Posted by: zhak39 | January 10, 2010

Why I love Gumby

A good friend watched the Gumby video and expressed surprise that he had never actually seen Gumby as a child.  Since we are the same age, had grown up in the same county and he was an avid watcher of tv he wondered how I had caught the green guy and he had not.  I pondered that a bit, reached into the memory chest to pinpoint when I had met Gumby and Friends.

It may have been the winter I spent a month in a cozy chair due to a sleigh riding accident.

You know my parents house is on a long hill.  It was probably 1969 or ’70.  We had a huge storm, no school, brilliant deep cotton mounds of snow.  Mike and Kathy made a sleigh run from the northernmost corner of the property, swooping over the fields, skirting the grape arbor, zinging around the old rock wall foundation that had once anchored a greenhouse.  As if that wasn’t enough, they extended it through the slight gully near the willow trees and then over the road to slalom through the apple orchard.  It was a monster trail and they spent the whole day screaming and laughing in the wintry air.  Even my mother went down it once.

But I was afraid.

I would hear them coming, press up to the living room window and watch them  fly past, tandem on a steel runner sled.  I wanted to go but couldn’t get up the nerve.

That night at dinner the three of them, Kath, Mike and my mom told dad about it with great enthusiasm and laughter and that incredible luminescent glow that kids get after a day of winter outdoor play that would tax the endurance of a marathon runner.  It’s like all that energy that they expended was returned to them in giddiness and light.  And I sat in shadow on the bench seat in the corner at the kitchen table with nothing to say.  No way to justify my reticence, not wanting to admit that I had been scared silly.

By the following morning I had pulled up every reserve of bravery. I had not conquered my fear but marshaled it and decided that I too would hazard the slope.  The fun that they had had outweighed reservation; I would not be an object of ribbing that day.  I remember how excited Kath was that she was going to share this with me.  Heading out from the breakfast table and armored in double wool socks, hand made wooly scarves, hats, mittens and in my case a  second-hand but new-to-me professionally cleaned real down jacket, she turned to me and said, “Jack, this will be the ride of your life!”

She, my lovely long sister, was in charge.  She positioned the sled, held the rope reins in one mittened hand and settled me on the back of the sled.  All in readiness, she hopped on the front giving us a shove to get onto the slope.

We didn’t know a lot about temperature and snow quality in those days.

The day before had been one of those when the temperature hovers just at or above freezing making being outside just this side of punishment; the sun sparkles and the air has enough moisture that breath doesn’t bring in ice shards.  The temperature had plunged overnight.

Within a minute Kath realized that there was no controlling the sled this day.  The entire hill was nothing but ice.  She screamed to me to jump and bailed.

I heard nothing through the folded cuff of cap over my ears.

When I awoke in the car with my mother holding the two flaps of my face together all I could see was her hand and the growing stain on my new-to- me just laundered coat.  I can remember thinking–I got my coat dirty.  Boy I’m in trouble.

I spent the following weeks sucking junket through a straw, hazing in and out of sleep and watching quiz shows and cartoons on whatever the one channel my mother put the t.v. on when she gently set me in blankets in a cozy chair in the living room.  Just after my sister jumped assuming that I would jump as well, the sled hit the hard maple pole that anchored the grape arbor.  My nose had been smashed, my lip split from philtrum tearing behind the left nostril halfway to the eye socket.

And I fell in love with Gumby and Pokey in their magical colorful clay world.

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