It was a Saturday afternoon either late November or early December about 40 years ago.
We were at a quarry we used to swim in. Actually, we’d jump off the cliffs into the water below. My father had done the very same thing as a kid, his record was 88 feet. I had broken that record a few months earlier by 8 feet.
We were not there that day to swim. We were there to scout out places to jump from without getting hurt. Although by diving there we were doing something inherently dangerous, we were trying to make it as safe as possible.
My friend, John, was up on top and I was climbing down. I saw a shelf below me that showed promise and I wanted to clamber down. I knew I could make it, but I decided it would be safer if I had a length of rope.
I planned on throwing the bight around a boulder and using the 2 parts to steady myself down. I shouted up to John to lower me a rope.
It was a mistake, as there was some idiot kid there and he didn’t have clue one. He quietly went for his car and promptly roared off. Then, unbeknownst to us, the jerk made a panicky call to the police, who immediately called the damned rescue squad.
So there I am, on a ledge, with the rescue squad on top shouting ‘hut, hut, hut’, running around in circles and in general staging a Chinese fire drill. Excuse me. That’s not politically correct. They were conducting a Central Asian conflagration rehearsal. There. Are you happy now? Good.
I sat down on the ledge and put my face in both palms.
Then I got up and told them that if they wanted me up there, they could simply wait a couple minutes as I climbed up, but that was not what they wanted.
They wanted to save me from myself.
I was livid.
Down came a pair of lines. I wanted some rope, anyway, so I pulled out my Camp King and cut off about 20 feet of it and lowered myself to where I was going in the first place. Of course, as I was doing this, the rescue guys were shouting at me to stay where I was.
I looked at where I was and figured it was a pretty good place to dive from, as it wasn’t too high up to dive. Any higher than that and we’d have to jump.
I knew I was resigned to have to deal with a rescue worker that was going to make a big deal out of nothing, and when I got up topside, there was going to be a long, boring, stupid lecture.
There was also going to be a huge report to fill out and a cartload of other happy horseshit to deal with. There was also a pretty good chance I’d lose my temper and get arrested. Then they’d call me an ungrateful bastard and tell me how they had saved my life and I should be grateful and I’d have to face the ‘juvenile officer’ at the station.
That’s when I decided that it wasn’t going to happen. About this time, the rescue worker came down on a bosun’s chair, rested his feet on the ledge and told me to stay put. “Don’t worry, son. We’ll get you out of here!”
I looked at him and gave him the ass chewing of his life and told him that if I wanted or needed to be rescued, I’d call him.
I was not very polite.
He started to argue with me, but I cut him off by shouting up to John.
“Snag me in the lower,” I shouted.
Then, right before his very eyes, I turned my back to him and dove! It was a letter perfect jackknife, and I entered the water cleanly.
Looking back on it, it was very possible the best dive of my career.
The water was as cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra, but when I surfaced, I doffed my jacket.
Then I started to swim straight for shore. I beat John to the pickup point by about thirty long seconds and stood there shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. I knew the police officer would be busy making sure the rescue workers were OK, so I hopped in the car and told John to hit it.
We took off like a shot, got on the road and after a few minutes we were on the highway and I knew we were home free.
To this day, my biggest pet peeve of all, the one I have never gotten over or come to grips with after all these years, has been people that try and save me from myself.
Tomorrow: Where Provolone cheese comes from