Physically I am broad-shouldered and stout, built like a short linebacker. On occasion I’ve envied people who were naturally long and lanky, especially if they never had to worry about their weight. In the last two weeks, however, I’ve taken two falls and am starting to think that, in old age, heavy thick bones might have their advantages.

The first fall was at a restaurant. I slid out of a booth to use the bathroom and had forgotten that our table was up on a bit of platform. When I took a step out of the booth and expected the floor to be where it wasn’t, I went over on my back. One moment I was standing, the next moment I was down. I imagine the other customers in the restaurant looked at me and saw an old drunk guy. They were half right in their assessment. I was fine, and I knew I was fine even before I tried to get up. 

The second fall, more serious and even more absent-minded than the first, was riding my bicycle full speed into a tree that had fallen across a paved trail. I would like to say that the downed tree appeared just around a sharp corner and there was nothing I could have done to avoid it, but that is not the case. There was thirty yards of straight trail between me and the tree, but obviously I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. 

I noticed the tree with about ten feet to go, but my hands were up on my handlebar bar ends, not down at my handbrakes. In an instant I had to choose between going for the brakes to possibly slowing myself or lifting up my hands to brace for impact. I chose to brace. My extended hands and arms crashed through a half dozen branches just before the rest of me reached the main trunk. My bike fit under the trunk and continued on its way. I, however, caught the trunk square across my chest and I came off the back of my bike like the bad guy in a Western movie getting lassoed off his horse.

As I laid in a heap on the pavement, my first thought was that this fall was worse than the tumble at the restaurant, and I was not sure whether I was okay. My chest hurt, one knee hurt (I don’t know how that happened), and blood dripped from a dozen scrapes and cuts. Only recently have I started carrying my cell phone with me on my bike, so I called Manyu to come get her battered husband. 

As it turns out, I suffered only minor injuries. My knee is swollen, and one cut on my left hand is deeper than the others. Manyu applied some ancient Chinese powder to all of my cuts, and I am now a believer in its curative properties. Only twenty-four hours have passed, and I am already able to write about the accident on my laptop. I am always looking for fresh content for my weekly blog, but I did not plow into a tree just to have something to write about. It might be a week before I can get back on my bike. 

This downed tree incident reminds me of another time I encountered a fallen tree. Ten years ago, I was hiking with my family in Thailand’s Kaoyai National Park and tried to climb over a tree that was blocking the trail. The jungle had a thick understory, so going up and over the tree seemed easier than trying to bushwhack around it. Six feet up I lost my grip and fell backwards into a thicket of briars. I am sure Manyu does not remember, but yesterday while bandaging my injured hands, she used the same unsympathetic words as when I asked her to pull large Thai thorns out of my back. She said, “I don’t understand why you do these things.” 

Steven Simpson