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Russell Frank: Tales of the Highlands Includes the Fumbler and the Furnisher

by on April 20, 2012 6:20 AM

If you are shopping for a house in the borough of State College please do not read the following story.

Late last Saturday afternoon – hey, no peeking! -- three young men came galloping across my front lawn. One carried a football. The other two were trying to relieve him of it.

The one with the ball stumbled or maybe was shoved into a tree. He fumbled the ball, bounced off the tree, tripped over the curb and fell on his face in the street.

The other two guys, naturally, rushed over to see if he was OK.

Just kidding. The other two guys, having recovered the fumble, ran, laughing, back up the street. I called 911.

A moment later, still laid out, eyes closed, cartoon birdies circling his head, practically, the stumbler-turned-fumbler turned mumbler, a good sign under the circumstances. Mostly he was colorfully swearing that he was not going to sue someone or other.

Since I couldn’t get him to get up and get out of harm’s way, I assumed the role of traffic cop, waving cars around him. Soon, a young woman stopped to help. Then a neighbor came over. They pulled him to his feet and then forced him back down onto the grass when he tried to stagger away. Apart from a cut on his nose, he didn’t look as bad as he surely felt.

Soon, a police car arrived, then an ambulance. The fumbler was not happy about the EMTs’ ministrations but was way too wobbly to do anything about it. For a while he sounded like a scratched phonograph record, saying, “I’m not gonna (effing)…, over and over. A few times he was able to advance the needle to “sue you” before he jumped back to “I’m not gonna.”

The officer got the fumbler to divulge his name and birth date – yep, under age  -- and asked him if he’d been drinking. “Is the Pope Catholic?” I muttered.

The EMTs got him strapped to a backboard and explained to him that they were bringing him to the hospital to have his shoulder looked at.

And off everyone went.

The shocking part of this story, of course – aside from the fumbler’s failure to appreciate that his face plant was not part of the marketing plan for my house – is his abandonment by his erstwhile companions. The obvious explanation is that they too were under age. In those situations, apparently, it’s every man for himself. I have heard stories, for example, of under-age drinkers driving an unconscious buddy to the emergency room and dumping him out and speeding off before anyone could question them.

Then there was the former student who popped into my office and began his tale of woe by saying, “I am in so much trouble.”

The trouble started when a neighbor, too young to obtain a keg of beer for an upcoming bash, asked if he would be so kind. He agreed.

The furnisher didn’t actually attend the party, but it must have been a good one -- so good, that one ecstatic guest began jumping up and down on the sofa. The sofa, alas, was positioned rather close to a window. Thus, after one of his jumps, instead of landing back on the sofa, Bouncy Boy pitched out the window.

The distance from window to ground, according to the furnisher, was 35 feet. When the party hosts saw what had happened, they sprang into action. Specifically, they spent the next 45 minutes cleaning the apartment.

Satisfied that one could no longer tell that this had been the scene of a jump-up-and-down-on-the-sofa kind of soiree, they called 911.

Bouncy Boy, who could not have spent a very enjoyable 45 minutes in the bushes 35 feet below, turned out to have broken his back.

A critical component of the apartment cleanup, meanwhile, had been getting rid of the keg. The furnisher was thus summoned. Apprised of the situation, he did what any panicky 21-year-old would have done: He loaded the keg onto his truck, drove into the woods and cast the keg into the wilderness, never to be seen until later that night when the police, having traced keg to furnisher, persuaded him to show them where he had dumped it.

Unlike the non-litigious fumbler, the insurance company that paid the cost of putting Bouncy Boy together again sued the furnisher.

And that is why, like he said, he was in so much trouble. 

The only good news in all this is that no one was touring my house at the time of the face-plant incident. But if any of you potential buyers ignored my suggestion that you skip this column, look at it this way: Life is about having stories to tell. Here in the Highlands, we’ve got a million of ‘em.

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Russell Frank worked as a reporter, editor and columnist at newspapers in California and Pennsylvania for 13 years before joining the journalism faculty at Penn State in 1998. He roots for the Yankees, plays blues guitar and harmonica (badly), bikes and hikes for physical exercise and does The New York Times crossword puzzle for mental exercise. He is, by academic training, a folklorist (Ph.D., UPenn), which means, when you strip away all the academic jargon, that he loves a good story. He is the author of "Newslore: Contemporary Folklore on the Internet." His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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