By Jeff Salter
A short list of details about me which might surprise even people who know me. Hmm. Where to begin?
Though my own memories are understandably cloudy about these incidents, I’m told that I “nearly drowned” (as a toddler) when I waded into – or fell into – a campus pond at Mississippi State University when my Dad was director of the BSU there. I no longer recall who leapt into rescue me, but I’ve often insisted it was a comely coed. Ha.
About a year or two later (in Chicago), I “nearly drowned” in Lake Michigan. I’d seen a stringer of fish (tethered to the bank, I believe) and reached into the water to touch them. My depth perception was skewed (so they were deeper than I presumed) and I toppled into the cold water. At the time I first ‘recorded’ this incident, I still remembered looking up through the water at my Dad, who pulled me out. I was not yet in kindergarten during that Illinois residency.
I’m fond of startling people by saying I was bitten by a snake when I was in 6th or 7th grade. That typically gets a lot of attention … until I explain it was a water snake that I’d bought from a reptile zoo tourist attraction somewhere on the Gulf Coast. And the only reason he bit me was that I got a little spooked when he tried to crawl up my shirtsleeve, so I pulled him backwards hurriedly. Crikey! Since snakes don’t have hands to grab hold with, that sapsucker panicked and BIT me! To make matters worse, when I tried to pull him off, his fangs clamped down even harder! I had to wait until he was sure it was safe enough to “spit me out” (so to speak).
My equine tales usually make a greater impact: I’ve been bucked off one horse and knocked off another horse by a tree limb … while riding ‘double’ behind a buddy (yeah, just like in the Three Stooges).
A third horse reared back so far that he lost balance and fell right on top of me! Spread-eagled! Yep … true story. Surprisingly, no broken bones (for me or the horse).
When I was a kid, I jumped off the roof of our family house … just so I could say I did. But then I was too chicken to tell anybody (until many years later) because I figured I’d get into trouble.
I’ve fallen out of more trees than I can count, but one time I fell from a higher branch and landed on a lower branch. In the process, I blacked-out. Strange business … falling.
Most people who know me already realize that I spent nearly a year stationed at Thule AB in Northwest Greenland, about 700 miles above the Arctic Circle … and some 900 miles from the North Pole.
But not many people fully comprehend that such an assignment means that I lived in total darkness for some 60 days and nights. Arctic Night. [I no longer recall the exact number of days.] But, anyway, that’s just the part which was completely black … not counting about 30 days at the beginning of that period when sunlight incrementally dwindles down to a few minutes during 24 hours. And not counting about 30 days at the end of that period in which sunlight incrementally increases from just a few minutes daily to – finally – a regular ‘full’ day of sunshine.
Lots of guys spent most of that time drunk or stoned (when off duty, of course). I was a bit more productive: I went to movies nearly every evening, played a LOT of ping pong … and wrote poetry which amazed me in its quality and quantity.
The flip side of Arctic Night – these days called Polar Night, I think – is the summer’s Midnight Sun, when people at that latitude experience sunlight for 24 hours a day … for about the same number of days as the Arctic Night had total darkness.
In both of those extremes, it was disorienting to not have ANY visual clues whether it was A.M. or P.M. And the Midnight Sun was really harsh on those highly intoxicated guys who staggered out of the NCO club at 1 a.m. … into the blaring sunlight!
Those are a few of my surprising secrets. What is one of YOURS?