Still Stupid after All These Years

By: KEN ARMSTRONG

Normally, my ‘stupid-stories’ are about things that happened to me in the dim and distant past. But the story which I’m going to tell you now actually only happened a little less than six weeks ago.

It still hurts me, both emotionally and physically, to think too much about it. Still, I hope you get a little smile from reading it.

That’s the whole point really.
* * * *

In my job, I sometimes have to go out into fields in the countryside and check out their boundaries. Six week ago, I had one such job which took me into the green green depths of County Mayo (Ireland, of course).

It was a lovely sunny afternoon as I drove out and met the very nice lady who owned the land. We had agreed to meet her elderly neighbour down the field so we both pulled on our boots and headed off together down the grassy slopes.

Soon enough, we came to a fence. It was made of barbed wire and interspersed with tall wooden posts. We had to get past it. The lady – let’s give her a name, let’s say… Mary! Right, well, ‘Mary’ inched her way through a tiny gap and left a fair scrap of her nice tweed jacket on the jagged edges of the wire.

I had my best and loudest red jacket on and I didn’t fancy tearing it so I decided to go ‘over the top’. My plan was to climb on top of one of the large wooden poles that made up the fence and then simply jump down the other side.

It didn’t work out that way.

I got up on to the pole all right. There was only room for one foot on top of it so I balanced there, one leg bent back, arms outstretched. I reckon I must have looked a bit like the Karate Kid except in Welly-Boots.

So for one graceful moment, there I was – perched in the countryside on my pole.

All was well with the world.

Then I went to jump down the other side of the fence.

Perhaps it was because Mary chose that very moment to shout, ‘Be Careful,’ at me.

Perhaps she caused the very air to become negatively charged with her concern.

Perhaps it was all simply destined to fail from the moment I mounted my pole.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

I launched myself from the top of the pole but the act of my launching caused the poorly anchored pole to fall away backwards behind me just as I departed it.

This transformed what should have been a simple leap to the ground into a graceless swan dive out into rural space.

Bear in mind I was about six feet off the ground when I parted company with the toppling pole. It felt like a long long way to fall.

On the way down I found time to realise that my chin was going to be my first point of contact with the Earth.

In a last-ditch attempt at vanity, I drew my head back to save my beloved chin.

I threw my arms out behind me too, so as to further take my lower jaw out of the impact zone.

It worked. I hit the ground chest first, head up, arms back.

I think it really was quite a remarkable show.

Mary ran up to me. ‘Are you all right?’ she gasped, “Are you all right?”

I was winded. I was as winded as a winded person can ever be winded. There was no breath in me.

But I could tell that Mary was deeply concerned. The way I was curled up clutching my chest, the poor lady was probably thinking that I was having a heart attack.

So I squeezed an answer out on my last dribble of air.

“I’m fine.” I wheezed, “Fine…”

Did I mention that Mary was ‘hard of hearing’?

Mary was as ‘hard of hearing’ as the post from which I had so recently sailed forth.

She shook me a bit.

“I said are you all right?” she wailed.

I recovered, after a while. I sat up and reassured Mary that I was indeed fine.

“I WAS ONLY WINDED!!” I said, “DO YOU HEAR ME? WINDED!”

In point of fact my stupidity had earned me two cracked ribs. But I wouldn’t know that until much later. For now, I pretended to have no ill effects at all.

It was critical that I regain some of my professional manner so that I could continue on and complete my job on a calm clinical way…

…as if!

(Really, I should end this story now – I’ve written enough words, I think. A story which has, up until now, been fairly embarrassing for me to tell is about to become completely mortifying. Still, I can’t stop myself from telling it. God help me I can’t!!)

On the way back up the field, after completing our little boundary-check, we came to the same fence again.

I had reinstated the pole as best I could so the fence was once again an obstacle to be overcome. Mary went through it exactly as she had done before.

I still wanted to save my jacket so I went with ‘Plan B’.

I walked to a point midway between two posts, pushed the barbed wire down and stepped over the top of it.

I do this all the time, it’s not a problem.

But this time, when I threw my leg over the fence , I got my first inkling that all might not be quite right with my ribcage.

A sharp pain wrenched through me.

I let go of the barbed wire in shock and the evil wire shot up and snagged me around the place where my trouser-legs tend to meet up.

I hasten to explain, there was no ‘anatomical’ difficulty here – I had baggy waterproof pants on over my ‘regular pair’ (of trousers, dear, of trousers) so I wasn’t in danger of any fate worse than death.

But I was left in a dreadfully uncomfortable position. One leg was on the ground, the other leg was dangling in the air on the other side of the fence and my trousers were totally snagged as if on the barb of a fish hook.

Try as I might, I simply could not free myself from the fence.

Not to mention that I had two newly cracked ribs.

Okay, I mentioned it.

Mary watched me struggle for what seemed like twenty-five minutes and then she apologetically asked. “Can I give you a hand?”

I had no choice.

Dear Mary got down on her knees in the field and, at face level with my snagged trousers, she tugged and wrangled and finally got my errant crotch free again.

As I told you, her elderly neighbour had agreed to walk down the field that day and meet up with us for a chat…

…he never showed up.

For these small mercies, we can only give thanks.

@Ken Armstrong 2008

About the Author:
It is a dream come true for me, having one of my most admired writers – Ken Armstrong of Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff – write a story, which is now featured in this post. I had thought it would be difficult to invite him as he is already a proven and known persona in the writing department in his own niche in Ireland – having published plays and short stories for the theater and radio, but – he so gladly obliged. The good author’s feet are still rooted firmly, on “terra firma”!

For more of Ken’s interesting and amazing stories visit his blog at:
Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff.

At your expense Ken, I can’t help but laugh. Thanks for the honor. Hats off to you!

N.B. (June 8, 2013)

I was going through my old posts, and I saw this great story, so I am re-posting it to share with my new readers.  Hope you’d enjoy reading.

23 thoughts on “Still Stupid after All These Years

  1. There’s a phrase in Italian – ‘tutti a me’ – which means, more or less, ‘everything happens to me’. In your case, Ken: ‘tutti a te’. 🙂 Great story. (How much is actually true, hmm?)

    Great to see such a fun guest post, Jena! Congrats on persuading Ken to do one for you.

  2. Yes, Catherine, I am lucky he has agreed to do one for me. Thanks again Ken, and thanks Catherine for the visit and comment. BTW, I included you (Sharp Words) in my blogroll.

    Happy blogging!

  3. Ken, unlike our Catherine I’m not au fait in Italian so you’ll forgive me if I state my case plainly: “Yerra plonker, aren’t ya?” I say this of course from the perspective of one whose childhood behind often came off the worse during encounters with barbed wire fences and other such defensive measures put in place by the local land and property owners to keep the likes of me out. But that’s another story and I’m not sure I could tell it as well as you told this one.

  4. Thanks Catherine – I knew this question would come up after I showed my hand in that alien episode 🙂

    I’ve audited this piece carefully and I can confirm that it is unfortunately 99.9% true. Now you might well not believe that if I wrote it on my own blog but how could I lie here at Jen’s? Answer I couldn’t.

    Jim – you’re actually echoing what ‘Mary’s’ husband said after he heard what happened down the field. As far as I can ascertain he said, “He didn’t get up on one of those fence-poles – the eejit!”.

    Plonker, Eejit – let’s not split hairs, I definitely am… but I mean well. 🙂

  5. You know, I think of autobiographers (the ones like Ken when he’s telling a story about himself) as the bravest of all the writers. Great story. 🙂

  6. It’s funny now, but I’m sure it wasn’t at the time. I do feel your pain. One time I dove into our swimming pool chest first. I got winded by it and thought I was going to die. I can just imagine on a solid ground. Ten times more, I’m sure. I can picture you spewing expletives (even if they’re not in your normal daily vocabulary) and cursing yourself at the time. Am I correct? I’m very familiar with the kind of fence you’re talking about. They’re the same kind the landowners and the ranchers use here in the U.S. I can vividly picture you in that situation with the way you described the incident. Good to know that you’re okay.

  7. Hi Emily – thanks 🙂 I don’t think it’s awfully brave as long as it remains only funny/embarrassing for me – but I know what you mean. There are autobiographical limits I don’t think I will ever be able to go beyond. Those people who do are *really* brave. I’ll stick to the ‘funnies’ for now I think. Although…

    Hi, too, Tashabud. I’m pleased that you can vivildy picture the scene, I like it when that works. Most of my expletives (yes, they are, unfortunatly, a part of my vocabulary) were reserved for whenever I tried to roll around in my sleep after cracking the ribs. I was really too winded to get any good ones out at the time, besides Mary might not have approved (if she could have heard them). Being winded is the oddest of experiences. I was pleased at how cool I was about it actually, I just kept saying to myself ‘you’re only winded, it will pass’ and it did. The first time it ever happened to me, I really thought I was going to die!

  8. Ken, Ken, Ken.

    I think I know the jacket of which you speak, and while it is indeed a nice jacket – can you ever look at the same way knowing what it’s caused?

    Great post.

  9. Jenaisle, I only recently discovered Ken and his marvelous story-telling powers. I commend you on your choice of guest-blogger. It is a grand tale and serves to illustrate that it is not necessarily true that as we grow older, we grow wiser.
    Might I be so bold as to suggest that a smattering of male pride was at play in this instance?
    Poor Ken! I do hope you have recovered from your misfortune with the fence.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed your telling of it.

    Kat

  10. Very crafty wording indeed! This was hilarious, though. My first act would have been to put my arms DOWN to catch myself, not the opposite. A perfect swan I’m sure you were. hehe. Thanks for the smile.

  11. Poetikat, yes I am lucky he graciously agreed to write a post for me. Visit his site and you’ll read another side of him in “The Visibility”. He has his own unique way of recounting stories.

    Veronica, yes it is hilarious, I can’t help but laugh too, (sorry Ken)..ouch,… but it made me feel better knowing that he was able to recover eventually.

    Enigma, thanks too for the visit. Visit his site and you’ll find a load of well written articles.
    I will be adding you to my blog roll.

    Happy blogging.

  12. Another great… Ken never ceases to amaze me. I laughed at this too. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with barbed-wire fences and a few scars to prove it. 😉

  13. Thanks for all your comments – I’m very chuffed and I know Jen is too!!

    If I was in ‘full-tilt-liar-mode’, I may well have invented the elderly farmer coming over the hill and seeing something he might never have hoped to see. But I have to be as honest as possible on Jen’s Blog so he stayed firmly in his house.

    I *was* looking out for him, though, while ‘Mary’ was sorting out my drawers. 🙂

  14. ha ha ha, now that you’ve drawn attention to it Ken, I am now visualizing a scene – the neigbour arrives and the two of you in that awkward position – how he can misinterpret it from a distance…ooops. I was wondering earlier what Debbie was implying..how naive of me….okay,okay…..I’ll stop…It is only now that I understand what the scene can portray,I’m laughing at this new realization.

    Really, really Ken…. that was why you were asking me…

  15. Yes Jen, the rudeness is never too far away with me I’m afraid!

    Let’s *not* mention pro-bono – that way is a little fraught with double-meaning too, I fear! 🙂

  16. It is not really rudeness Ken, just a basic, natural part of being human , presented in a subtle way. It is how you present it that counts. The artists within you should emerge, and that was how you did it.

    and okay, I won’t mention the word.

    Ken, It was fun having you as a guest, accept my heartfelt gratitude.

  17. I love the quiet humor in this story. Enjoyed it immensely and quite relieved that despite the double whammy suffered by the protagonist all is well. That is, if we can call suffering from two cracked ribs a reason to be upbeat.

    At least, it’s now confirmed Ken’s heart is indeed in the right place, his humor quite sublime, and his prized Irish chin still potent to cause a stir for many, many years to come.

    Super.

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