When I was a boy growing up in Somerton, Arizona, I fancied myself to be vastly more skilled in the art of athletic competition than I was, and I suffered significantly for my foolishness.
For example, I played football as a boy, and couldn't make the cut playing with my own year-group of kids. But the big boys were so short handed that they welcomed another moving body. I broke my collarbone.
But nothing can compare to the abrupt learning curve gleaned from my experience with a pitchfork. The most deadly tool on the farm, as I discovered about the age of ten.
Every farm kid has done this, to one degree or another. But I had seen some pretty fancy pole-vaulting done with some successful flair. Even my little school had an old aluminum pole which I had used to make a few modest leaps with. And it only made me itch to try a REAL jump. I wanted to polish up, show Coach Moon I had some promise, and use that pole in the pit. With real sawdust, a fall-away bar, maybe some kids to watch.
Anyway, I found an old broom handle laying around and tried to vault with that. But it was pretty short, and besides, it slipped each time I really tried to dig it in for the vault.
Then I found the pitchfork. It looked pretty tall to me. I tried it, and it seemed to work pretty well. Several times, in fact, and I got better each time. It was tall enough to get a fair vault, and it really dug in. And, as a bonus, it was just springy enough to let me imagine that I could get a serious launch.
Now, Dad had built a fence around our front yard, about 40 inches high, I think. Posts, on which rested 2 x 4s, with wire stretched around the outside. It kept the dog in, and more importantly, seemed like a reasonable goal for a ten-year-old Olympic hopeful pole vaulter.
I did the typical thing. I looked for the part of the fence with the softest landing zone on the other side, and I launched.
I did not ponder the fact that the ground on my side was especially soft. Nor did I consider that there were certain mission-essential parts to the jump; first, that I get the altitude; second, that I clear the fence; third, that if I didn't clear the fence, that certain precautions should be taken to protect my most delicate parts, even at the expense of broken bones.
I will never forget what happened next. I am sure it caused me to arrive two years late to puberty.
The fork dug in deep and ceased its assent about a third of the way up; my ego insisted on trying to will myself over the fence but succeeded on getting only one leg up; and I landed squarely on the fence.
The pain was all consuming, to the exclusion of all else for a considerable time. I can only remember two other times I ever suffered the anguish I did at that moment. No humorous thoughts have ever crossed my mind to cover this moment in my life, probably because I can still remember being afraid that I might be cursed to live through it...
Beware the temptation to use a tool not designed for the job. It may save you an enormous amount of grief.
About the author
Spoiler alert!! I started to giggle even before I came to the climax part....sorry that we humans so much enjoy our little episodes of schadenfreude.