Saturday, January 17, 2015

Born At the Right Time

Did you know during this week in 1919 the city of Boston suffered a disastrous Molasses Flood? A Boston Molassacre, as some called it?

A molasses flood? Right, and I was mugged by a gang of snails.

Looks like my kids' bedrooms. Too soon?
I had never heard of this awful event until a few days ago. But it truly was awful. Twenty-one people and several horses died. Scores more people were injured. After the poorly constructed tank exploded in the unseasonable January Boston warmth, it sent molasses down the streets of Boston at 35 mph, tugging people down with it, complicating rescue attempts.

It's one more reason to be thankful I live in the era in which I do. I am totally ill-equipped to handle and protect my family from a molasses flood. Aren't we all, really? But I more than most. I'm thankful to live in a time when giant, out-of-code vats of molasses aren't just sitting around, given to spontaneous, rocket-propelled floods that will carry my loved ones to their death, or worse, Philadelphia.

But even if for some reason all that happened, I'm thankful for cars that can travel faster than 35 mph so we can beat the sloppy goop to safety--assuming we're not stuck in downtown Middletown, DE, where traffic flows slower than the traditional molasses, the kind that's not shot out of a drum and wrecking everything in its path.

I'm thankful for media that would alert me right away to this mess if my family were somehow near the affected area--though I'm not thankful for the fact that they'd call it "Molassapocalypse" or "Molassamageddon". "Molassacre" works just fine, thanks.

Mostly I'm thankful for the cars, though.  Any transportation is better than horses. To wit, I also learned through some amateur family genealogy that my great-great-grandfather William died when his horse and buggy got hit by a train. Typical. I can totally see this happening to me, provided I ever learned how to properly mount and direct a horse in the first place.

According to the story, in 1903 William and his friend tried to cross some railroad tracks and got stuck, but rather than bailing on the operation as his companion did, William stayed the course and got destroyed by the oncoming train, his left leg "being mashed into a jelly, apparently without a whole bone remaining." He lived for about 20 minutes after the crash.

I'd rather be washed away by molasses, given a choice.

Still, horses. I've ridden horses two times and both times ended poorly. The first, I was seven or eight years old, riding some old nag that could barely move, and I fell off. Just fell off. No reason to, no explanation, the horse was barely moving. Just fell off onto some gravel. The second time, about 10 years later, I rode another allegedly docile horse in a wooded area, only to have the horse spooked by a car and take off through the woods, dragging my face through some low-hanging branches while I suggested a leafy "whoa" (more like a "Whooooooooaaaa") in vain.

Ultimately I came away from both incidents unscathed, or at least much less scathed than poor William. But I did walk away from the second horse incident swearing off (and at) horses and haven't gotten back on since. However, last summer I took one of my sons to the racetrack and to a place on the grounds where you can pet the horses after they've raced. Like a noob I stood with my son in the worst possible spot, behind the horse...if something had scared the horse, his hind legs probably would have kicked my 5-year-old-son right in the face. Three old men nearly had heart attacks when they saw where I positioned my son, and I started swearing at horses again. Never again with these damned animals!!

So I'm very thankful for living in an era where horses are purely optional. And while I generally try to show my kids enough varied experiences so they have no fear later in life, if they see a horse and immediately run away crying, I won't blame them, they'll just be chasing me.

I've been blessed, I think, with some longevity genes. William was 83 at the time of his accident which translates to about 157 in current years. I've known several people on both sides of my family who lived well into their 90's, even without push notices and alerts about confectionery floods. I have a chance to live a long life and be there for my kids as much as possible. Just gotta steer clear of molasses and horses.

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