This is about the time I tried to climb a tree.

In a car.

I did not succeed.

I walked away (literally).  Neither the car nor the tree were very appreciative.

Fayette, Alabama, early 90s. I was minding my own business when…


Oh.  OK. Starting over…

Fayette, Alabama, early 90s.  I wasn’t paying attention.

(How was that?)

I was making the little run from my house to the office – something I did every day at least twice a day.  In between one neighborhood and another was a stretch of about half a mile that was sort of woodsy and country.

And there was this little ditch.

I’d never noticed it before.  But you can be sure I never ignored it again after this day.  The ditch was just wide enough for my right tires to slip right in.  And slip they did.

What I’m describing to you happened at about 30 miles per hour in a matter of seconds.  The car slipped off the road and the wheels slipped into a ditch as if I were in an oversized slot car game.

I should probably point out here that while my car, like most cars, had two foot pedals, I always figured the big one was mostly for decoration.  So like most oops-the-road situations, I didn’t hit the brakes – I just tried to wheel my way back out of the ditch.

That wasn’t happening.

What was happening was the sudden appearance of this massive oak tree. Y’all, it just jumped out of nowhere.  It saw me coming and the acorns went to work. Next thing I knew the ditch forced me to introduce myself to the tree.  I swear I had nothing to do with it.

That what I explained to the insurance company anyway.  They sorta looked at me like I left my brain back at the oak tree.

Anyway, rewinding… still moving along about 25 mph, I kept trying to wheel my way out of my slot-shaped ditch.  The thought didn’t occur to me – not once – to hit the brakes.  So yes, I wound up ramming my car into the tree and actually fender-climbing it a bit.

Nothing hurt but my pride.  Well, and the car, which I never drove again.                                            

This real-life experience has become a metaphor for me for what can often happen in life.  I’ve seen it happen to people’s careers.  Their influence.  Their personal lives at whatever level. Their relationships.  Somewhere, somehow, without wanting to, they hit the ditch.  And they’re stuck, and powerless, and a bit wrecked or hurt, and they’re halfway up a tree and without help, they ain’t going nowhere.

Yes, I’ve seen it happen to me.

Nobody sets out to wreck their lives or loves by hitting the ditch.  But in a state of mass humanization, it can happen – easily – to the best of us.  With a bit of a rewind and post-car-mortem, maybe there are a few things we can learn about that experience. [click to continue…]

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Ice Jump“Bruce likes to terrify himself.”  So began a story years ago in Success magazine.

One day Bruce led some friends 9,000 feet up Mount Hood, and decided to show them how much fun it would be to slide down part of the way.  While zipping down an ice field at 30 miles an hour, Bruce suddenly realized he had forgotten to remove his crampons – the spikes that attach to hiking boots.  His feet were useless as brakes.

Uh oh.

Bruce had the presence of mind to realize that jabbing the spikes at the ice whizzing past him wouldn’t work either – that would risk breaking his ankles and hurtling off the side of the mountain.  So as the edge of the cliff came rapidly into view, Bruce flopped over on his stomach and jabbed repeatedly, frantically, with his ice axe.  He finally came to a halt about 50 feet from the edge of the cliff. He later said that the thing that kept running through his mind as he got closer and closer to the edge was, “Boy, this is a stupid way to die.”

Uh huh.

Oh, and just a thought – if it’s a stupid way to die, then maybe it’s a stupid way to live.  But hey, that’s just me.

I don’t know if Bruce ever went ice surfing again.  And for all I know, he may be the ultimate LifeVestor.  But on this day, he was a gambler. 

[click to continue…]


The Wreck (Part 1)

by Andy Wood on May 20, 2008

in Gamblers, LV Alter-egos, Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

Bicycle Wreck

What do you do when you encounter somebody who’s made a wreck of his or her life?  What do you do when that that wreck of a life shows up in your place of worship?  What do you do when YOU are the wreck?

The closest I ever came to having a horse was a 1964 Ford Tractor at my granddaddy’s, and a ten-speed bicycle I got for Christmas my ninth grade year in  school.  I put miles – miles – on that bike.

Now, years later, it leaned against the wall in my dad’s workshop in disrepair.  But for some strange reason, Daddy and I were inspired, and decided to get it going again.  A brand new front tire, new tubes, adjustments to the brakes, handlebars and seat – only one thing was missing.  Our hand pump wasn’t strong enough to inflate the tires completely.  So we pumped them up as much as possible, and decided to take the bike to a nearby service station to finish the job.  We had to hurry, though, to outrun one of those afternoon thundershowers so common in Mobile during the summer.  We took the short cut through the woods behind the house – I on my old trusty-rusty steed and my dad on my sister’s three-speed.  We emerged behind a shopping center near the service station, only to be greeted by a sudden downpour. 

So we waited.

It was frustrating to sit there, pinned in by the rain with our destination in sight.  So when the shower let up a little, we decided to make a mad dash for it.  We had a plan, sort of.  We’d go across the parking lot, behind the Seven-Eleven store, through the little alley, to the Texaco station.  Once we go the tires pumped up, we’d figure it out from there.

Off we flew!  Across the parking lot.  Around the back corner of the Seven-Eleven. 

Just one problem.

[click to continue…]

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