I recently took inventory of my scars and tried to pinpoint exactly where each one came from. Some were easy but boring–stepping through the springs on the trampoline, skinned knees and bike wrecks, hernia repair…
Some were insignificant-looking but impossible to remember.
But I have two scars that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It would take a brainwashing to forget how they happened.
Scar 1: Over The Top
When I was but a lad, my dad took me–at my shrill insistence–to see Over The Top, arguably the finest (only?) armwrestling film of all time. Sylvester Stallone has made the occasional misstep, but who will dare to say that Over The Top is not the most influential film of the last 2500 years?
If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s the gist: Stallone (Hawk) plays a trucker who takes a cross-country trip with his army cadet son. Hawk’s wife has died and father and son learn to bond on the long haul. At the end of the road is an Armwrestling Championship and a giant bald man in a pink tank top that says “Blaster.” The prize is a truck. Along the way, Hawk teaches the boy to work out in the cab, self-respect, and armwrestling.
In the 80s, you knew kids were bad bullies in movies because they wore dangly cross earrings and fingerless gloves.
Hawk and the boy are in an arcade at one point and Hawk challenges a bully to armwrestle his son. After the little cadet looks deep inside himself and wins, things start looking up.
The bully wore a fingerless glove. Here’s where I come into the story.
The day after the movie I called a meeting of my friends down by the creek. We formed the super-awesome Armwrestling Club. I don’t remember exactly what our goal was, other than to go around armwrestling everyone. We were in third grade and it’s possible that there wasn’t a plan.
But there were requirements. For one, you couldn’t be in the club without sporting a fingerless glove. I took one of my mom’s Isotoner’s and wasted no time mutilating it in the pursuit of Over The Top-ness. She was not happy about this.
The next day at school we stalked around and told ourselves that nobody dared to glance in our directions. Time to look for opponents.
I was nominated to approach a group of sixth graders by the drinking fountain, which was mounted in a pillar of bricks. After some urging, I walked up to them, put my elbow on the fountain, and said something like, “Let’s do this.”
One of them grabbed my arm (the one without the glove on it), slammed it, and promptly ground my knuckles into the bricks. He rubbed them back and forth for a while and ignored my screaming.
That was the end of the Armwrestling Club, but the small scars between three of my knuckles live on.
One of my favorite memories of being young was the annual trip with my dad to chop the winter’s firewood in the mountains. We would go alone and spend the whole day outside laughing and hacking at things. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was definitely younger than 10.
Prior to the trip, my dad gave me my own nice little two-sided hatchet. My part on these trips was to fill the kindling boxes. I’d find the dead trees and knock branches off and that would be what we’d use to start fires later. “It is the most important job,” he’d say.
So I took that hatchet and started laying into every tree I could find. By and by, I took a big swing at a branch that wasn’t quite as dead as it looked. The hatchet rebounded off the springy branch right into the top of my head.
I don’t think I was ever in danger, but I’ve been told that it bled like crazy. The mad dash back to town for medical aid ended the day’s wood cutting.
I usually shave my head every summer. There’s a nice little divet in my scalp where the axeblade hit it. Saying, “I got hit in the head with an axe” is a much better icebreaker than, “So what you do for a living?”
Try it, but don’t cut too deeply. And if any of you are interested in reviving the Armwrestling Club, remember what Victor Hugo said:
Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come
Perhaps it’s time…
If you’ve got an awesome, Over The Top scar and a story, tell us in the comments section.
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