My Scar Stories

1993-08-02 Ben Slide Rock State Park AZ 2

The Mother of All Calamities

When I hit 13, I was old enough to go on a YMCA Caravan. Caravans were cross-country trips in which two leaders and a dozen barely-teen boys would pile into a van and head for parts un— well, semi-known. My trips to Yosemite and the World’s Fair had their snags. But the Grand Canyon trip was the Mother of All Calamities.

It was a busy summer and all the real vans were booked, so we were given an oxidized green airport limousine, with eat-your-heart-out-Buck-Rogers fins, that someone had donated to the Y right after it reached the 100 trillion mile mark.

On day one, in 113 degree heat, the brakes gave out and we sailed half a mile into the desert before nesting in a prickly pear cactus patch. On day two, after just two hours back on the road, our transmission stopped transmissing. So we spent the next two days at a tiny gas station/auto repair shop in the town of Tiny Gas Station/Auto Repair Shop, waiting for it to be rebuilt. We slept in the limo (i.e. didn’t sleep) liked kippers in a tin.

By day five, our frantic parents were demanding that the trip be cancelled, but we voted to keep going. We were going to have fun if it killed us.

It nearly did.

We made it to Oak Creek Canyon. Millennia before humans created fiberglass waterslides with names like Black Hole and Perilous Plunge, there was Slide Rock. Built by God. We walked almost a mile on jagged pebbles, but it was worth it. Sleep-deprived, with nerves ajangle, we hurled ourselves into the wondrous cataract with ruthless abandon, sliding down again and again—until our bodies betrayed us. One by one, we crawled up the bright red embankment, like an artist’s conception of evolving amphibians, and fell asleep. For five hours. In 109 degree heat.

We awoke not as frogs, but as overcooked turkeys. We were redder than the Sedona soil. We walked the crimson mile back, our sunburned soles hitting flinty fragments. Screaming all the way.

We sat in a stream near our campground, hoping our dead red epidermis would float away in the cool blue water. It didn’t. We lay in our sleeping bags that night, moaning, and despite being manly 13 and 14 year-olds, openly crying.

The next day, the worst of us were taken to a nearby clinic to have Buick-sized blisters lanced. It was the most severe sunburn the doctor had ever seen. We smeared our bodies with prescription ointment, weeping in pain and relief. And then, somehow, we began to laugh again. We were a band of brothers, we’d survived the unsurvivable. We’d bonded big time. And somehow that made the misery almost worth it.

We did eventually make it to the Grand Canyon, after having all of our money stolen, our brakes fail (again), our trunk catch fire while we were searching for the deer we’d hit, and…

Oh, yeah, the scar. That came 20 years later when the basal cell cancer—courtesy of five hours in the Arizona sun—was cut out of my shoulder. Now, when I see the scar in the mirror, I think, “Don’t ever do that again, you idiot.” But also…

Boy, I miss those guys.

To read my next Scar Story, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to My Scar Stories

  1. smzang says:

    this should go out to all the outdoor mags.
    It is a cautionary tale, and so very well told.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So fun, crazy, horrifying etc. I loved it. My basil cell removed from my face came from my 8th grade graduation trip. My nickname became toasty which came from my completely toasted face. So I reiterate, “Don’t ever do that again you idiot!” HAHAHA

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ahhhh,what fond memories. This was awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ekurie says:

    Don’t think you’ll have a problem recognizing the “man in the mirror”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I think back to the crazy stuff, I wonder how survived adolescents.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Can’t say how many stories I’ve heard of people visiting my home state and going home red-faced and blistered, but yours tops them all! Maybe we should hand sunscreen to everyone who enters and tell them falling asleep in the sun is prohibited, upon pain of anything they’ve experienced before. 😩

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Your mother must have been worried every time you left the house. WHAT is that Mitch going to get into today… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. revruss1220 says:

    Awesome story, engagingly told. I am willing to bet each scar on each body has a story attached to it, waiting to be told.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jennie says:

    Been there, but in the girl’s summer camp version. Yours was way more exciting and dramatic. Oh, those natural water slides, and those burns. We girls relished the sun (baby oil and iodine). Crazy.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Haha that sounds like the story of my life – ‘what mother doesn’t know isn’t gonna hurt her’ 🙂
    I hope this doesn’t come as too forward or rude, and I’m glad to know you got the cancer removed – but what about the rest of the band of brothers? Are they alright?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. brunniegetchell says:

    Great story about living in the moment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. carhicks says:

    Wow, that is quite the story. They are always better when we look back on them than when they actually happened.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Compared to yours, Mitch, the sponsored trips of my youth were very dull. No brake failures. No days spent sleeping (not sleeping) in a sweltering van. No blistery sunburn. No money stolen. No burning cars/vans/buses. (I think my youth sponsors may have been a bit more responsible than yours. For example, they never would have let us sleep in the sun for five hours!)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Laughing here, once again, not at your pain, but the story itself, is priceless. What an adventure…how ever did you survive to adulthood? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: My Scar Stories | Mitch Teemley

  16. Paula says:

    ** fair-skinned woman at computer nods head and says, “Yep.” **

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh wow, I didn’t see that last part coming. It was a very entertaining read, but I hope you are all well now 🙂

    Like

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