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By Staff | Mar 8, 2013

It’s currently the season that’s widely known as falling.

This is not to be confused with the time of year we call autumn. Falling got its name from the huge number of tumbles that happen these days.

The laws of nature conspire to make these stumbles happen. Snow falls; thawing and refreezing takes place. Ice soon lurks everywhere like a cold, remorseless thug lying in wait for his next victim.

We blithely walk about, trusting that friction will always be there to secure our footing. But ice can purloin our precious friction, sending us plummeting down earth’s gravity well, accelerating us toward the planet’s surface at the rate of 32 feet per second.

It has happened to us all. We may have been strolling along and chatting amicably with a companion when said companion abruptly disappeared. Your first thought might have been that the ground had opened up and swallowed him or her.

A noise from below quickly disproves this notion. It seems that your companion had suddenly decided to recline upon the cold, hard ice. This is out of character for that person and you make a mental note to have your companion’s mental state evaluated. But only after he or she stops that shrill shrieking.

Or you may have been ambling on the sidewalk outside your house when the earth suddenly disappeared and you found yourself staring up at the sky. As you lay on the ice, pain thundering through your body, your dog came along and licked your face. Perhaps he thought he was helping. Or maybe he was just seeing how you tasted.

Such a tumble might cause you to call upon the almighty even though you’re not a particularly religious person. And even if you are a very religious person, some impious words may have escaped your lips.

So falling on the ice can be a life-changing event. Serious injuries can happen, but the greatest damage is often to one’s pride. It’s difficult to maintain that aura of dignity when you skulk into the office with a damp keister.

What can be done to counter the hazards of lurking ice? I suppose a person could wear crampons from November through April, but that appears to be an uncomfortable option. Crampons would also raise heck with the flooring.

There once was a time when everyone used studded snow tires. You would outfit your car with studded tires in the autumn and face winter secure in the knowledge that you had done your utmost to maximize your vehicle’s friction factor.

We should learn from this. Why hasn’t anyone repurposed old studded snow tires into shoe soles? Not only would such footwear decrease falls, it would greatly increase our nation’s supply of tap dancers.

Lacking such equipage, we are reduced to walking with a duck-like shuffle. We are loath to break contact with the ground lest the ice steal our friction.

While we all have fallen, some stumbles are more memorable than others. A tumble that stands out in my memory took place when I was about 10.

It was summertime and I had ridden my bike over to our neighbor’s farm to play with my pal Bobby. We were horsing around as boys will when we got the hare-brained idea that it might be fun to climb the old elevator that had recently been used to loft bales into their haymow.

We were about halfway up and were congratulating ourselves on our monkey-like climbing abilities when the ground suddenly rushed up to meet me. Fortunately, my fall was broken by the elevator’s tire. I also had the great good luck to land on my ribcage, one of the springier areas of the body.

The wind was knocked entirely out of me. Unable to breathe, I immediately concluded that I had sustained a mortal injury.

Panic rose in my throat as I struggled for breath. Bobby also became deeply concerned. I believe the correct term regarding his reaction would be “totally freaked.”

I was eventually able to draw short, ragged breaths and grunted to Bobby that something was really wrong. He suggested alerting the authorities (his mom) but I waved him off, knowing that we would get in big trouble for playing on the elevator.

After recovering somewhat, I told Bobby that it might be best if we called it a day. He quickly agreed, eager to avoid the specter of involving his mom. So I got on my bike and rode the two miles back to our farm with a busted rib. Kids were made tougher back then.

That incident instilled me with a healthy fear of falling. But I’m especially vigilant around elevator tires.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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