Saturday, May 7, 2011

Close Calls - Episode Two: It's This Face vs. Barbed Wire!

If you're old enough, you'll remember a razor commercial starring Lyle Alzado and his notoriously bushy face where he says "It's this BIC versus barbed wire!"

I always think of that commercial when I think of this story -- only instead of "this BIC," substitute "my face."

Of all close calls, this was the closest. I still shudder to think just how near this one came to taking me out in the most grizzly manner.

Similar Model Polaris
We moved to Oconto County from Milwaukee in the mid 70s. One of the things that my Dad found attractive about the area was all of the available places to ride snowmobiles. My Dad, however, seldom stuck to convention and snowmobiling on a marked trail held little attraction to him. He'd rather be more adventurous and head off in directions unmarked -- and so we did on one cold Winter's night when I was 8 or 9 years old. I sat in front of him on the seat of our trusty Polaris and we headed off towards "Hogsback." [For details on "Hogsback," see my earlier post: Milk Truck.]

The snow that night was fresh and deep; that I can recall well. We headed across a field and I recall Dad making a few loop de loops and figure 8's in the hayfield about a half mile behind our house. [A few years later, friends and I would further demonstrate our juvenile idiocy by tying a rope and saucer to the back of a snowmobile and crack-the-whip on the saucer-rider at ridiculously dangerous speeds. The driver would laugh hysterically when the rider was thrown from the saucer and rolled 25 to 30 yards until they came to rest against something soft -- like a tree!] After a little free-form riding, Dad started to exit the field to the east. Nary a track -- human or animal -- could be seen in the fresh snow. He accelerated; the field in front of us was wide, white, and open. Suddenly, and completely without warning, he put his left arm across my chest and yanked me down flat against his belly as he leaned back as far as the snowmobile's seat would allow. Lying flat, a barbed wire fence screeched across the hood of the snowmobile and took the windshield clean off! My face was the next object in its path. My head slightly turned, the wire glanced on my cheek, over my eye socket, across my forehead and took my hat right off! Dad was untouched!

I remember seeing what Dad saw: about 10 yards to the right of the snowmobile, he saw a fence post and barbed wire angling down into the snow. He knew that the wire was in front of our sled and only guessed that it would come over, not under, the sled. Thank goodness for Dad's quick thinking and reaction!

I was a bloody mess. My cheek was roughed up, but my forehead skin was opened up and blood was running down the front of my face and body. I recall little of the next few moments, but fortunately we weren't too far from home and Dad got us back on the sled and raced for home. I was inspected, cleaned up, and bandaged, and, despite the blood, determined to be okay -- no emergency room trip required. I am sure Mom gave Dad some serious hell and probably nearly sent him to the ER for his recklessness.

I recall going to school the next day with a bandage over half my face. After about a half a day, I had the teacher call home and have my mom pick me up. My facial swelling was great and I couldn't open my left eye. At home, we iced it, I popped some aspirin, and the next day I returned to school.

What makes me shudder is just how much worse this could have turned out! First, if Dad hadn't seen that wire, we'd have been decapitated. No doubt in my mind. It would have come right under my chin -- and probably his -- and we would have been discovered as two headless, frozen torsos the next morning. Second, my head was slightly turned. That wire just missed catching my nose. [Don't think about this too long -- it'll make you sick just thinking about it.] It many not have killed me, but I surely would've been messed up for life. And third, the part of the wire that rode across my skull was in between barbs!! As beating the odds goes, that may be the luckiest part of all! Another inch or 2 in either direction and surely a rusty barb would've have gouged my mug deeply.

(Excuse me, I just shuddered again and spilled coffee all over myself...)

Whew! Close call, right?!


  1. Mike. I'm glad you're here with us today. Seriously.

  2. I am the worst at hiring hit men.