I got about a quarter of the way finished the initial tear down by means of lowering heavy pieces of metal tied with rope down an extension ladder I had leaned against the scaffolding for this purpose. A particularly large and unwieldy section got stuck half way down the ladder. In order to unhook it from its place I was forced to step over the top rung of my wobbly cage and find the safest available rung on the ladder.
This, apparently, was not the best idea. In so doing I made a most unwelcome discovery. Sometime in the brief 48 hours that the scaffold had been erected, someone had, for some reason, felt the need to release the braking system I had so assiduously established, obsessively re-checking countless times. I was about to discover the egregious nature of this oversight.
Once both feet found their place on the first available rung, the scaffold, and the ladder with it, began their slow, almost imperceptible movement forward. It took a few seconds of this slowly moving metal monster before it started to become a conscious recognition on my part that I was indeed moving. I was, in fact, falling.
Ask anyone who has suffered the misfortune of having gravity as their dance partner and they will attest to a strange, slow motion quality to the whole affair. Worse still is the fact that this grisly dance that only ever has one winner must suffer the further insult of kinetic energy as its cruel chaperone!
Time slowed to a crawl as my eyes darted this way and that searching for the best available place to land. My mind, busily calculating all the possible geometry for this coming event, filled with thoughts as banal as, “shit, I’m falling!”
One always grasps for the most positive outcomes when faced with tragedy. “It’s not so bad, I’ve fallen before and come out alright” passes lazily through my brain as the ground looms ever closer. Mustering whatever courage I had left over from the shock of initial descent I push away from the scaffold so as to avoid all things metal and bolt-like. The grim illustration provided by my angry redneck cousin’s promise of “ripping me a new one” was, at that moment, most alive. I am coming to the end of lucid memory of that day. The last few recollections are these: I think I hit the ground first with my left foot. Another of those fleeting thoughts crosses my mind, “man, I really put my back out this time!” Only later was I to discover just how “out” my back truly was.