Role Daddy: Hammer Toe
When I was a kid my brother and I spent a lot of time in our tree house. I was there more than I was in my real house. It was sort of like living on your own, except you still had a place to go and get fed and take a bath and let your mom pick the tics off you. There are no trees around my current house that are really well-suited for tree houses, so my kids are going to have to soldier on through their childhood without that right of passage. And they're so much safer because of it.
I remember one especially horrid tree house incident. I was 5, my brother Chris was 7, and his friend Ricky was over after school helping out. We were putting on an addition. When you're building on a tree house, and you're in elementary school, you employ a lot of nails. The theory being - if one nail will hold a board onto the tree, 40 nails will REALLY REALLY hold it to the tree. The problem with all these nails and boards lying around and no sense of responsibility is that, well, nails are sharp.
We had climbed up to a new branch on the tree and constructed a platform. What we didn't do was build a way to get down. So I jumped down, followed by my brother Chris, and finally Ricky. Unfortunately for Ricky, he landed square on board with a nail sticking out of it, which jabbed right through the ball of his foot. I bet it made a sound like a spear going through a coconut. But I can't say for sure because the only thing I could hear was Ricky's scream. It was a piercing shriek that scared every bird and squirrel from every tree in our neighborhood. The tics even jumped off our bodies and ran scared. Then he started hopping around on his one remaining good foot, sobbing "I have a nail through my foot!! I have a nail through my foot!!" And he sure did. That nail and the board it was sticking through were still very sturdily affixed to his foot (as if there were 40 nails through it). Can you feel it a little bit in your own foot right now? I can.
So Chris ran off to get my Mom who, unless she was under her great big 1970s hair dryer, had to have some inkling that something was amiss outside where the screaming was going on. Ricky was still hopping with the precision of a world-class Hopscotcher. I was standing there in the same position I was in when Ricky got punctured. I was scared stiff as the board that Ricky could not shake free to save his life. Chris and my mother did not return in a timely fashion.
A few moments later when Ricky'd managed to compose himself ever-so-slightly, he hopped over to me and uttered the words I did not want to hear. "Eric, (gasp) pull this out for me!" But I was the little kid. I had to do what I was told.
Ricky was wearing a pair of those green rubber snow boots. The ones that say "Steel reinforced sole." I say, Bullshit. This nail ripped through that boot like nothing. It was a long nail too. The kind you have to whack 30 times to nail all the way in (or jump out of a tree onto it.) Ricky braced himself, holding on to the trunk of the tree and I grabbed both ends of the board and gave it a twisting, crooked, outward YANK, likely doing far more harm than good. I think the tetanus squelched his brain's ability to scream again.
Right about then my mom appeared with my brother. Not sure what took them so long. Presumably she was perusing the liability clause on our homeowner's insurance policy. Better late than never. Though a little earlier might've earned Ricky a more capable extraction of the rusty metal spike in his foot than a kindergartener could muster. But she took him inside, took off his boot and blood-soaked sock, and rinsed his wound with iodine or some other stinging antiseptic astringent of our youth.
These I can relate to just how badly it must've sucked for my mom to have to call Ricky's mom and tell him what happened to her son while he was on our watch. Maybe it's just a coincidence but I don't think Ricky had any more play dates at our house after that little incident. The good news is the next weekend my Mom and Dad spent an afternoon shoring up our tree fort. They did great work. And with a fraction as many nails.
Eric Ruhalter lives in Morristown, New Jersey with his wife, Kara & 3 rambunctious children. Eric is the creator of The KidDicitonary - A Book of Words Parents Need To Describe Their Kids. For more of his wit and wisdom, except for wisdom, amuse yourself at www.TheKidDictionary.com.