Skeleton, or bobsleigh skeleton as it is formally known, has to be, for my money, one of the most outrageous, terrifying sports out there. Here you get a running start, flop face down and head first on to a sheet of ice, and hurtle through tight curves for nearly a mile. And yet, this is one sport I would dearly love to try. It just looks like so much fun. So, how do I relate to the skeleton?
Well, as most of my stories play out, this one is distinctly related to experiences at summer camp. Although, this one was not during the summer. In the fall, we would go back to camp for a weekend and enjoy a retreat to see our old friends and plan for the next summer. Naturally, it being rather cold, there was a lot of time spent indoors. One year after the new lodge was built, rather than stay in the cabins, we decided to camp out in the lodge, lock-in style. Boys on one floor, girls on the other. This wasn’t that long ago actually because myself, my sister, and our friends J. and R. were considered adults…at least, that’s what we were told when half the group, with what I considered to be the actual adults, went on a hayride and left us in charge. First of all, what’s the deal with hayrides? Sharp, pointy, dry weeds sticking you in the butt as you rattle along in the freezing cold on a tractor bed that has no shock absorption whatsoever. Let me just say, I am NOT a country boy. I don’t see the allure of a hayride. Maybe I’ve just never been on a proper one…because I gather that there’s supposed to be some canoodling going on, and I never canoodled on a hayride…probably because of the aforementioned conditions. Back to the story, so there we were, in charge of roughly 20 people. Well, that’s all well and good, but what were we gonna do for forty-five minutes while the hayriding adults were gone? Talk about Jesus? Hell no. We were gonna mattress race.
Our camp had some really crappy mattresses. I mean, I guess they were good enough, but they were no pillow-top queen set with matching duvet cover. They were twin-bed sized or less, foam-like material that was encased in a mildew-colored stripe patterned plastic. Which, I might add, was perfect…and I do mean IDEAL for sliding across the tile floor of an open floor plan lodge designed to hold upwards of 100 kids for a meal. And we did it skeleton style too. We’d start at one end of the lodge, set our mattress out a few feet, get a running start, flop on that mattress and slide as far as we could before gravity and Newton’s laws took over. The goal was always best distance, but racing was an important part of the fun. We went in pairs to see who was the best mattress racer.
Now, remember, I’m in charge, along with some other folks, and everything was going great. I was managing some pretty good distance considering I had a few extra pounds more than most of these kids THAT WE WERE SUPERVISING and with my form and mattress racing talent, I had won a few. So, the next thing I know, I’m racing against B. aka “The Tape Miser” for his excessive use of tape during an arts and crafts event at Bible school one year. Anyway, the stage is set, hoards of young people cheering us on, we take off…I leap into the air and mid-flight I recognize something is wrong. I see it all playing out in front of me and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have overshot my mattress and I face plant on that tile floor like a drunk on Mardi Gras, but because I could see it coming, I hop up and run to the kitchen to survey the damage. I’m hanging my bloody maw over the sink, washing my freshly powdered front tooth out of my mouth as my sister and other “supervising adults” come running in. I’m laughing about it because there is no pain, but there is serious discussion about what to do and how to explain this state of affairs.
Well, naturally, I had to go the hospital, where R. and I enjoyed part of the baseball playoffs in the waiting room. And, I enjoyed the effects of a Percocet later that evening, even though, I never really had any pain. And, when I returned back home I had the awkward experience of explaining to my decidedly attractive dental student the joys of mattress racing. This, of course, spelled the end of mattress racing for the camp. The camp director was definitively unhappy with the situation and, while I maintain that mattress racing is still a relatively safe pastime, mattress racing was banned. And, now, I’m sure that they just sit around the fire and talk about Jesus which is probably much more interesting than a hayride.
The tooth is fine, by the way. Tiffany did a great job and the fix has held up for at least a decade at this point. I’m all healed and I think I only went one more year to summer camp. I guess I wasn’t cut out for adult supervision…but maybe this skeleton thing is for me.
See you in the funny papers!