Old Target Knee of Thee

Rainy days are full of memories because they cause my left knee to ache, not awful incapacitating pain, more like reminiscent pain. They are beginning to look alike.

Some times I wonder how boys live through the teen years and become functional, thinking fathers and husbands. They wobble through those seven teen years swallowing gold fish, eating chocolate covered ants, raw fishing worms and sticking their tongue to a rusty iron pipe on a 20 degree day. The magical challenge, “I double dog dare you” is all it takes. Anytime two teen boys get together it is like pouring clorox into peroxide, something messy is the result. My first hospital encounter was being born and that was traumatic, the first doctor I ever saw Slapped me! My second hospital encounter was at age 5 years to get my tonsils yanked out of my size two mouth by a doctor with size ten hands!

Granddaddy bought a 1960 Corvair, he wanted a Volkswagen but was still at war with them Germans. As he drove by slowly me and cousin Gordon hopped a ride on the rear engine lid. He did not know we were there so he began to speed up, we slid off and I landed on my hands and knees. My hands and knees were all skinned up. Within a week I had some real big scabs that lasted the rest of the summer. In September I had to take a physical so I could play Junior Varsity football. The doctor saw the scabs so I described the incident, he noticed that my left leg bone was protruding a bit, I told him it never hurt. He mumbled that it would when the big boys tackled me… and suggested track...he was right I limped after every practice. I got a job.

Being a bone head teenage boy I did play Sunday afternoon Cow Pasture football with the neighborhood boys. Was suppose to be two hand touch but sometime we forgot and tackles happened. I always went home with a torn up Tee shirt smelling like cow poop wearing bruises, smears and with a sore limp. Most of those guys were career tenth graders who chewed tobacco and had beards started. No equipment allowed we all had to get hurt the same amount so our uniform was tennis shoes, blue jeans and an ole Tee shirt that became a stinky sweaty rag within fifteen minutes.

I worked at the gasoline station summers and most weekends, saved my money and was able to buy a new Volkswagen in 1963 while in the 11th grade. A pretty green Beetle Bug. One Friday night after a home football game a known drunk driver hit four of us. My little bug took the worse hit on the left side removing both fenders and the door. We watched as the cops dragged him out of his 1954 Ford car… he wanted to fight so they granted his wish, I wanted to hit him too. I was told to get in the ambulance with several others, I could walk but my left knee sure did hurt.

I fixed that car and put 80,000 miles on it. In August 1967 I traded it for a new Beetle Bug, same color. On December 3, 1967 I was given my per-induction physical and a bus ticket to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The doctor looked at my knee and asked if it bothered me, he stamped my forms as I said No Sir. Basic training was mostly painless except bayonet training where knee kicking was encouraged, that hurt. In April 1967 I graduated from Helicopter school and got a ticket to Vietnam. Prior to going to Vietnam, rolled and totaled the second green Volkswagen. During my 19 month tour I was in 3 crashes because the bad guys were pretty good shots...each time I limped, they were picking on my left knee! I never was hit by a bullet but those crashes were traumatic enough and they hurt too.

I have made a solemn resolve to not buy any more Green Volkswagens… I have tried a black one, a brown one and a blue one, so far so good. My 45 years since combat have been rather routine only two helicopter engine failures, they did not hurt my knee.

However the Winter of 2016 was cold and icy in Highland County, which is nick named “Little Switzerland.” We had a goat named MUCKY and a Donkey named PEANUT, each morning they got a bucket of oats and vegetables. Twice each day they got a bucket of warm water which they drank like coffee.

As I inched my way across the ice covered yard carrying a large bucket in each hand, the wind was gusting to 30 miles per hour. Ice pellets were hitting my face and both animals were at the barn door anxious for breakfast. I was almost there as I moved ever so slowly across the uneven frozen terrain. Suddenly my left boot went into a hole and down I went with a thud. Cold, angry and now wet with warm water I was on my hands and knees, looking eye to eye with donkey brown eyes and goat yellow eyes.

They were puzzled because I had normally brought their food and water into the barn, this time I had dumped everything into the yard on the ice. Very puzzling indeed.

To add insult to injury my long dormant left knee injury began to throb just like 1960. I had to crawl to the fence and pull myself up onto my feet. I did get more food and water for the animals. The limp was back for a few weeks, I could not hide it.

My birthday month is July and I get my annual physical in July, same old chit chat, how you feeling, fine doc I’m doing fine. He looked at the knee bone and tapped it with his rubber hammer… I jumped higher than usual. He said, “we are going to x-ray this”. Sure enough a very old crack… he asked if it hurt, no not unless you hit it with your sledge hammer again.

As he examined the x-ray film I said, forget it Doc, we are not going to fix it, he frowned and said, too bad, that is about a $5000 dollar operation you are cheating me out of.

He said next year I’m bringing the big hammer...fine Doc...you break it YOU buy it.

Recently I dropped a wrench and crawled under the truck to get it, that concrete brought back 2015, and Doc’s smile as he scanned the X-Ray Film. Golden years invented for Doctors.