Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Army of Ron

The first Wednesday night of each fall semester (for the last 18 years) is "Lights on Stillwater", a time when local businesses, churches, organizations & just about any other group that wants to be there set up small booths to meet and greet the students. It was originally held on the OSU football field, under the stadium lights, hence the name 'Lights on Stillwater'. Being that the Athletic Department replaced the old astroturf several years ago, it changes venues almost annually. It is actually a fun activity, and one that you will see numerous people rekindling their friendships lost over the summer.

The US Army is one of the staples of those attending the function. When it was held on the football field, they would bring chin-up bars for the visitors to use. Now that they are more into their big marketing blitz, they have a true Hummer (not an H2) that appears to have been worked over by Xzibit and the rest of the "Pimp my Ride" gang, as well as an approx. 25-30 foot climbing wall. When I got there to help set up a booth for a friend, I think I actually heard the wall call my name (well, not really, but you know what I mean). We got there at 5:30 for setup and the function was to last until 10pm.

Around 9:30, Sarah and I walked around the parking lot and headed straight toward 'the wall'. Sarah asked if I was going to climb it, and I said 'sure'.

Point to remember: I am an amputee today due to a fall of approximately 12-15 feet ... from the side of a wall. In previous posts I have mentioned my being on a rock wall a few months after the amputation, but that was more of a traversing wall (only off the ground by about three feet, but you go across the wall). While I was never 'scared' of heights before my accident, they have effected me since then.

I went to the main table, signed the appropriate "if you get killed or maimed, you can't sue us" paperwork and proceeded to the wall. They suggested going barefoot, for better control on the small outcroppings. When I took off my right shoe, and my fake foot was viable, one of the Army guys said "what's that?" (I think he knew, but simply spoke without thinking ... a true trait of the Army). I asked if there were any problems with an amputee climbing and he replied "No Sir", as if I had been his old drill Sargent. After I was wearing the appropriate rigging, they got me on the wall before I could come to my senses (chicken out, in other words).

About halfway up, I lost my handhold and started to slip. The feeling was just like June 25, 2001 at 2:00 pm, but this time I was able to re-secure my grip. After a few seconds to compose myself, I finished the climb all the way to the top. Oh, what a feeling (no Toyota jokes please) New problem, how to get down. The instructions say "lean back and let go". Hummm, been there, done that, got the prosthetic foot to prove it.

I looked down to confirm the 'just let go' command. Yep, you're right, I shouldn't have looked down. It took a ton of confidence in that mechanical belay brake, but let go I did. Free fall was probably all of three feet before the belay brake activated, but it seemed like a lot more. After it activated, it was a smooth ride down.

I DID IT ... I killed (or at least wounded) my "height dragon"! Between the Pimp my Hummer (there are so many jokes in that statement, I won't even start) and the rock wall, the "Army of Ron" had a small victory!

I would like to extend my thanks to the US Army for this personal victory ... both to those state-side and those away from loved ones :-(

You know, I was trying to figure out how to work in the old "Be all that you can be" slogan, but then realized that might not be appropriate for an amputee. I guess I would have had to use "Be most that you can be". ;-)
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