My Lousy World

Brothers-in-arms ... and ribs

By Doug Blough
Posted 8/18/20

As I began reading the July 30 bicycle-crash column, “Looking for Heather,” I began thinking, “Hmmm; I didn’t know my brother Paul was a writer.” The photo wasn’t …

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My Lousy World

Brothers-in-arms ... and ribs


As I began reading the July 30 bicycle-crash column, “Looking for Heather,” I began thinking, “Hmmm; I didn’t know my brother Paul was a writer.” The photo wasn’t Paul though; it was the battered mug of Mark Davis, yet the painful circumstances described sounded eerily familiar.

I’ve written several columns about Paul’s fluke bicycle/horse/luggage injuries. In fact, the last one I titled, “The man of 1,000 ribs.” It must have been written just before COVID because my first line was, “Just as sure as I’ll break wind sometime in March, my brother Paul will break a bone.”

Mark mentioned he’s no stranger to cycling, referencing long-distance rides with, “but that was decades ago.” There’s where Paul and Mark’s tales deviate, since Paul pretty much just became a serious biker in 2017, when he began a 2,500 mile odyssey to raise money and awareness for fighting cancer — which took his wife of 44 years, Shelia.

As did Mark during his initial cycling comeback, Paul traveled alone, from a cancer center in Texas to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Somehow he returned with all his ribs intact — a fluke in itself.

Oh, but ribs are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s been pulled groins, torn rotator cuffs, broken toes (the aforementioned luggage) and even cactus quills in several tender areas extracted by nurses. That was from an impulsively planned landing when falling from his horse in the McCullough Peaks while trying to catch his wind-blown hat on a dead gallop. You name it; Paul’s broken it.

But getting back to the doppelganger of biking mishaps, Paul and his Godsend wife of 2 1/2 years, Jane Miller, teamed up last year for the annual Peaks-to-Conga ride to and from Shell. More experienced after his maiden, cross-country pedal, he wisely decided Jane should be the lead rider so he wouldn’t get too far ahead. That was working till midway through the first leg, when he looked up to see Jane had stopped for a drink of water. Groping for the unfamiliar brakes on his loaner bicycle, you might say that, for the second time, he fell hard for the gal.

Quoting Mr. Davis, “While following my riding partner, I looked up to see his back tire within 2 inches of my front tire.” Thusly, Paul and Mark — although strangers on far-removed asphalt surfaces — were both on the ground stunned and badly hurtin’, but in an entirely optimistic way. Mark remembers telling Heather, his passing motorist savior, he was OK to continue his ride. Back home, with his face swelled up like an old catcher’s mitt, objections from wife Diana, who like Nurse Jane, has “had years of assisting those in need,” prevailed and four to six weeks recovery time was the diagnosis for his arm and hand.

Paul, while on the ground twisted up like Beetle Bailey after a beating from Sarge, also insisted he could continue pedaling. Bride Jane’s better judgment dictated a trip to the ER where his diagnosis was six broken ribs and a punctured lung. As I said in that column recount, he was probably thinking, “See? I told you I could have kept going.”

Not long after, Paul and Jane returned from a goodwill medical trip to Ecuador, where once again he came home unbroken. The first night back though, his elderly prostate insisted on a wee-hour trip to the bathroom. At some point in that dark hallway, his big toe connected dead-center with the suitcase Jane had carefully placed against the wall away from traffic. The little piggy was so badly broken, Jane ordered a wooden shoe online to keep it stable and protected. The Little Dutch Boy was again grounded.

Mark similarly wasn’t one to rest on his aching laurels, so soon after his collision, went on a hike with his “back tire friend” James, and with his dominant arm disabled, fell hard enough to the ground to cause another passing motorist to pull over in concern. Nothing re-broken, but the bad elbow took the brunt and, as Mark shamelessly admitted, he darn-near wept.

These aging warriors need to be more like me. Sure, I too live on the edge … the edge of my couch. Except for once in the middle of an extreme-sport dream, I have never fallen off or broken anything. The best offense is a good defense.

My Lousy World