Friends Signed My Broken Ankle Cast
After partying with friends over the weekend, I experienced an unexpected consequence: a twenty-one-year-old recently discharged from military duty. The army released me after my three years of military service as an airborne rigger in June 1969, which means I spent a reasonable amount of time jumping out of military aircraft and packing personal and cargo parachutes to drop paratroopers, military equipment, and supplies for air assaults. Doing it safely (okay, stop laughing) was the mantra, and I took pride in never sustaining an injury after fifty-five jumps from 1,000-1,200 feet and a sport free-fall from 8,000.
But despite my success, I didn’t expect a weekend of partying to humble me in the way it did. I never saw it coming and found it more embarrassing than anything else. It happened after a July Fourth celebration on a Monday at a construction site in St. Paul, Minnesota. And as I said, I had been partying, having a good time at a friend’s lake cabin, drinking cold beer, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad—picnic foods.
I Heard My Ankle Crack
A home-building contractor had hired me as summer help. The ground on construction sites can be uneven and unkempt. On the day my embarrassment happened, I had been nailing insulation board to wood two-by-four framing. I used a two-step ladder to reach the uppermost part of the board. As I stepped down, my right foot landed in a shallow rut. I lost my balance, and my body weight went into my ankle with enough force that it broke.
I heard it crack; fortunately, it wasn’t an open fracture. Instead, my ankle swelled to the size of a cantaloupe. The foreman saw what happened and called 911. An ambulance came and rushed me to the nearest emergency room. I spent the rest of the summer with my ankle in a plaster cast. Which my friends gleefully signed and jived me about my broken ankle. They’d repeatedly ask me, “How many jumps did you have?” Their asking me that question irritated me more than the itchiness I felt from my cast.