(Note: I first want to congratulate all the writers that contribute to River Hills Traveler for all the good stories and entertainment I have gotten from them in the past. Thank you.)
Back when I was a kid we were outdoors and camped a lot. Jack Lilly was an integral part of my growing up.
Jack and his dad, Chuck, belonged to the same Boy Scout troop my brother and I did and we all went together.
One weekend the troop camped near a quarry; you know, it is always more fun as a kid to be near water.
Well, since there was water and there were rocks, and there was one of my friends near the water, I had to see if I could startle him by throwing a rock into the water.
I must say I did a perfect job of aiming and throwing that rock. After I let go of the rock I could tell it would come close to the dock.
Now, if you have ever heard a rock enter the water from falling a distance, gravity acting on it the whole way, you would know that it doesn’t make just a splash, it’s kind of like a whoosh.
The rock entered the water perfectly about fifteen feet from the dock that Jack was standing on. Jack was actually looking in the opposite direction when the rock whooshed into the water and it made him flinch and snap his neck around.
As Jack whirled around in surprise I could hardly contain myself. Even though I was a great distance above the dock and about one hundred feet from the edge of the water, I was afraid that Jack would hear me laughing and snorting with excitement.
Jack stayed and looked at the water where the rings were emanating from then walked to the other side of the dock where he was standing before. I just could not contain myself; I had to throw another rock.
Even though these rocks were about an inch in diameter, they flew great and entered with a perfect whoosh. I pitched another rock over the bluff and watched it enter almost exactly in the same place.
Jack spun and rushed over to the sound and found more wave rings and nothing else. By this time I knew Jack could hear my cackling above on the bluff, but he continued peering into the clear blue quarry water.
Jack looked in that same spot for such a long time and even stretched out on his stomach, put his chin on his hands and was going to stay there until that noise would happen again.
I guess I could have thrown another rock while he was watching, because he would not have been able to see the rock before it entered the water, but I waited. It seemed like forever before Jack got up and started walking off the dock.
I just wanted one more throw to keep him there and then I would go down and ask him what he was doing on the dock.
As Jack took his second step away from the edge of the dock, he spun around as I threw the third rock. The instant the rock left my hand, and Jack had turned to go back to the edge of the dock, I had a bad feeling about the trajectory of that third rock.
As the rock made its parabolic path I could see that the rock might hit the dock. Now Jack was walking toward the edge of the dock, and the rock looked like it might clear the end of the dock, but Jack intercepted the long arch and the rock made a bad sound as it bounced off his head.
Jack fell to the wooden dock holding his head. I know it had to hurt even though he was wearing a cap
Boy, did I feel bad after whacking Jack in the head with that rock.
After all, Jack was the friend my brother volunteered to lower into a deep pit cave. Jack was with me on the Huzzah River when we got lost in that cave. Jack was one our friends that rode bikes down to the Mississippi River and went swimming.
One of my best friends was hurt because of me and all I could say was man, that’s quite a knot on your head when I got back to camp. He walked around with a chunk of ice for a while and then it looked like he forgot about it.
Now, as a Boy Scout, there are a multitude of ways a guy could get a knot on his head, and I knew it. I just walked away and planned how to tell Jack I threw the stone.
This secret bothered me for more than 37 years, until Jack came back from California for his father’s funeral. The evening of visitation Jack was reminiscing about all the camping trips we went on and all the trouble we got into.
This, I thought, would be a good time to clear my mind of the terrible travesty that was done to Jack many years earlier. I started by asking Jack if he remembered that cool quarry we camped at when we were growing up, and Jack said he remembered.
I continued by asking if he remembered that he got hit in the head with a rock while standing on a dock that same camping trip? The time passed so very slowly while he stood in front of me, staring at me, thinking back at that event.
Jack finally knew that I was the one who bounced that rock off his head many years earlier.
I started to sweat. I could feel myself flush and get hot. Was Jack going to finally get revenge and punch me? It was out! I was glad! After 37 years the truth was out and I felt better! If he punched me I deserved it.
Then, Jack said, “I was wondering what happened that morning on the dock,” as a smile came over his face.
As I stood in front of Jack, he said, “I ought to get even with you for that move, but I won’t, thanks for telling me.”
Jack has since passed, as well as many of my Scouting and camping friends but I still have the memories. The truth did set me free and after all those many years, I can think back on that accident and memories positively instead of getting a lump in my stomach.
Some lessons are hard when growing up, and even to this day I remember that stupid move on my part.
(Bob Brennecke lives in Ballwin, Mo., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)