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Monday, April 16, 2012

Today's Post is brought to you by the Letter N

Have I ever told you the story about how I tried to write my initials in concrete?  Didn't think so.

Stationed on the banks of the Rifle River in North East Michigan is a quaint little canoe livery.  It's main season is mid-summer when throngs of people flood the banks of the river to enjoy a lazy float downstream accompanied by the tastiest of waterproofed cooler goodies.  A vast array of adult beverages is also a suitable companion.
Many summer outings have been enjoyed at this campground both when I was young and with my parents and when I was older with children of my own.  We camped at several different campgrounds and the one in this particular tale is that of Mr. Joe Nagy.  His brother Lou Nagy also owned a canoe livery and this shall be the only mention of Lou in this story.  Surprisingly enough both campgrounds were connected by a 50 foot trail through the pucker brush and poison ivy.  It is said that one could sneak down the trail into Lou's, or for that matter Joe's and raid sleeping camper's coolers relieving them of a few beers or wine coolers each without too much fuss.  As a matter of fact I believe I said that but that's a different story and came along years after this particular one.  Enough of the Nagys' and on to the story.
If I think hard enough (without setting the smoke alarm off) I would guess my age at approxiamtley 8.  It was our annual family outing with all the family and neighbors and we usually had quite a showing, relieving the owner of many campsites and assisting him in the depositing of many hundreds of dollars in his bank account.

Our big thing was to pack giant inner tubes and once at camp inflate them and float down the river.  We had big tubes, they came from our Refuse business and were big enough to fit a garbage truck tire.  The daily routine was the adults sat around and the kids played in the river.  We would hike upstream and float back to camp.  Usually once a trip the adults would join and we would drive the cars up stream a few miles and then have a nice long float back to camp which lasted several hours.
This particular year Mr. Nagy was building a new store at the campground.  Once finished it would carry all the necessary sundries that us campers needed, namely beer, ice, bug spray, sunblock and for us kids candy and lots of it.  During this year's trip the store was just having it's foundation poured and being kids we had to gawk at the construction and if we hung out long enough maybe, just maybe, we could write our initials in the concrete and forever be linked to the world of slow rivers, banged up aluminum canoes and ever so pricey candy.  One could only hold his breath in anticipation of the long awaited nod from a worker.  It was this infatuation with wet concrete that set the events in motion for this particular event.  Not wanting to be left out or unnoticed I crept ever so slowly towards the wet concrete.

Inching closer and closer and just when I thought I would get the nod it happened.  Eyes on the prize I wasn't watching my step and stepped on 2x4 used to build the forms for the concrete footers.  In this dastardly piece of wood resided a 4 inch sinker.  A spike, a giant steel pointed thing most commonly referred to as a nail.  Not only was the nail living peacefully in the wood it had apparently bent as if growing towards the sun like a shad stricken plant would.  In an effort to describe what this looked like, take your index finger and hold the middle knuckle flat and then bend just the tip of the finger. This is what the nail looked like although much sharper and rustier than your finger.

Now imagine if you will the way a foot moves when it takes a step.  Heel to toe.  Now imagine my heel planted firmly on the ground and as my foot rolls forward it makes contact with the nail.  The nail punctures my foot and because of the angle of my step proceeds all the way in.  Had I walked flatfooted I would have stepped on the top of the bent nail and not into it the way I did.

All thoughts of wet concrete and initials immediately left my mind and as my eyes widened in terror the smallest of squeaks must have left my lips because that is when the worker finally looked up.  Not for the nod but in a slight state of annoyance or confusion.  The look on my face must have told the tale and he stopped his work to investigate.  He was a large, black man not unlike the pictures you see of John Henry or the guy from the movie Green Mile, John Coffee.  Even though that movie came on scene long after this incident that is what my mind's eye remembers.  I thought for sure he was gonna either kill me or beat me on top of the head with the shovel he had been using moments prior.

As he closed the gap a giant smile crossed his face and he swept me up in one arm (I was no skinny 8 yr old) complete with the 2x4 stuck to the bottom of my foot.  His exact words were,"don't worry lil fella I'll help you out".
That was when all hell broke loose.  Well at least that is what I felt because Mr. John Coffee grabbed that nasty old 2x4 and began twisting it back and forth in a circular motion to get it out of my foot.  Unbeknownst to him that the nail was inside my foot and bent over.  For a big giant of a man that he was even he grunted as he twisted and ripped the nail from my foot.  Everything else was forgotten.  Literally, either I blocked it out or the adrenaline rush kicked in and I don't remember him setting me down or limping back to camp.
My next vivid memory is of our grown up neighbor looking at me and asking what happened and if it hurt.  I told him I stepped on a nail and yes it hurt like heck and he immediately punched me in the arm so hard that it went numb and said there that will take the pain away from your foot for awhile and went back to his Miller High Life.  I refused any sort of treatment such as going to the hospital for a probably much needed stitch and a tetanus shot and after a good cleaning put my shoe back on and limped upstream with the other kids to go for one more tube ride for the day.  That is my story of.........................
Nagy's Nail.


  1. OHMYGAWD! I was cringing the whole time! I have a few war wound stories but none included a "John Coffee" character. At least you healed and didn't get tetanus!

  2. the rifle is a great floating river...

    but i have seen several flips of a canoe or two on it's calm, lazy, meandering path...

    you have to be very drunk to flip a canoe on the rifle...

    i have never seen the rifle sober...

    loved the story!


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