The day Jeff lost the wrestling match

We have freezing fog here today.  Watching the hoarfrost build up on the trees in our yard this morning made me think of a funny story.

During my 5th year at UW, I was taking nothing but foreign languages, and leading the genteel, peaceful, burnout life of a gentleman drunkard in Hansee, one of UW’s quiet dorms.  The rule in Hansee was very simple:  do as you like, so long as you are quiet.  Make noise, and the math wonks will have you thrown out of there in days.

Seattle doesn’t get a lot of snow, but when it does, the city screeches to a panicked halt.  Three inches brings chaos, six brings paralysis.  We had 8″ of dry powder snow that November of 1985, with swirling winds blowing it off the trees (to our great enjoyment when some jackass pulled a false alarm and we had to turn out at 2 AM in the snow).  On the first evening, I was out with my crew messing around in it, attempting to have a snowball fight with the powdery snow.

My crew were serious game nerds.  We had Wade, a Japanese American from Spokane, plus his frat rat high school buddy Greg and the very large Chad, who looked a lot like the Abominable Snowman in Bugs Bunny.  We also had Ian, from Issaquah, the Hobbit (though he’s not really that short), and Jeff (also from Issaquah).  Jeff was interesting.  Bigger than me, but awkward, a good guy.  I was the only one who was even slightly athletic, so I was faring well in the snowball pitching and rassling.  We were out near a hedged area, and the idea was to try and rassle someone into the hedge.  Much snow would ensue, to great hilarity.

Then came the funny part.  I grappled with Jeff, hoping to chuck him bodily into the hedge, but unfortunately failed due to poor leverage.  However, he hove me into a very dense area of hedge, and I rebounded as if I’d hit a huge spring.  I got him in another grapple, and we strove with might and main for a few seconds, then he lost his balance.  I pushed off and sent him backward into the hedge, but I picked a better spot by happenstance.

Jeff backpedaled into the hedge attempting to regain his balance, but into a less dense part, actually a somewhat bare spot where a forked hedge bush was growing.  The fork was a flattened Y about six inches off the ground–the perfect place to catch both heels at once as you backpedal, if, say, some dude has just shoved you toward it backwards.  That’s exactly what happened to Jeff.  As he fell backward headlong, of course, in panic he grabbed for the hedge branches.  Not his ideal move.

I watched in delighted astonishment as the equivalent of a snow artillery shell detonated where Jeff had been.  For a couple of seconds I couldn’t even see him through the floating powdery snow, then it dissipated.  He’d fallen with his mouth wide open, saying something, so he got a mouthful of it.  Probably inhaled some.  His thick glasses kept some of it out of his eyes, but he was fully covered in the white dusty snow, spluttering it out of his mouth and flailing to begin digging out.

When I was sure he wasn’t actually hurt, that’s when I started laughing.  I doubled over.  It’s a good thing it took Jeff so long to get out of it, because he could have pushed me over with Newt Gingrich’s heart.


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