Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jimmy Hay, a retrospective...

I met Jimmy Hay through my friend B___. They were both lifeguards at the Richmond pool. Jimmy was the first person I ever knew who had his long hair "styled" (he had a girlfriend who was a beautician, you see). The three of us had a lot in common, guitar playing, song writing, motorcycle riding and raising hell in general.

I remember one night in Emil the Buffalo's (a bar, back in the day, out in the sticks, where the owner really was named Emil and he really did have live buffalo out back). We were doing tequila shots with salt and lime and stacking the shot glasses up in front of us. I don't know about anyone else, but I had like 16 in front of me in a pyramid. Anyway, the discussion got around to if you could really stand up on the seat of your motorcycle and let go of the handlebars. Eventually, we left to go to B___'s brother house in New Baltimore.

Today, County Line Road is a continuous strip of subdivisions, but back then, it was a long, long road of empty farmland. And, on the trip there, everyone (but me - I was chicken) stood on the seat of their motorcycles and tried to let go of the handlebars. Nobody did (thank God) and about half way to New Baltimore, my bike's rear tire blew out. So, I pulled it off into a wheat field, covered it up as best I could, and got on the back of B___'s bike (it was maybe 10 or 11:00 PM and no way to fix it or get it fixed at that point. I'd come back for it tomorrow).

We got to B___'s brother's house and decided to do some serious drinking (there's a joke in there, somewhere) and guitar playing. We all decided to spend the night, except for Jimmy, who said he had a late date.

The next day, we learned that on the trip back to Richmond, Jimmy stood up on the seat and really did let go of the handlebars. I can just imagine how cool he felt, for a moment! But, the moment passed, the bike went down and he skidded like a quarter mile on his face. Later he told us he went to three or four farmhouses until someone would let him in (hey, a bloody face is a little scary). Finally, someone called 911 and he was rescued. But, we called him "Scab" for a long time after that!

Flash forward: Jimmy helps save my life.

My friend B___ who was (and still is) an avid photographer, wanted some photos of bikes jumping in the air. So, the three of us, B___, Jimmy and me, went to a favorite dirt-bike spot back by the Belle River (maybe a quarter mile from the road). B___ was getting his shots and everything was going okay until I jumped my bike and got a bit twisted. Instead of on the path, I landed in tall weeds. I goosed the throttle a tad and swung wide to get back on track. I was probably going about 30-40 MPH when I hit a four-foot lightening-blasted stump hiding in the five-foot grass.

The bike took the brunt of the damage as I went over the handlebars. All, except for my left leg. That managed to find a jagged edge of the stump to hang onto and ripped my leg open (smashing the bones) from my knee to my ankle.

Now, if you are not a dirt bike rider, you would not know this, but you fall down a LOT. And, as a result, you are mentally trained to get back up quickly, get to the bike and turn it off (leaking gas and a running bike can be a problem). So, after rolling a bit, I jumped back up to shut the bike off. About a half second later, I fell back down. I looked down and damn near threw up at the mess that used to be my left leg.

B___ and Jimmy came up, and here's where I lucked out. B___ had been in the Navy, assigned to that helicopter that flew around an aircraft carrier to save pilots who had to ditch in the sea. So, he knew like every first aid thing in the world (they taught them right, in the service) and Jimmy was going to college to be a phys-ed teacher (not sure how that got so different, as I read his obituary and he lived and died working for Ford at the Romeo truck plant), but, as a result of his training, first aid was first and foremost.

Seeing the massive blood loss I had going on, Jimmy threw himself on me, found my main artery and pressed down so hard it hurt (even discounting the smashed leg). After making sure Jimmy had the right spot and had slowed the bleeding, B___ jumped on his bike, which was a road bike, NOT a dirt bike and went for help (later on I would learn he dropped it once, just getting to a phone).

Meanwhile, it was me and Jimmy. He paid no attention to my entreaties for something to drink (I was dying of thirst) nor to me saying that something was biting me (later, I learned I had been laying on an ant hill). He just kept pressure on my leg. So much so that a month later, I still had bruises on my inner thigh from the boy and his life saving techniques.

The rest of the story, (the ride to the road on a hood of a jeep, my missing being an amputee by just a doctor's chance passing by) can all wait for another day.

The fact is that I am reading the obituary of Jimmy Hay, who, back in the day, was my friend and who helped save my life.

Damn, this sucks...


  1. Is there anything that we can do for his family?

  2. Dad,

    That is a beautiful story. Thanks Jimmy Hay and B___ for doing what was necessary to save a life. RIP Jimmy Hay.