I Dare You

Railroad TrestleMy Real Memoir

(Heads-up: this was one of the darkest experiences of my life)

My parents loved visiting their old friends Don and Gina. Which left their only child Craig and me to “play” together. Craig was almost two years older, and a relentless risk-taker, so I frequently refused to follow his lead. And he considered me something of a pantywaist. Still, we hung out together because, well, what else was there to do while our parents visited?

Craig had an ardently devoted pet, a shepherd-mutt mix named Rusty, who went wherever Craig went. So when Craig headed for a nearby urban L.A. riverbed, Rusty was right at his heels.

Craig led us to a railroad trestle and climbed unhesitatingly up onto it, followed by Rusty and me. We’d barely arrived when we heard the blare of a diesel horn. A freight train was moving toward us at high speed. And then Craig dared me:

“First one to jump is a chicken!”

I was the chicken. A moment later, Craig made his victorious leap to the riverbank. But Rusty was afraid. Craig shouted, “Come on, boy!” Rusty whimpered, fearful of the drop. “Rusty, jump!” Craig yelled. But Rusty just stood there whining.

“Rusty!” Craig screamed.

And then the train struck. It hurled the frightened dog between the steel beams and onto the riverbank twenty feet below.

Craig ran to him. Rusty was panting hard, bleeding profusely, and barely conscious. Craig gently scooped him up, weeping bitterly, and carried his best friend home. I followed, crying and unable to stop my legs from shaking.

There was a vulnerability in Craig I’d never seen before—and never saw again. The veterinarian amputated Rusty’s tail and re-set his hip and leg, but infection set in and Craig’s faithful companion died a week later.

I’d like to say Craig changed after that. But he didn’t. A few years later, on a dare, he and two other teenagers got drunk and raced across town in a convertible. All three died. I don’t know how I knew, but the moment his mother called our house, I knew. I didn’t know how to pray back then, but I do now, and I’m praying for each of the people involved as I write this.

Craig’s parents split up the following year. Decisions don’t occur in a vacuum, they send ripples into lives far beyond what we can see, and up close those ripples can be tidal waves. It was my first personal brush with tragedy.

I might have slipped past the panic. But a month after the incident with Craig’s dog, I had another train encounter that completed a one-two punch to my pre-adolescent psyche. Was it a precursor to the anxiety I would later experience as an adult? Maybe, I don’t know. Or maybe my brain was simply trying fear on for size. Our minds are like that. Fear is always a possibility.

But so is the overcoming of fear.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

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

34 Responses to I Dare You

  1. Pingback: Our Replacement Home | Mitch Teemley

  2. Wow, Mitch. Just that. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ejstoo says:

    That’s sad. Kids tend to do dumb things sometimes. Their brains aren’t fully formed. This is why I say why would you want to be best friends with your kid…be a parent. You can develop a relationship, but always recognize that kids can do dumb things. It becomes less so as they age…sometimes. Reason a lot of people don’t make it to adulthood. Sadly, lost some kids out of our school as well…over summer car driving too fast, other things. It’s always devastating. More often than not preventable, but not preventable.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. smpilmoor says:

    Wow. What can I say to that. Fearfully awful enough to make anyone terribly anxious. I am so sorry for everyone involved. ?? Life does have a ripple effect. SORRY.

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    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s just awful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane Fritz says:

    Wow, that is one sobering story, Mitch. Wow!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. K.L. Hale says:

    This broke my heart for everyone involved. I can imagine the impact it had on you. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such tragic loss. My heart aches for all persons involved. Your closing statement about overcoming fear is not easy but through Christ is possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Webb Blogs says:

    Oh my Mitch, how awful.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How heartbreaking. Some life lessons are so hard, but even harder are the times we don’t learn from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I agree with Annie above: heartbreaking. Lord, have mercy on incognizant, heedless souls.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mitch,
    I wept my way through your story that reads like a powerful parable!
    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Adelheid says:

    This is just sad. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Mary Sweeney says:

    I wish blogs had Emoji’s, Mitch. I’d hit the “like” button for the great story telling quality and then the sad Emoji for the story content. I remember reading this back a few years ago as I was traumatized by just reading it! Can’t imagine the trauma you felt. So glad you were able to face your fear and overcome.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. usfman says:

    I observe the same reckless attitudes in the motorcycle daredevils that run lights and flagrantly exceed speed limits in South Florida. I need experienced any personal loss because of their antics si wonder why I see them differently than I did many years before.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Coleman says:

    How horrible, for everyone! I can understand why it made such an impact on you…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. murisopsis says:

    So tragic and such a short life… True, actions do not occur in a vacuum and all our lives touch each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Dawn Marie says:

    So much to learn from – thank you for sharing this moment with us and the lessons which shaped you. Most especially, hugs to you for learning to pray….and all the many you’ve lifted up since then.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Robyn says:

    Wow, Mitch, those harrowing childhood experiences that shape who we are today. What a tragic story. Yes, fear and panic are real and are a part of life. I am so thankful for my God who is my Rock and my Foundation to help me overcome these stumbling blocks.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jennie says:

    This is so sad. No wonder it’s still a dark memory for you. Not many teenagers who did dangerous things came out as adults like you. Finding the way is a journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: My Phobia | Mitch Teemley

  22. Hetty Eliot says:

    Oh man what a story. I can see how that kind of thing would haunt a person forever. I’m sorry about your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. leendadll says:

    OMG… I would be traumatized for life! If I’d been Craig, I probably would have killed myself (literally).

    Remember that fear has a purpose. Even when it seems excessive, I find there’s often something else from which that extra level saves me.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. That’s so sad, especially since those deaths were completely unnecessary and preventable.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: The Boy with Two Brains | Mitch Teemley

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