There is a tongue-in-cheek honor called the Darwin Awards. A website and a series of books celebrate people who have improved the human gene pool by accidentally removing themselves from it.

The Darwins are awarded posthumously, which is why I’ve never received one. There have been plenty of times, however, when I’ve done things stupid enough to make me a candidate. Only sheer luck has kept me off the rolls.

In grade school, I dove off a stone wall trying to grab the side of a six-foot set of monkey bars. I caught hold, but forward momentum caused my body to swing under the bars. My hands slipped off and I did a perfect half gainer, straight down onto my head. It knocked me out, but didn’t kill me. Accident? Certainly. Darwin Award worthy? Probably.

As a teenager, I decided to surprise my mom by installing a gas range she bought. There was no gas shutoff valve in her apartment. Undeterred, I unhooked her old stove and held my thumb as best I could over the gas pipe. It took a while, but I managed to push the old stove out of the way and drag the new one into place, all the time trying to minimize the amount of gas escaping past my thumb. Should have been dead. Would have been an Award winner for sure.

In my twenties while walking home from a movie, I got hit by a car in an intersection. The impact broke my leg and launched me into the air. I smacked my head on the pavement, scrambling my brains. Not only that, but I slid five feet, filling my knuckles and the side of my face with gravel. It was night time and raining. I was dressed in dark clothes and had a black umbrella. The fact that I survived kept me from being a Darwin candidate.

One icy morning when I worked in Augusta, I set out the back way with a less than perfect set of tires. Heading up Streaked Mountain, I hoped a fast start would get me up and over. As I neared the top, ice on the road got the better of my car. Tires spinning, it slowly came to a stop and began to drift backwards.

I gained almost as much speed sliding down as I’d had going up. If there had been a vehicle behind me, the Darwin committee would have called a special session.

In Africa, through inattention, I almost stepped on a black mamba. It should have bitten me, but didn’t.

And there was the time I chased a large baboon because he stole a bag of candy off our table. A Kenyan game warden later told me, “Bwana, that was very foolish. If that baboon had decided to fight you for that food, you would certainly have been killed.”

These are but a sampling of the times I flirted with the Darwin Awards. Today, I’m only slightly less stupid than I use to be, so there’s still a chance.

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