The basement in our house on 9th street was a kid domain. The stairs were dark as you came down, with a heater room behind you, and a workbench directly in front. My grand father used the workbench when he lived with us.
The rest of the basement was a large open room, some where between finished and unfinished. The floor had white linoleum tiles and the walls were cement block, painted light green. It was dry and well lit, there was a washer against the back wall, no dryer in those days, we had a clothesline in the back yard.
In good weather we were pushed firmly out of the house but in bad we often congregated in the basement, our hide out; friends came over. I remember a pool table there but that was later.
This day my sister and I had built some kind of play horse, which we hung with ropes from the ceiling. You could sit on it and pretend you were riding, chasing outlaws, or you could wind it up and spin fast till it wound down. Once we realized we could spin like that it became the major game.
For some reason we had my grandfather’s hammer, a substantial tool, heavy with claws on the back. We tied a long rope to it, I had one end of the rope in my hand and Terry was holding the hammer, with its handle tied to the other end. I don't know why I did it; In fact I could say that about many things I did as a kid.
Any way, maybe we both wanted the hammer or maybe I thought it would be funny to jerk it out of her hands. Sitting tall in the saddle I yanked hard on the rope. The hammer flew out of her hand and smashed into my forehead. I remember seeing it in a slow motion arc, sailing across the room, but no time to move. I remember feeling resignation and then my first taste of rock hard inevitability.
There was a flash of light and I was on the floor, a little stunned and bleeding but my head was very durable as I proved over and over again in my youth. My sister ran and got our parents. My mother, quick with first aid, my father, slowly coming down the stairs, taking in the situation with an incredulous long look. Even in my wounded state I could see him trying to piece together the probable sequence of events that had led to this moment. He was fairly certain by this time that I was not his child. It took me years to discover I was not unique. The truth was eccentricity and general odd behavior flowed through his entire family.
Legendary was my cousin Mike’s sleigh ride down Washington Ave. during a big snowstorm. It was a straight steep hill, over a quarter mile long, that ended at the river. He must have been doing 35 miles per hour by the time he hit Broadway and the traffic. Went right under a moving car and came out the other side with only a gash on his head. Wheels and lethal damage missed him completely and improbably. John Owens, a school buddy of mine, watched the whole event.

I still have a scar from the hammer.