The sun’s rays couldn’t quite make it through the haze, but their warmth still caressed our bodies. It was June on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska and the muggy air drained us. It was just the beginning of summer, but it was hot. Yet, we kept playing. The yard was large, only to be cut off on one side by a forest of tall grass and beetle infested trees and County Road 7 on the other. The grass in the yard, less than a week before a lush green, was now fading to yellow and flattened by tire tracks. The only hours it was allowed peace were during the memorial service and once the sky reached a vibrant mixture of deep purples, soft blues, and effervescent oranges – the time of day when soft, smooth arms turn into itchy feeding grounds for mosquitos.
It was aged; its tires needed refilling about every 20 minutes; its paint was chipping in spots. It was aged, but it was mine. Not only was it mine, it was mine and no other grandkid had even received a dime! My 13 year old self viewed it as a symbol for how loved I was; it showed the world that I was the favorite. I was the proud owner of the golf cart and the other four grandkids owned nothing but their jealousy.
Looking back, the fun we all had, the laughter we shared while ruining Grandma’s lawn, it feels somewhat wrong. Sure, grandpa’s funeral had taken place months ago. Our grieving had occurred way back in October, and even before then when we found out about his cancer. But the reason for our 12 hour trip to the edge of the state was for his memorial service. Our time there should have been spent reliving memories of him, not killing all of Grandma’s sod and almost one another in the process. But we had found out months ago when Grandpa prepared his will that he was leaving the golf cart to me and we had been waiting to put its nine horsepower engine to the test. And put it to the test we did.
We flew around the corners of the house, verbally agreeing to not let any of the wheels off the ground, but secretly trying to tilt it just enough… . We sailed over culverts (which led to a list of over a dozen agreed upon rules on how not to drive the golf cart), we crashed into trees (rule number six or seven, I believe), and we nearly sent me to the E.R. (breaking at least half of the rules). The time I could have died is actually really rather a funny story (or at least that’s what we tried to tell our mom years later when we finally fessed up to how we really used to spend our time on the golf cart).
It was our final day at Grandma’s and we were beginning to tire of our now old golf cart routines. My sister suggested a festive game of golf cart truth or dare, which quickly turned into only dare, since the truths were far more boring. With each dare the stunts grew more and more challenging, more and more dare devilish. On my turn, my sister dared me to jump out of the golf cart. Easy, I said. Wait, there’s more, she said. I had to jump out while it was roaring down the steepest and longest hill on the property, jump out at its top speed, and sing “Amazing Grace” while doing it. Easy, I said. We’ll see, she said.
We coasted up the hill. At the top my sister pressed her foot firmly on the e-brake while she asked me if I had experienced a change of heart. Evidently, my foolish 13 year old self hadn’t though, because the next moment we were zooming down what felt like a mountain. I was standing up, the hot wind shooting against my face, and belting out how sweet the sound of Amazing Grace was. I can remember thinking that it would be a good idea to jump forward when I took my literal leap of faith. My hypothesis was that it would hurt less. Perhaps if things had gone better, I would have been right. But, as I sprang from the passenger side of the golf cart, scream-singing that I was once blind but now could see, my projectile was in line with that of the half ton golf cart. And it was coming in hot.
I did my best to get out of the way. I was fast enough to sit up, but in the milliseconds of time I had to react, that was all I could manage. In no time at all the cart was on top of me. Then it wasn’t. Then it was again. The pain I can remember feeling wasn’t as terrible as the panic that took over once my brother and sister had careened over me, skidded to a halt, and sprinted back to me. The golf cart had trampled my bent over back, leaving deep scratches down its entire length. I was bleeding, but not profusely. I was crying, but mostly from shock. I would be fine, we decided. Mom and Dad would never need to know, we agreed. For days afterwards I was sore. I can remember leaning against the body of the hot car the following morning and leaping up quickly, the sun-warmed metal scalding my fresh wounds. But over the course of weeks the scratches faded leaving no traces of scars. All was fine, and the accident served as reinforcement for every warning our mother had given us about using the golf cart safely. We would never again pull a James Bond and jump out.
Years later, my brother and sister home from college on Christmas break, we told our mother about that summer misadventure. She made me turn in the keys for a week.