My chest has been hurting me for over a week now. That can be a little disconcerting. And annoying. To say nothing of the runaway thoughts as you self analyze the probable causes……

It is, however, not the first time my chest has dealt with a pain issue. The initial ache came because Leon was sitting on it. I can’t remember what I had done to receive such punishment. Maybe it was just a slow Thursday out at the end of Stonewall Street. He considered it a big brothers’ prerogative. I would kick and scream and fight to no avail. I couldn’t get my breath and the pain was shooting out of my aorta valve.

When he’d finally tire of this game and move on to something else, I’d be so mad I’d tackle my little brother and throw myself on his tiny chest. SOMEBODY ought to know how it feels to have your esophagus and lungs smashed in!

I finally caught Vicki Fields one day at recess and she hit me so hard in the chest I couldn’t eat my peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch.

Mr. Joe Gooch worked at the telephone company. He had these giant wooden spools which were undoubtedly once filled with ready to be strung telephone wire in his backyard. Joe, Jr. and Richard would roll one down to the house and we’d take turns “riding” that thing.

It was a balancing act to climb upon the cylinder in the middle. And it was higher than it looked! Once they gave you a shove, you could keep it rolling with your feet. The faster you moved your legs, the faster you could get the spool turning. That field behind Mrs. Boaz’s house was a little downhill…..

I was flying toward Aunt Jessie’s backyard when I realized my feet couldn’t keep up with the spinning wheel! It literally ran out from under me. I was airborne “for a while!” The small of my back hit the rock hard field with a thunderous thud! When I came to, my chest felt like it had been run over by a gravel truck! Best I could figure I had knocked my spinal column plum through my heart.

Listen, I’m a near ’bout expert on chest pain.

And you ain’t heard nothing yet! I was standing too close behind Uncle Clifford’s milk cow one cold December morning. I didn’t touch her mind you. I just leaned in to see where all that milk was coming from….. She kicked me into the hayloft! Cape Canaveral never had a better lift off! I couldn’t speak or draw a breath for two days.

Seventeen years later, on our wedding night, Cathy asked me about the hoof print on my chest.

The grapevine swing across the big ditch got me once, or twice. Tarzan made it look so easy at the picture show. He’d swing across a fifty foot ravine with Jane under one arm! We naturally had to try that…..sans Jane of course. Ricky Hale almost made it on the first try.

I figured if I started a little further back and ran harder, this would be duck soup. I grabbed the grapevine with a full head of steam and hurtled into the abyss. I didn’t get high enough on the vine, or I slid down a tick…..

Ricky declared later it was the best crash landing he’d ever seen. My chest bounced off the top of the far wall sending me careening backwards into the depths of the gulley. I came to a sudden stop in the small stream at the bottom and lay motionless, staring up at the trees and sunlight above trying to catch a glimpse of the guy beating on my heart with the baseball bat!

Bill Johnson weighed 240 pounds on a light day. And he was the fastest player on our college football team. It was maybe my third day of practice my freshman year. He didn’t even know my name. I came running up to tackle him on the first scrimmage of the season. He lowered a shoulder and hit me so hard he knocked me into the middle of the next week! I saw stars. I didn’t think I’d ever walk again. My little chest was concave. You can not believe the pain! Four years later, as I was walking down that graduation aisle, my heart muscles were still barking at me from that collision.

Here’s the bottom line. I’m accustomed to a little upper torso pain. I can tolerate it as well as the next guy. But this pain today is altogether different……

Leon is not here. I haven’t ridden a spool in years or been kicked by a cow. I’m way past my grapevine swinging prime and I haven’t suited up for a football scrimmage in fifty years.

I didn’t see this one coming.