Out cold

Photo by Steve Martaindale

I’ve participated in sports from Little League through high school football and a round of intramural wrestling in college and softball into my late 50s. I crashed my bicycle a few times, tumbled down a mountain in western Texas, was threatened to have my head bashed in by a mugger, and so on.

There have been a couple of broken bones, numerous stitches, and countless bruises and pulled muscles.

But the only time I’ve been knocked unconscious, it was while playing on my knees with my baby sister.

I was in the fourth grade, so I’m guessing Brenda was 2. The house we lived in at the time was new, built by my mother’s uncle with the assistance of my father. It was the only house we ever lived in with a concrete foundation.

It was roomier than we actually needed, I guess, because I cannot recall them ever putting any real furniture in the front living room, so we often used it for play. I particularly remember bouncing all over the room while batting multiple balloons into the air.

The time I was knocked out, however, there was no wild activity going on. Brenda was sitting, as I picture it, and I was kneeling. We were rolling a ball back and forth. And I’m pretty sure I remember losing my balance while reaching for the ball and falling forward.

This is where the foundation is important. The living room had a not-too-thick carpet installed over the concrete floor … no real cushion.

The next thing I was aware of was waking up on the sofa in the den with all kinds of hubbub occurring above me. I later heard the rest of the story.

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We kids were home alone at the time, which wasn’t a big deal. My brother, Ward, and I were about 9 and 10 and were quite responsible, including taking care of Brenda. Plus, this was in the day people knew their neighbors, including the Pace family to our right and the Smiths to our left, the latter also being an adult cousin of ours, Yvonne.

Somehow, Ward found me knocked out on the living room floor. I’m not sure if Brenda alerted him in some way. He ran next door to get Yvonne. As they turned into the carport, I was walking out the door and started falling again. The story I got was she caught me just before my head met the concrete again.

My parents had only gone down the road to Mr. Norman’s 7-Eleven store, a place my dad sometimes worked when he wasn’t at the fire station. The store’s five-digit number was, for that reason, posted above the phone.

Yvonne first called the fire department. For the younger readers tuned in, we didn’t have emergency medical services anything like what you see now. The only ambulance in our city – and this wasn’t uncommon – was operated by the local funeral home. No, you wouldn’t be the first to recognize the potential for a conflict of interest.

Her next call was to the grocery store, only two blocks from the fire station. By the time my parents got to the car, the fire truck was passing by; they followed it the half mile to our home. The part of the story my dad always like to tell was that Mother was still clenching the Coca-Cola bottle from the store. However, when she hopped out of the car, she flung it and almost hit one of the firefighters. (I’ll remind you, my dad worked in that fire house, so these were all buddies of his.)

So, that was the hubbub that greeted me once I came to. Instead of playing with my baby sister on the floor, I was looking up at my parents, a couple of firefighters, my cousin and my siblings. And who knows how many neighbors were by then gathering outside to see what was going on.

“Nothing to see here, folks, just a kid playing ball with his baby sister.”


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