My dad was stationed at Kelley Barracks. We had been there almost six weeks.
When I was in high school in SC we hardly had any weights to lift at school. Back in those days, coaches thought if you lifted weights you would become muscle bound and not be very athletic.
The most I lifted with was 110 pound set – we only had a 10 pound bar, & 5 & 10 pound weights.
At Kelley Barracks, we had access to the post gym. They had a complete set of Olympic weights! The problem was I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to lift with me. So I lifted by myself.
On this day, fifty years ago, two soldiers came into the gym after I had been lifting my light weights for over an hour – I was tired & ready to go home. They asked me if I would like to lift with them!
They were huge – bigtime bodybuilders (like the Arnold Schwarzenenggger of days gone by). The gym had a flat bench to use for bench pressing with no side poles to hold up the barbell.
I should have said, No thanks”, but I didn’t. My ego got the better of me & I said, “Sure!”
They both weighed over two hundred pounds each – probably more. Soaking wet I was hard pressed to weigh one hundred and sixty pounds.
They loaded up the forty-five pound bar with four forty-five pound Olympic weights for a total of two hundred and twenty-five pounds.
You can see where this was going! I had never lifted more than one hundred and ten pounds before – ever. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me – I wasn’t going to be embarrassed or intimidated by these guys.
I lay down on the flat bench. One of the big guys handed me the two hundred and twenty-five pounds and turned to talk to his friend a few feet away.
I took the bar down to my chest, got it up about six inches above my chest and my wrists snapped back. The bar caught me right at the bridge of my nose!
The big guy took the bar off my face. Blood was everywhere. It was spurting above my face – it got in my eyes. I thought I had blinded myself!
The two Arnold-like guys were able to get an Army ambulance to come to the gym. The nearest Army hospital was many miles away – at Robinson Barracks. So the ambulance went to the dispensary at Kelley. There an Indian doctor examined me (there was no x-ray equipment at the dispensary) and asked if I thought my nose was broken.
You could move my nose from one side of my face to the other. I answered in the affirmative. He sewed me up with black cat gut. I had a nice “Y” across eyebrows & down the bridge of my nose.
The doctor said I was “lucky” – if the bar had landed another quarter inch higher on my face, I would have killed myself.
My mother couldn’t stand to look at me at the dinner table. I had to eat by myself until my two black eyes and swollen face subsided.
Three positive things came out of the misadventure. One, I was working at the Kelley Barracks Officers Club as a waiter. I received the best tips I had ever gotten in my life during the weeks of recovery. Two, a month later I was be enrolled at the University of Maryland, Munich, West Germany campus at McGraw Kaserne for my freshman year of college. Three, I learned to lift much better at the gym at McGraw Kaserne. I added Bob Hoffman’s Weight-On protein powder & a can of Metrecal® to my daily milkshakes before I lifted. I gained ten pounds and was able to bench press three hundred and twenty-five pounds and squat five hundred pounds before I moved on to the University of Kentucky in 1966.
Coach Bear Bryant (1913-1983) once said, “When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should do about it. 1. Admit it. 2. Learn from it, and 3. Don’t repeat it.”
Six and a half years ago I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I feel very blessed to be living in what I call extra timeouts! Our Lord continues to bless us each day.
Six years ago today I had open heart surgery, too. And I’m still kicking!
I am reminded of what New York Yankee Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) once said toward the end of his life, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”