That's me on the right. (I think.) Keith probably just told me he wore the helmet because he liked football. No doubt it was actually always on to protect him from any more damage by me! That football I'm holding belonged to our dad when he was a boy. He made it himself, sewing leather sections together with cord. I'm pretty sure he still has it! (He still has string and rubber bands from the Depression.)
The Physics of Brothers
I have a very smart brother. I wasn’t aware of that when I was a kid. I thought he was ordinary, as many older sisters might think of their little brothers. I didn’t know until I was a lot older that he was more of the extra-ordinary variety.
Here’s a snapshot of what kind of brain grew inside that hard head of his that I constantly tried to crack open. In middle school, he taught himself how to fly (an AIRPLANE folks—not like when I tried to learn to fly by jumping off the second-story loft of a friend’s barn). He learned by studying the textbooks of a pilot family friend. And when each volume of our Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias showed up in the mailbox, he took it into his room, shut the door, and didn’t come out again until he’d read from cover to cover. (I liked their bright orange covers.) He got his engineering degree at CU Boulder, then his master’s at School of Mines, and now has his own company. You get the idea. He is one smart dude.
He’s pretty lucky, too, come to think of it. Lucky that he survived childhood with me as his sister. (I’m thinking that thought might of crossed HIS mind many times before it hit me.) With me always working to test the boundaries of his resilience, his strength, patience, bounce-ability, and survivability—among other things—it’s pretty amazing he reached adulthood.
And I’m sure someone as brilliant as he, even as early as when he was seven or eight, was eternally baffled by the fact that we both came from the same gene pool.
Let me give you an example that might make all this clearer. One day while playing out on the front sidewalk, I decided to test physics. Of course, I didn’t know that was what I was doing. But I bet even then, he could and would have told me what I wanted to try wouldn’t work. The math just wouldn’t support what I had in mind. You see, he and Tad were riding their bikes back and forth in front of me, flying past where I stood by the mailbox. I decided—without asking—I’d join in on the fun and play the part of traffic cop. While they were circling the block, I tied a rope to the top of the thick post of the mailbox. It dangled down, and from the bottom of the post, I snaked it along the crack across the sidewalk, out to the street. When they came again, and Tad flew by, I yelled, “Green Light. Go!” and he passed by with hardly a glance in my direction. But when my brother came careening on, I wanted to change it up. Make it more interesting. It clearly was time for a Red Light. With all my might, I tugged that rope taut, stretching it between myself and the post on the other end. “Red Light. Stop!”
Well it doesn’t take a genius to know what would happen. But it would take someone smarter than me, apparently. The rope hit him pretty much straight on the larynx. Anyone who knows physics (or has an iota of common sense) would know that just couldn’t work out well. Okay, so I was clueless. The bike kept going—something about physics and forward momentum and all that. But my poor brother stopped. Just like the traffic cop ordered. He hit the ground, wondering I’m sure, what in the word had hit him. He couldn’t speak of course, with his larynx in the back of his throat now. I didn’t really catch on to what had all transpired, in spite of him rolling on the ground holding his neck and no doubt trying to cry out for someone to come save him from me. It just seemed to me traffic cop wasn’t really all that exciting, with them going when I said Go and stopping when I said Stop. So I mozied on, unaware what I'd just done, probably to go find my sister’s Barbie Doll to pull her head off or something as equally wretched.
Another time I tested physics with him using the tire swing. But that is a story for another day. In the meantime, I’ll just say he’s extraordinary enough that he still talks to me. :)
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