The first house I lived in was one block from a brand new Interstate highway. Once when I was about two or three years old, I wandered from our unfenced back yard and started walking along the shoulder of the highway. A neighbor happened to drive by. He picked me up and took me home to a frantic mother. I should probably be dead.
When I was a toddler, my parents’ house did not contain any of those little plugs that prevent small children from sticking their fingers in electric sockets. Nor did my parents put those child-proof locks on the cabinet doors in the bathroom and kitchen. I should probably be dead.
Once when I was about 13 years old, I went camping with a large group of boys from my church. Most of the kids set up their tents at the top of a little hill. My best friends and I set our tents up next to a dry creek bed. A huge thunderstorm rolled in during the night, and we had to evacuate the campsite as a flash flood rushed through the ravine. We went to retrieve the tents and camping gear the next afternoon. Everything had washed away and was scattered about 200 yards from where we had been camping. I should probably be dead.
About 20 years after that incident, I went camping by myself on Matagorda Island, an uninhabited and utterly wild barrier island along the Texas coast. The first afternoon of my campout, big, black cumulonimbus clouds began building up over the Gulf. A large fleet of shrimp boats sailed past on their way to safe harbor, and in the air I saw helicopters ferrying workers back to land from an off-shore oil rig. That night I witnessed a lightning storm unlike anything I have ever seen. The wind blew so strongly that it ripped the mosquito netting in my tent. I was camped at the dune line. In the middle of the storm, water began to enter my tent. I stepped out and my tent was in the surf, or rather, the surf had risen so much that it was crashing against my tent and the dunes. With high wind, driving rain, and lightning flashing every three or four seconds all around me, I took my tent down, and set it back up on the opposite side of the dunes. It was probably the most frightening experience of my life. I should probably be dead.
Speaking of lightning, when I was a senior in high school, I parked my car on the street next to the football field on the way to my first class. As soon as I shut the car door, there was the loudest thunder clap I have ever heard, and for a second all I saw was a brilliant flash of light. I felt a tremendous electrical shock. Apparently, lightning struck a chain link fence about six feet from where I was standing. Some kids who saw what happened said I jumped two feet into the air, and my hair was standing straight up afterward. I should probably be dead.
Once during the early 1990’s, I was with a friend in a relatively remote spot in Cambodia. We were sitting down and cooling off after wandering through some Khmer ruins. A young man with a very hard, unfriendly demeanor came and sat next to us for about 10 minutes, holding a small machine gun the entire time. He never said a word, but glared at us menacingly. Then he abruptly left, and so did we. We should probably be dead.
When I was about 20 years old, I went canoeing down Central Texas’s Guadalupe River with my best friend from college. Our canoe was a rental, and the outfitter told us, “Watch out for the chute about five miles down!” When we arrived at the chute, we were caught in the swift current before we could get out and survey the rapids. The chute was about 500 feet long. When we made it through, we paddled our canoe to the river bank to catch our breath. Two fishermen came to us and said, “You boys were screaming your lungs out the whole way through that thing.” We should probably be dead.
Once I paid a 16 or 17 year old kid $30 to take me scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. I had never been diving before. In halting English he gave me a 15 minute lesson, and then we went diving. I loved it. Later that year, I took real scuba lessons and learned just how dangerous it can be if you don’t know what you’re doing. I should probably be dead.
When I was a child, my parents owned a small patch of land in the woods of East Texas. They used to drop me and my siblings off so we could go camping, and they would drive about 10 or 15 miles away to stay in a motel. We were about 10 to 15 years old at the time. A lot of my friends are astonished that parents would leave their kids alone in the woods like that. They sometimes say, “You should probably be dead.”
Once I hit a patch of black ice on a rural highway in Illinois. My car began twirling in circles and then crashed into a ditch. The car bounced, and I remember rolling front end over back end about three or four times before it came to a rest on its side. Thankfully, I was using my seat belt. When I climbed out of the car to survey the situation, I saw my car’s imprint in the snow where it hit in the ditch. That was followed by about 25 feet of clean, smooth snow before the next point of impact. I had been airborne for that distance. The next weekend my girlfriend (now my wife) and I drove to where the car had been towed to retrieve personal belongings. When my girlfriend saw the car, she gasped and said, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re not dead.”
I don't know, maybe I've been kind of lucky. One thing's for sure: I'm still alive and kickin', and I'm planning on hanging around a while longer!