Thursday, February 28, 2008

02/27/1986 The Day My Life Changed

Well it has been a long time since I updated my blog but I felt I need to do this. I am in one of those moods to write and get feelings out of my head. This is going to be a series of old memories that will make me laugh and smile but ultimately end in a sad but true story.

I moved to Chapman, Kansas when I was 6 years old from a city of 35,000 people. That is a large city for Kansas. I lived in Salina, Kansas for the first six and half years of my life then made the transitions to small town life. The first friends I had were the Blixt brothers Jeff, Kerry and Kyle. I knew from the first moment we met we were going to be best friends. I remember one of the first things I had to do in order to be accepted as member of the "gang". It makes me laugh remembering Kyle and his older brother Kerry say to me, "If you want to hang out with us you have to climb to the top of the old grain elevator and catch a pigeon". That's it I thought to myself. Anyone could do that. How hard could it be to grab a bird trapped in a room. So i followed Kyle and his Kerry up the ladder of the old elevator in the center of town across the street from my Mom's beauty shop and next door to my Dad's bar. "This is easy" I told them. But really it wasn't. Dust was falling in my eyes as I looked up the dark, damp and narrow ladder leading to the roof. I did not know I was going to the roof. I get up there and I can see forever.

Kyle says, "Ok the birds are in there. Go get one and you are one of us". I walk into the small room that has wire on the widows so the birds can't fly away unless they came flying towards me to go through the doorway I had just walk through. There were 15 to 20 birds sitting and eating whatever they could find. They grain elevator had not been used in 30 or so years but they still found grain to feed on. Now it was my time to get to moving. I had to move fast and focus on one bird otherwise the the flurry of flying rats would overwhelm me and I would climb down that ladder without any friends. My heart was pounding and my head was filled with nothing but catching a damn bird. I make my move and it was like i had done it a hundred times. I walked into the room and the birds froze. I crouched to the ground and quickly snatched a dark grey pigeon by the neck and brought it to Kyle and Kerry. They rest of the pigeons flew out of the room behind me as I presented the boys with my prize and key to unlocking the door to the clubhouse. "Good Job!" That was enough said as I tossed the pigeon out the window. As it flew away, thinking back now, I am sure that stupid bird was as happy as I was at that point to be alive as I was to be apart of something I needed. It was the beginning of a new life for me.

However, as quick as I had become apart of the gang, I too had become apart of a small town. It's hard to get away with doing stupid sh!t like climbing the grain elevator in the middle of the day in a small town. From below we hear a man's voice, "Kyle! Kerry! YOU UP THERE?!!!!" I had no idea who it was. Then..."OH F@#% it's DAD" both Kyle and Kerry said. "GET YOUR ASSES DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW" Leroy shouted. I stayed behind cause he didn't yell my name. What had happened was Leroy had been driving around with Jeff, Kyle and Kerry's older brother and noticed the bikes. Jeff tried sticking up for us and saying it was not our bikes and to go on but Leroy knew better. So,as the Blixt boys are just getting to the bottom of the ladder and reaching the ground I hear some asses getting smack around then "Neal, I know you are up there too. I called Murphy (my Dad) and he is on his way down here too." I made the slow climb down just in time to see my old man get out of the truck. I didn't get in as much trouble the others got but I did get in some trouble. They both asked who planned this stunt but none of us talked and that ensured my membership into "The Gang". At that point the craziness began for me and the need for adventure has never stopped.

Wow, that felt good to write that.
Here is another short one that happened years later.

Let me set this up for you. It is the middle of winter in Chapman, Kansas and the snow is falling, wind is blowing like always and it is about -20 F* with the windchill. It's cold and we had been shoveling snow for money and sledding all day long. But now it was time for some more STUPID SH!T. We are in the pasture next to my house and Kyle makes a bet he can climb the highest on the radio tower. You know the ones that alternate red and white ever 20 feet or so. I said "How much you got" Kyle said, "Eight dollars". It was on. That money was as good as mine. Other kids try it out but it is windy and snowing like someone had dumped cotton from the sky and they didn't get very far. Maybe past the first red part or so. Not more than 30 feet off the ground. Well Kyle goes right before me and he goes to the second white section, which is about 60 feet up and then comes down cause he was too scared. Kyle never got scared. He was the craziest person I knew. Even though he was the youngest of the Blixt Boys he was the bravest and most fearless of the three.

I am up and the snow and ice is really coming down but I am going to climb higher. I start up the tower and quickly realize that it's a long way up to the second red part. On the way up i realize he only went to the top of the second red part and just touched the bottom of the white. I get to Kyle's turning point and look down. I can barely see the ground cause of the snow fall and the low clouds but I yell down to everyone, "This ain't that high, I'm going to the top of the next red one." That's 40 more feet. After going that high I get up and look down and can't see anyone. (This picture here is the same type of tower and gives you an idea of how high we were) What the hell was I doing up there. I got the shakes right now thinking about it while writing, yikes I yell down again but, no answer. They either can't hear me or they left. It took me what seemed to be a lifetime to get down because the tall tower was swaying in the wind. The ice was building up on the rungs where I was putting my feet and frozen hands. I get low enough to see the boys waving there arms. "What the F#&% were you doing? We have been yelling forever. I thought we were going to have to come get you." Kyle said to me. I was fine and relieved to be close to the ground. They had a sense of relief on their faces because I think they were afraid for me. At that point I knew I won the bet. "Your money is mine, Kyle!"

But the story is not over yet. Before hitting the ground I saw an opportunity for greatness. Still about 20 feet off the ground. I see it. It' big, round, white and perfect. It's about 5 feet away from the tower. There, just in reach is a large satellite dish covered in ice and snow and at the base was a huge drift of snow. Without saying a word and all their eyes on me, I made the leap. If I missed, I would have broken several bones and would have been carried away. But I didn't. I hit the top of the dish and slid down the ice-covered metal and POOF perfect landing into the 6 feet of snow.
"Holy Sh!t you are the craziest Motherf@#%$@" Kyle said to me. I stood up and said, "Where's my money?" Not realizing what just happened. I just made the wildest kid in town tell me I was crazier than he was. That meant so much to me. Having his approval was an unbelievable feeling. But, I still wanted my eight dollars. 8 bucks! I went 120 feet up at tower in the middle of blizzard and then jumped on an dish from 20 feet off the ground for 8 bucks. Kyle paid up and I will never forget what he said. "That was f@#&ing cool, Neal. You're crazy" Damn, I wish I could go back to the day and relive it again. I wouldn't change a thing.

There are many more stories to tell but I just can't do it tonight. I really miss that guy. A couple years later on February 27 in 1986, Kyle was shot while struggling over who should hold a gun next. A shot rang out and sirens filled the air of our small town. There was nothing that could be done to save his small body. He was only 12 years old. Too young to be taken away from this world. His death brought the whole town standstill. He was loved dearly by his family and friends and especially me. He was my best friend. I would never be the same after that terrible day. It was the day my life changed. I think back now realizing life is short, so take chances, make leaps, do the things you want to do in life and be happy. Never stop believing in yourself and never take for granted the great possibilities to meet new friends. Those people will lead you to new adventures and become those old friends you will never forget and always cherish.

Kyle, you will always be one of my heroes. I miss you very much.

Goodbye for now....