Saturday November 6, 2010

Editorial

A Life Less Ordinary

A short story and long trail of broken bones

Craig Hill/Voice

 

just stubbed my toe so hard that I think it must be broken. It's not that I'm injury-prone, in fact I'm very careful most times because there aren't many bones in my body that haven't already been broken at least once. Most people have lots of stories of being injured and many of them worse than this sordid tale but I thought it was time to give the readers a small slice of my life. I'm sure that after reading this we'll lose some readers but it really doesn't matter because there are thousands more coming.

For me the negativity began before memory when I was told that I was beaten black and blue in diapers for getting my hand in the peanut butter. That's when it started.

Yes, the old man was tough. He dumped green coffee beans for 35-years. Not many would tangle with him. He got out of the air force riding a Harley and toting a mean streak a mile wide.

When growing up, my father was the kind of guy that if I lost a fight in school, he'd grab me by the hair and find the kid I lost to and make me fight him again until he was sure I couldn't do better. Of course I'd lose most times. Another favourite trick was buckets of ice water tossed on me while asleep.

For years he beat me black and blue almost daily. Sometimes I'd need to get stitched up at the hospital. His beatings were horrific as a kid who didn't know better in a time when things like that were swept under the rug.

Six or seven years in private schools being slapped around by the nuns and then go home to hellish beatings. The nuns would check under my clothes and note the bruising up and down the legs and back. Fingernail scars from being yanked and little arms pulled from their sockets. He loved grabbing the hair and shaking my head until my tongue wagged out of my mouth and my brain was rattled.

One of his things was to take me to the ball park and throw balls at my head in order to make me less fearful of baseball pitchers while at bat.

As time moved on and as I aged, the beatings never stopped. At 12 I ran away. Got on a bicycle and my little legs carried me 25-miles from his thrashings. He got pleasure in sadistic treatment which included fists to the head, baseball bat beatings, rubber hose beatings, cigarette burns and an assortment of other nasty utensils that he gleefully used.

I carried the brutality with me wherever I went. After school I went looking for fights and found them. The bigger, the badder, the meaner, the tougher, the better.

At 14, I was gone for good and headed to the farms in the Valley where I lived in field worker shacks. By 15, I landed in foster homes and got tangled up with the wrong crowd and soon found myself in trouble with the law. I turned 16 in reform school.

The police gave dad the option of taking me back home or sending me to reform school. He chose the latter.

That was another brutal experience. In 1972 they flew me in on a float plane. From the first night initiation where they threw a blanket over new boys and 20 guys beat them to the last few days, it was a steady fight. A fight for survival. At one point a kid chased me around the room with a leather awl and when I jumped up on a table to avoid him, he sunk the thing into my calf up to the handle and yanked it out laughing. I brushed it off and didn't say a word. The kids would line up for a cigarette 3-times a day. Guards would smuggle the kids in tobacco and papers and split the matches in half.

There were the police beatings as well. I remember once, standing around watching a small riot at a concert, and a cop grabbed me and beat me. Then they threw me in the paddy wagon. A while later the back doors opened and they called my name, I got out and they stood around in a circle and apologized.

At 16, a kid was swinging a pipe and let it go and it smacked me across the face breaking everything in it's path. I didn't bother going to the doctor about it for a few months. But I remember wringing blood out of a rag for hours and not wanting to go outside for a week because I was so bashed up. Eventually a few weeks later I did seek medical treatment but I don't know what was worse, the accident itself or the hospitalization afterward.

Still at 16, I was out and in a halfway house where I learned how to live with other people. That turned out badly. It didn't work. By 17, I was out of there and had my first job and got my first apartment.

I bought a motorcycle and hit the road around BC. Late one night, about midnight as I was riding into Keromeos, hit a rock and spilled it hitting the highway doing about 50mph. There were injuries. Unfortunately, my riding career was ended when I was smoked from behind while stopped at a red light by a drunk driver who left the scene. More injuries.

I once fought off Clifford Robert Olsen after he picked me up hitchhiking in the interior. I got away. I was lucky. Many didn't. No injuries other than some claw marks.

Then in 1978 I met a guy my age who was an adventurer, and we had some custom made saddle bags made, bought bicycles and headed to Alberta. It was then that I realized what it was like to become a man. Five-hundred miles from home, cold, wet, tired, broke. You can't call for mommy. For many years later, my friend and I rode all over BC and Alberta and loved every minute. I spent 6-years living in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. I even got married up there.

But the injuries were still happening. A head-on collision near Edson, A couple of broken bones. A tent fire ended with burned hands. A car fire saw more burned hands. A white gas lantern blew up in my face. An old radio blew up in my face. A fight with an ex-cop foreman alongside the tracks in Innisfail left me with a dislocated jaw. He ended up with both arms broken and one arm broken in two places. Tsk, tsk.

Working in a bar in Red Deer at 19 was rough. Tips thrown at me and more fights. It was a tough job and I didn't last too long.

Some of the more notable things were plowing into a telephone pole at 40mph. More injuries. In 1993, I was run over by a semi-truck. The thing went over my legs. I sued and lost and ended up being hit by the truck again after being stuck with legal fees from both sides. Needless to say there were quite a few broken bones upper and lower after that one.

Now, I find out that I may have a broken neck. It's about the only thing I thought I hadn't broken yet. This would have happened a few years ago after fighting a biker. It was a tough fight. We both got hurt.

There have been many other instances where I had the hell kicked out of me in fights. Beaten to a pulp. Many hospitalizations and operations for stuff I can't even remember. Needless to say, I cherish what bones haven't been broken and I don't fight anymore except for what's right.

These days when I run into a character that wants a piece of me, I think to myself 'what's this guy going to do to me that hasn't already been done before?' and brush it off usually.

After all that, through all the spills and thrills, I'm alive. I'm probably like a cat with 14 lives or something like Evel Knievel. But I guess it's about character and some guys earn it in mysterious ways.

These days, life is kinder and gentler, and of course my fighting days are behind me. I love the community, and really, the only scrapping I do now is for the community.

Now, I'm on my way out to support the veterans who fought the good fight.

 

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