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Dude, my zip lining career is over

By Walter Geiger It all started with a family outing designed to provide family time together for the Geigers in the wake of the always hectic Christmas season and before the ringing in of the new year. The plan was to drive to Blue Ridge and do a zip line experience. Both Geiger girls had done this before and our outfitter billed its facilities as the best in the Southeast. As we neared our destination in the Georgia mountains, we drove above the snow line and the white stuff covered the mountains and roadside around us. The youngest daughter shouted with glee. When we got to the outfitter’s office, we learned there were two zip line experiences available. One was a 1700 foot drop that took about 15 seconds. The other was a ‘˜canopy tour’ of 17 shorter lines that switch-backed their way down the mountainside. There was room for only three of us on the canopy tour so we watched while Laura bravely went down the long run then the girls and I walked up the side of a mountain for what seemed an eternity. The walk followed a trip in an old troop carrier that, thankfully, got us partway to the top. I walk about three miles nearly every day but the vertical climb wore me out. Little did I know my troubles were just beginning. Our lead guide was a crazy, college aged guy named Shaggy. He quickly taught us the basics of zip lining and braking. ‘You’ll be fine, dude,’ he assured me with an odd glint in his eye. The first two lines were simple, learning lines and were a piece of cake. The third was the longest and fastest of the bunch. Shaggy had a system of hand signals designating when to brake and when not to brake ‘“ the brake being a hand device attached to the line. I went first on this section and was speeding down the ice-slicked line, anxiously awaiting the brake sign from good old Shaggy. It came too late and my shins slammed into the wooden platform in the tree that was our destination. In that I was basically hanging from my crotch in a belaying belt, the impact spun me, torquing my back. I was in pain but tried not to let on. In a moment of brilliant analysis, Shaggy opined, ‘Dude, I guess I need to tell the rest of them to brake a little earlier.’ There was no way down the mountain save for the remaining 14 zip lines which I endured. Over the next few days my shins throbbed and my back worsened. I went to my friend and orthopedist Tommy Hopkins who laughed at my story and took X-rays. I was sitting on the examining table when I heard him ask the tech about two spots on my films. My throat tightened. He brought the X-rays into the room and noted there was no serious damage to my spine but there were two strange specks in the area of my kidneys and looked like large kidney stones. Having survived acute kidney failure, I was getting really scared. They checked the X-ray machine and film canister, ordered me to strip and reshot the X-rays. Again I heard the discussion in the hall about the spots. They were still there but had moved. My fear heightened when the doc said, ‘I’m sure they are benign but I am going to send this to a radiologist.’ So, someone from the office ran my films down the street to another office. Soon the call came in that the spots were my morning B12 vitamin tablets traveling through my intestines on the way to their ultimate destination. I uttered a prayer of thanks and joined in on the laughter. Tommy told the story of another patient who had similar X-rays come back with multiple odd spots. Those, too, went to the radiologist who identified them as bird shot. It was soon determined the man had never been shot but had been to a wild bird supper and eaten dove or quail full of lead shot which, apparently, are not easily digested. As for me, dude, my zip lining career is over. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and the Pike County Journal Reporter.

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