How Cracker Cracked my Helmet Not my Brain
I got the space man’s view of the rodeo. There I was way high up in the air above my mule Cracker. There he was way down below me bucking his guts out. Then gravity took over and I re-entered the earth head first like a faulty Russian rocket. CRACK! Landed right on my skull….which was snugged up in my helmet.
Okay, let me rewind the plot.
A Man Rides in to Town
Recently I rode my mules in to Brandenburg, Kentucky where I was going to cross the Ohio River with a police escort. I was riding Cracker, my saddle mule. Brick, my pack mule, was carrying our provisions.
On the outskirts of town, Brick exploded, got her lead rope under Cracker’s tail who reacted to the wedgie with a National Rodeo Association-grade, head-between-the-front-legs-back-legs-over-the-saddle bronco ride.
That’s when I was launched.
A Long History of Falls
I’ve been thrown many times. I’ve been thrown from race horses and had my helmet knocked off during a steeplechase race. I’ve had my teeth kicked in by a thoroughbred and I’ve been deposited in front of a Honda on an Oklahoma highway.
I’m walking around with a fake front tooth because I donated the real one to the turf.
This fall was different. In all my falls, my head never, ever, hit the ground harder than when Cracker pile-drived it in to that rich Kentucky dirt.
It was the ground pounding strike that gets you a helicopter ride to the trauma unit. The head bashing that triggers medical wishes you’ve written out for your spouse. The brain shattering impact that has you asking Humpty Dumpty where he put the glue. But you can’t because, well, you’re knocked out as cold as a steeplechase jockey after a 6 horse pile up.
But I got lucky. Instead of cracking my skull, I split my helmet in to 3 pieces. Without my helmet, I’m 100% convinced I would have suffered major skull and brain trauma. 100% guaranteed. Some things you know deep in the core of your being and this is one of those for me.
Don’t Worry, This Mule’s Broke
I split my funny looking Troxel helmet that I sometimes swap out for my cowboy hat for when I have my photo taken. I busted the Bobble-head looking helmet I often think I don’t need to wear because, oh hell, this mule’s broke and he’ll never throw me.
Until he did.
What caused the wreck?
When things settled down I retrieved a piece of barbed wire from between Brick’s leg. That’s what set off the chain reaction.
So thank you silly looking helmet. You’re the reason why I’m gaily typing away on this keyboard, telling you about my spill, instead of pecking on a keyboard with a stick in my mouth because I’ve bashed some beautiful macaroni-shaped piece of my brain in to liver mush.
After effects? I got lucky. I had a mild headache. I had trouble remembering the names of some of the places I’d traveled through – like Cumberland Gap. Yeah, sorta worry-some. But in a day or two, all was back to normal.
The lesson? Think hard about wearing your skid lid when you swing in to the saddle. You can always take it off for the photos like my mom used to take off her glasses when the camera came out.
But that’s just vanity. And I admit that I do it all the time. I guarantee you’ll see photos of me on this site sitting on a mule wearing a cowboy hat. Or top hat. Or no hat at all. Chances are good you’ll see me riding without a helmet around the farm or out on the local trails back home in western North Carolina. I like that cool-breeze-in-my-thinning-hair feel.
But every time I do it, there’s an imaginary actuary in my head running the numbers. She’s saying, “it’s all statistics. It’s just a numbers game pal.” After a while that gets worrisome and I clamp that helmet back on my head.
Wearing a helmet is a personal decision. Just remember that nobody’s going to visit you or me in the ICU and think, “damn he looked so Marlboro Man out there riding up the highway in his cowboy hat right until he wound up with preventable brain trauma.”
Yes, I replaced my cracked helmet. Big thanks to my wife Julia who sent me a new one.
- My helmet. Yes, I’m thanking it once again. RIP good buddy.
- Steve Spink and Tim Smith: for helping me catch Brick and Cracker on the side of the road after I was thrown
- Stacy and Rob Smallwood: for putting us in Brandenburg, KY after my header
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