I was sitting in a puddle. And I was sitting in a puddle in a corn field. I was sitting in a puddle in an Indiana corn field in the middle of winter with a parachute tied to my waist, I was missing a shoe and my glasses, and my pants were at my ankles. Oh, and I was bleeding.
You’re going to need some context, no?
It was a cold day in Indiana, sometime in early 2003. When I say “cold”, that doesn’t really do it justice. It was bitter. And windy. Basically, it sucked being outside. But it was Indiana, and we were bored.
For whatever reason, a few days prior we’d had unseasonably warm weather with ridiculous winds. Joe (my brother) and I were bored and decided to go outside to enjoy the odd weather. Joe, being one of the more creative people I know, grabbed our old boat tarp. The idea was to make a gigantic kite out of it. And, as idiotic as that sounds, it would have worked. That’s how windy it was.
The problem was that besides the tarp, we didn’t have any other supplies lightweight yet sturdy enough to make crossbars for a functional kite. So that idea was scrapped. But Joe wasn’t done. Each corner of the tarp had a grommet, so Joe tied short ropes to each one, then tied the ropes all together in the center. To that bundle he attached a much longer rope. And that’s all it takes to make a redneck parachute.
Of course neither of us were planning to jump out of any trees with this thing. But the idea was to see if we could use it to windsurf. And sure enough, the wind played along. Joe would tie the rope around his waist and start running into the wind. I’d throw the chute open and as soon as the chute would catch the wind, Joe would get violently yanked back, sending him flying through the air like a feather. I’m not kidding you, it was really stinking windy. Maybe now you understand where the title of this story came from…Wind Wrestling.
Fast forward a couple days. Now there’s snow on the ground and it’s gotten bitter cold. Hey, Joe thinks aloud, let’s go see if we can tie the parachute to a sled. My buddy Josh was over, and we all thought, what the heck? Let’s do it. But the snow wasn’t really the kind conducive to sledding. The wind was pretty strong, but it was coming directly from the west (not from the southwest, like usual), and the treeline on the neighbor’s property was dampening the winds a bit.
Every now and then we’d get a nice gust of wind that would pull the sled 20 feet or so before the chute would collapse. As we took our turns with the plastic sled, the rope attached to the sled started to rip through the plastic. No big deal, we’ll just tie the rope around our waist, I thought.
So that’s what I did. At this point, we had worked our way across the back yard a few different times and had found the “sweet spot”. We figured that since the wind was coming directly from the west, there was a spot in our yard where the wind swooped over the neighbor’s treeline and down into our yard. That’s where the wind power was the greatest. And this is where I got into trouble.
We were about to quit for the day. It hadn’t been as successful as we’d hoped, but we’d had fun regardless. I decided to try one last time, though the wind seemed to be dying down a bit. I tied the rope around my waist and stood over the sled. As soon as I went to sit down, a powerful gust of wind hit the chute that Josh was holding up.
That was it. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. The chute had opened and caught the wind at the perfect moment. I flew forward and landed on my stomach, then proceeded to be slowly dragged by the wind through my back yard. It was enough to knock the wind out of me so I wasn’t able to react as quickly as I usually would have. I let myself be dragged along without a fight because I figured the wind would eventually die down and the chute would fall.
That didn’t happen. Instead, I was slowly dragged all the way to the edge of the field, where, as I was about to learn, was the real “sweet spot”. The chute dipped a little and I thought it would fall harmlessly to the ground. But instead, I watched as the homemade sail became even more taut. It caught the next big gust, and before I knew it, I was being dragged through the corn field at a much faster rate than I could have imagined.
It was so cold. The temperature made the ground hard and icy. The corn stalks were like razors on my hands, face, and any other exposed skin. It was incredibly painful. After the initial shock wore off, I frantically tried to spin my body around so I could dig my heels into the ground and stop this miserable ride. But the wind blew harder. I tried one more time to pull my feet around and was almost successful. I say “almost” because I was able to get one foot out in front of me, but my other foot caught a small mound of dirt and flung me back around. This is the point where I lost my shoe.
With one shoe gone, and having been dragged at least 40 yards, I was starting to get pretty pissed off. This wasn’t fun anymore. My hands were getting torn up. My clothes were caked with muddy snow. And my face was getting pelted with corn stalks every few seconds. Plus, I’d lost a shoe. The anger settled in and I used it to make one last effort to get my feet out in front of me.
I grabbed the rope still tied around my waist – though now it was glued to my rib cage – and tried to use it for leverage to get my body turned around. I flipped over onto my back and tried to swing my legs around. When I did this, I found myself being dragged perpendicular to my path. By time I saw the short mound of dirt, it was too late.
I hit the mound with my hip. It only sent me about a foot in the air, but when I hit the ground, my head also hit. This is the point where I lost my glasses. Funny aside about those glasses: I had just gotten them a few days earlier. My old pair had been broken and were held together with super glue for about a year. I was so excited to get a new pair of glasses. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting picked on because they sat crooked on my head. That was a big deal to me.
And now? Now they were gone. To make matters worse, the button on the pants I was wearing had gotten ripped off and now my pants were slowly falling down to my knees.
At that point, I had probably gotten dragged about 100 yards. Part of me was still stunned at what was happening. But another part of me couldn’t help but be amazed that I was still being dragged. In the yard, we thought getting pulled 20 feet was awesome. And here I was, damn near half a mile from my house and there was still no end in sight. How was I still being pulled? Was the wind really blowing that hard? And where in the hell were Josh and Joe?!
Mercifully, the field dips a little right before crossing into our neighbor’s field. The chute wavered a bit and finally fell. No more dragging. No more corn stalks. No more parachute to worry about.
After at least ten seconds of wondering what the hell had just happened, I finally pushed myself up into a sitting position. I assessed myself for a few more seconds. My right shoe was gone, but the sock was still barely there. My pants were all the way down to my ankles. My boxers were torn but still around my waist, so that was a win. I was sitting in a puddle of mud, I couldn’t see, and my hands and face were burning from the microscopic cuts from those awful corn stalks.
I eventually pulled my pants up and struggled to my feet, just in time to hear Josh running through the field toward me. I could only make out a blurry figure, but I could tell it was him by how hard he was laughing.
“What the hell, man? Why didn’t you run after me and grab the chute to stop it?”
“I was trying, but I couldn’t stop laughing!”
At least he had my other shoe in his hand. I looked back toward my house, realizing just how far I had actually been dragged. I’d venture to say it was around 250 yards. The next thought: how am I ever going to find these glasses?
Lucky for me, I still had my old glasses back at the house. I was going to need them if I had any hope of finding the new ones. But I knew my mom was going to be livid with me.
But she took it well, which I hadn’t expected. She wasn’t mad, nor did she scold me about taking care of my brand new glasses. Instead, she simply said, “You need to go back out there and don’t come back inside until you find them.” But she said it with that tone of voice that only moms have. The one where she says something so sweetly, it actually makes you fear for your life. You know the one I’m talking about.
While I was thankful for my mom’s subdued response, I was still too emotionally charged to be able to deal with going back outside in the freezing cold field. But, I knew my mom was being serious, so after warming up for a few minutes I headed back outside.
The only good thing about being dragged through that semi-snowy field was the fact that my body had left a very distinguishable line. I found my glasses no more than ten minutes later, which was a miracle. I picked them up out of the mud and cursorily wiped them off. I was relieved to learn that they weren’t broken, and there were no scratches on the lenses. Next was the important part – did they still fit my face?
They did. But they were crooked. ♦