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Writer's Corner- New Brunswick


Fear Factor
By Barry L. Hatt

   There comes a time in the life of everyone when fear becomes a very real and serious situation. Children usually go through the whole gambit as they grow and learn new things; fear of the dark, or of the monster under the bed. We all go through fears of one thing or another. The ones that should concern us most are not the irrational fears that we went through as children, but the fears that are life threatening.
   In looking back at my own fears I see a pattern that evolved. Personally I think that fears come along because as children learn new ideas their minds have to learn where to process that new knowledge. I can remember being fearful as I went to school the first day. It was a new experience; Would people like me? Where will I sit? What is the teacher like? ....
   Television in L'Etang consisted of one channel and I remember seeing a part of 'The Twilight Zone', before I was sent to bed. I had nightmares every night for years thereafter. To an unknowing child that stuff was true! I used to wake up in a cold sweat and yell for mom. This went on until mom finally yelled up to me to tell me that she was not coming up and that I had to get over it and deal with it myself. I was shocked!
   Shortly thereafter I beat the ghost of a recurring nightmare and realized that things change, and that the way we look at situations and deal with them are what is important. That type of fear we can get over and hopefully learn from. The other is not so easy.
   In 1963 dad was asked to coach a baseball team, the Back Bay Braves, in the Border league. My memory isn't all that good but there were a lot of good players on the team. I remember Gene Maxwell hitting homeruns, Gerald McGarrigle being asked to hit foul balls to tire out the senior Socabassin from Dana Point. (He did that for several minutes until he got the nod to hit away and hit a triple. I think he won the batting title that year.) I remember Ken Hooper throwing the ball high up on the backstop to put fear into the opposition. Then there was Big Leonard Hooper, and Reggie Leavitt and Eugene Cook and a whole slew of others. To me, a 14 year old, this was great. I got to keep score once in awhile or chase after foul balls to make sure that they didn't walk off with someone.
   In general I was the goffer. Go for this or go for that. I had a great time. Don't worry this is leading up to the fear factor. Back then bottles of mineral water were unheard of. Usually someone would bring a bucket with a dipper and you helped yourself. Water was water. Then one day dad asks me to take the bucket and go get some water for the game in one of the houses on the Back Bay hill.
   Back Bay is a fishing community situated on the Bay of Fundy. There was a ball field built up by the school. When you get to Back Bay you come to a cross roads where you can turn right, up the hill to the ball field or left to go down hill to the Connors Brothers factory, or straight ahead to peoples homes.
   I must apologize for not being able to remember the name of the person there that had a big balloon tire bike. I claim it was fear that made me forget. Anyway, he asked me if I wanted to ride on the crossbar to go for the water. I thought it was a great energy saving way to get the water so I agreed. I grabbed the bucket and away we went with me holding the bucket in one hand, with the other hand firmly gripping near the center of the handlebar. We were doing great and making good time until we started down the hill. With one last push on the pedals as we started down the hill, the chain came off the sprocket!
   Every boy with a bike knows that sound. Usually you just stop and put it on again. But here we were going at a pretty good clip, down hill. Some explanation should be given about the bikes of the day. Most had to rely on the foot pedals for brakes, none on the handlebars, and such was his. We were picking up speed with no way to stop. Have you ever seen how fast one of those balloon tire bikes can go with a good head of steam? I have!
   My question was what were we going to do. His thought was that at the bottom of the first hill we could make a right turn, along the flat section and slow to a stop, but when we hit the intersection we were going too fast to make the turn, because of loose gravel, so we shot across the intersection and started down the second hill towards the water, gaining speed as we went.
   This is where the fear factor began to take hold. We must have been going 40 miles per hour, and gaining speed! I had hoped for a long life but was beginning to realize that the odds were diminishing as we sped towards the wharf and the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy. I knew we would never make the right turn as we reached the bottom of the hill.
   Thankfully my pilot was looking for alternatives and yelled into the wind that there was a fast approaching driveway that went in on about a 45 degree angle, and he was going to take it. We hit it at about 40 miles per hour, with just a slight speed wobble and I breathed a bit easier as we leveled out and sped towards and around the left side of the house. At least we wouldn't have to ditch in the Bay of Fundy.
   My newfound hope came to a quick end as we cleared the porch; I thought it was all over for us for there in front of us was a huge wood pile.
   In front of the huge pile of wood were two ranks of split wood that my pilot hit at great speed. He wedged his bike between those two piles just like a knife cutting through butter and we abruptly came to a stop. I don't think I even dropped the bucket although my left hip hurt for some time from hitting the forks of the bike.
   It is a good thing that neither of us panicked that day. Controlled fear can open avenues of awareness that would never otherwise be found.
   I really believe that there are guardian angels. A one in a million chance that we were not seriously hurt. It was a long walk back up the hill but we really didn't mind. We knew that we had cheated death that day and the whole world looked a lot better. When we finally made it back to the ball field dad asked what had taken so long. " It is a long story dad, a long story." And here it is.

Barry Hatt lives in Dumfries. You may contact him through his e-mail address which is blhatt@rogers.com

THE END

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