For our recent vacation, my girlfriend and I went rock climbing in Nevada's breathtaking Red Rock Canyon. Early in the trip, we spent a long day practicing traditional climbing, which involves placing gear in cracks to hold a harnessed climber's fall. Hiking back to the car afterward, I spotted a boulder along the trail. I asked my girlfriend to wait while I practiced placing just one or two more pieces of gear.
I slotted a spring-loaded tool into the boulder at head height, attached it to my climbing harness and weighted it. I hadn't checked the rock's integrity, though, and my weight pulled a large block off. The block -- about three feet long and perhaps 40 pounds -- crashed down, striking my bare head and slamming me to the ground.
For five anxious minutes I thought I had broken my neck, back, skull or all three. I spent the next seven hours in the emergency room waiting for CT scans and X-rays. The doctors found no serious injury and not a drop of blood, but they made it clear I was an idiot for not wearing my helmet. (True, though I suspect there is no brain to injure.)
My girlfriend cared for me throughout the ordeal, an ideal nurse. As the feeling of mortality percolated through my goose-egged skull, I wondered what on earth we were waiting for. When we woke up in the tent the following morning, I suggested we get married. Her response was perfect: "I think that rock knocked some sense into you."
James Galindo, Washington
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