at all. And I don’t think they were serious. This was during a summer trip to Myrtle Beach when I was in high school. I went for a walk early one evening and was hitting shells into the ocean with a piece of small board that drifted to shore. I came upon a beached jellyfish and was examining it when two strapping young men – fairly inebriated, with blondes in tow – strolled by. “We’re in the Marines,” one of them said. “Want to fight?” I declined. One of them borrowed the board and began beating the jellyfish to pulp. Lovely. A few minutes later, the foursome was on its way down the beach. I’ve always wondered what kind of night they had. 

Nearly get pulled out of line at a DUI check. I got stopped en route to Myrtle Beach one Friday night to join Lee Ann and the kids, who were already down there waiting for me. I got stopped in a DUI checkpoint near Little River. It was a hot, humid night, and after I rolled down my window to show the patrolman my license, my windows fogged up – on the inside. Now I couldn’t see a thing. I hadn’t been drinking, of course, but I must have been a bit erratic driving away, and the officer ran up to my car. “Are you OK?” he asked. I explained to him that I couldn’t see because of the condensation on the windows. He took a good look inside the car, waited for me to clear the windows, and soon after I was on my way.

Get hit by a drunk driver. It happened about 300 yards from my home. My wife was driving my car, and we were actually on our way home from a visit to the emergency room. We were fortunate in that we weren’t seriously hurt because it totaled my car. The driver of the other car got off with a suspended license for 30 days. He had no insurance, but the patrolmen taking care of the accident forgot to include that in his report.

Get into an argument with a Highway Patrolman. This wasn’t the same patrolman in the drunk-driving experience…in fact, the encounter had nothing to do with driving at all. It happened at this year’s Women’s U. S. Open and it involved – if you can believe it – a folding chair I took into the tournament. It’s a long, long story…needless to say, when a Highway Patrolman tells you to shut up – simply because you’re trying to explain why you’re holding a chair – it’s best just to zip it and walk away.

(Originally posted Sept. 5, 2007)

What did you do…once? Write about it by clicking on “comment” below…

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