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!
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org