I mentioned wooden skis and cable bindings in this story from the fifties. In 1962 those wooden skis and cable bindings failed me as I tried to play hot shot jumping moguls at Dodge Ridge. It was, of course, the last run of the day. It was also beautiful spring skiing, bright blue sky, and sticky snow. Dad was done for the day and waiting for me at the bottom with Jay. It was the Sunday of one of those ski weekends Dad used to do for me, driving up Saturday before dawn, driving back Sunday after skiing.
I was only a couple hundred yards from the top, with about a mile to go, when snap, crackle, pop, I blew a jump and found myself laying in the snow with my left foot at about a 90 degree angle from my left leg. Which hurt a lot.
Funny that it was the last run. It’s always the last run, right? But in skiing, it is often a run that was set up as the last run that ends up with the injury. You’re tired, but you want to end it well, so you push that tired. Bad idea.
This was on my brother’s eighth birthday, April 8. I had turned 14 a few months earlier.
Back then, ski patrol was a lot like it still is now, but it took longer because no cell phones. I don’t remember it taking that long, so maybe the ski patrol were up at the top because the lifts were about to close. Anyhow, I lay there contemplating pain and the weird angle of my boot to my leg for a while but then I was strapped into a sled and guided down the mountain. They took me to the first aid place at the lodge and started dealing with an obviously broken leg — both tibia and fibia, and bad — while somebody found Dad (which meant scanning the parking lot for a red 1960 Oldsmobile convertible) and he appeared.
Dad didn’t trust the bone surgeons in Sonora, the closest town to Dodge Ridge. So he had them wrap me up as best they could and drove me back to El Camino Hospital, where the docs he knew took over. He put me on a lot of drugs and I sat in the back seat only half conscious (although I still remember it) for the four-hour-plus drive. He was very angry with a local drug store that wouldn’t give him the drugs he wanted to give me, despite his medical ID; but the second one did.
The broken leg changed my trajectory in athletics. I’d been an all-star in middle school flag football and I was going to play in high school, I thought. But I was in a cast from toes to upper thigh from April to August, and was on crutches until November of my freshman year in high school. By sophomore year it was too late … I couldn’t play on the freshman team, and didn’t feel good enough to break in as a sophomore.