Juggling Booze and Heavy Machinery: A Cautionary Tale

Let me tell you about the most intense day of my childhood and probably my whole life.

The next door neighbor kids invited my older brother and me over to swim in their new pool. These neighbors were a bit on the odd side so my parents always tried to limit the time we spent at their house. My family was living in Virginia at the time and summers south of the Mason-Dixon Line are notoriously humid. There was no way we were going to pass up water time.

We get over there and jump right into the pool. My brother and I were about 10- and 8-years-old, respectively, and the neighbor kids were even younger. While we were all splashing around, their father was in the backyard doing yard work.

My brother and I peered over at Neighbor Dad as he leaned a giant ladder on a tree and started climbing with a chainsaw in one hand and a beer in the other. Yep, you read that right. We were young, but we still knew that looked like a very bad idea.

He climbed up the tree, chainsaw roaring. Throughout our game of Marco Polo, we could see chopped tree limbs falling from the giant tree almost directly above us.





It all happened so quickly. Not even five minutes after he went up the tree, Neighbor Dad had fallen. It sounded pretty bad, too, like he was hurting from more than just the fall.

“Tim! Elizabeth! Go get your parents!!” he yelled at us. He was running at us full speed, carrying his bloodied arm which had been ripped open at the bend of his elbow by the chainsaw.

I hadn’t even seen this kind of gore in movies yet! I was horrified and in a state of complete shock. It’s a good thing he asked two of us to help, because Tim jumped out of the pool and ran to our parents while I just stood there for a few seconds processing exactly what I was looking at.

My mother, who was eight months pregnant at the time, heard all of the screaming and ran outside. As soon as she saw Neighbor Dad, she ran back inside to get my dad and call 911.

This part is sort of a blur, but I remember watching my parents as they immediately turned into wartime doctors. They brought out a chair and lots of towels. One towel was used as a makeshift tourniquet and the others were for literally everything else that was gushing out of his arm.

After telling Neighbor Dad’s kids to go inside, my brother and I just stood in our driveway staring at this guy’s arm. We couldn’t look away! I should mention, it was also around this time in my life that I had started developing severe anxiety, especially with anything medical related. If I had to get blood drawn or a shot of any kind, I fainted every single time. I can only imagine it was the adrenaline that kept my feet firmly planted and my eyes wide open.

Finally, the ambulance arrived. My dad, in his suit and crisp, white shirt covered in blood, helped the paramedics get the guy on the stretcher and hopped in as they headed to the hospital.

“So… He was up in the tree with a beer in one hand and a chainsaw in the other?” my mom asked as the ambulance left our driveway.

“Uh, YEAH,” we both said.

“Okay, yeah you guys aren’t going over there anymore. You can play in the sprinklers if you get hot outside.”

Fair enough.

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