Farmington Canyon, Utah, around 10 years ago.
One of the first semi-serious girlfriends I ever had - let's call her Alice - had a really wonderful family, and we all got along famously.
They were work-hard, play-hard, really good people. They were Catholic, and there's sort of a Catholic solidarity in Utah, especially out in the suburbs.
Utah is overwhelmingly of the Mormon religion, and most non-Mormons feel stifled by it.
Now, as I get older, I come to appreciate the Mormon religion more. They're big believers in family, self-discipline, good habits, service, hard work and lots of reflection. But some of the rules are rather stifling to non-Mormons - no drinking, no smoking, no caffeine, no R-rated movies. Also, they're incredibly warm and friendly people, but at least in Utah, there's an undercurrent of being wary about associating too closely with non-Mormons outside of trying to convert them.
And try to convert, they did! If you lived in Utah, you'd be getting invitations to the Mormon Church and given gifts of the Book of Mormon with regularity. I had no real opinion on this at the time, nowadays I think I'd find it flattering because I tend to respect Mormons quite a lot, but I reckon that most of us heathens felt a little bit stifled and judged.
Well, that's not so good, but there is a nice sort of solidarity among non-Mormons, and especially among Catholics in Utah. Minorities bonding together, or something like that.
So I was surprisingly close with Alice's family. We'd known each other for a couple years, and had been loosely boyfriend/girlfriend for a while, and I was very welcome among their family.
And they were a cool family. Big into riflery, archery, motorcycles and ATV's, and generally cool wildernessy things like that. Alice's brother, Matt, was a black belt. Her mother was a doctor, her father did some sort of business, and they were a nice family.
So one particular afternoon, we're at Farmington Canyon. I don't know how or why, but her brother Matt and I always had something like a rivalry. I didn't want it, I didn't plan for it, but it seems like he'd always try to show me up. Alice was a year older than me, and Matt was two years older than her, but he felt the need or desire to compete with me for some reason. It was... mostly friendly, but there was a touch of not-quite-friendly underneath it. Or something? I still can't quite piece it together from memory.
Anyways, I'd been a Boy Scout, and I'd taken quite well to the bow and rifle. Whenever I went off to camp, I'd spend as much time as I can at one of the ranges, and I'd gotten to be a pretty good shot with both.
This pleased Alice's parents quite a lot - their daughter's boyfriend was into frontier man pursuits - but her brother seemed a little bit bothered when I shot well at targets. I mean, he was outwardly friendly, there was just a weird sort of undercurrent of... I don't know, it's been 10+ years, and my memory has faded. Back then, I didn't understand it, but I felt like there was something there, and that sort of intuition is usually right.
Alice's dad had a truck, and they'd hook a towing-trailer to the back of it with a motorcycle or two, and an All-Terrain Vehicle (basically similar to a motorcycle, but with four wheels).
We picked up and moved higher up the canyon trail, I rode on the ATV with Alice driving, Matt took one of the motorcycles up, one of Alice's parents took the other bike and the other parent drove the truck.
Now higher up along the canyon trails, Alice's dad offered me to take the ATV out, and went to hand me a helmet. I said, "Pops, I don't need a helmet, I can handle it."
"Sebastian, take a helmet."
"Look, I can handle it, I don't --"
He raised his hand up in a STOP gesture. I stopped. He says, "Look, you take a helmet, or you're not going on the bike. Period, end of story."
I grudgingly agreed, put the helmet on (it was too tight, and now I couldn't see as well, and I was going to sweat in this damn thing, and I wouldn't feel the wind against my hair, and, and, and...)
But fine, helmet on. I rode off up the canyon on the ATV, Matt came with me, and Alice stayed behind with her parents to prepare lunch.
We get to the top of the canyon, and it's incredibly beautiful. I've always loved nature, and when you reach a high point in nature with a view all the way around... ahh, there's not many other feelings like it.
Matt looks at me, grins, and says, "Race you down!" and takes off.
I take the bait, and tear off after him. Accelerate. Upshift, upshift, upshift. Fourth gear. Flying down the canyon.
I almost catch up with Matt, but then he makes a risky move through a rougher area and moves quickly ahead. I shift up again, fifth gear, now moving fast down the canyon, I'm on his tail, he takes a corner hard, I'm right behind him and take the corner hard and...
...I'm heading right into the headlights of a Chevy Suburban.
There was a very low speed limit in Farmington Canyon, perhaps 15 miles per hour? This was on account of stupid kids like me driving too fast down the canyon.
The Suburban (the biggest frigging mass produced car in the world at the time) was definitely going faster than 15.
They honk, unhelpfully.
I pull the bike right, narrowly miss the SUV.
Or, well, not, because I'm about to head off a cliff quickly now.
I try to pull the back to the left and over-correct... I feel like I'm close to the edge... I make it...
...my front tire is off the ground.
Oh, this isn't good.
Rrrr----------roll thr-crash, thump thump thump thump!
Matt's over me. "Oh my god, dude, oh my god, are you-"
I sit up.
Where's my shoe?
I'd been wearing a pair of blue skateboarding shoes, and now my right shoe wasn't on.
I look around for it. I don't see it.
Matt leaves to get his parents, and I'm still looking for my shoe. Suddenly Alice, Matt, and their parents are there. I don't hurt, but everyone looks scared.
I spot my shoe. It's quite a ways away. I now recognize this condition as "shock"
Alice's mom was a doctor - she was an OBGYN, not a trauma doctor, but she checked to make sure my neck and back was okay before taking the helmet off.
I look at it. It's shattered down the front of it. The little flip-plate that you can cover your eyes with is literally broken in half, hanging in two awkward pieces. There's a crack down the middle of the helmet. That would've been my head.
I bruised, broke, or fractured all my ribs down my back left side, which was, y'know, bad. But that was the extent of the damage, and I healed from it in less than a year. I'd have been dead if I wasn't wearing the helmet.
I learned half of the lesson right then, which is safety stuff and precautions are very cool. I always wear a seatbelt, a helmet, and otherwise pay attention to safety briefings when doing sports or adventuring.
The other half of the lessons - slow down - took me having a knee injury in the gym five years later to learn. I wish I had a little more foresight and didn't have to pay such a high price for lessons, but I'm glad I've learned them. I've unfortunately probably already put more than a normal lifetime of mileage and damage on my body over the years by virtue of exploring and trying a variety of dangerous things, but then, I think I've picked up more than a lifetime of lessons and adventures and experiences as well.
But I still remember that lesson from Farmington Canyon - wear a helmet, a seatbelt, check and double-check before doing anything dangerous, invest in good safety gear, and otherwise do what you can to mitigate the chance of catastrophe. Most of the time it won't matter, but when it matters, then it really matters.
Subscribe to SEBASTIAN MARSHALL
Get new posts sent to you. If you change your mind later, unsubscribe with one click.
You're a member of this community! Use the buttons on the right to vote on ths post or share it with others. Or leave a reply below.