Injuries are bound to happen when you do stupid shit in the woods. Huck your bike off of dirt jumps long enough, or ski ice through the trees long enough, and you’re bound to make a mistake sooner or later and come out with something broken or dislocated. It’s the nature of the beast. It happens. But knowing the inevitability of injury doesn’t make that injury any less frustrating or disappointing. A good buddy of mine is currently recovering from surgery because he dislocated his shoulder one too many times in the pursuit of adventure.

I’d like to say he was injured during a brave first ascent of an ice climbing route, but alas, he fell while skiing with his kids. I saw the whole thing unfold in front of me. He was going roughly 2mph on flat ground, caught an edge and fell. I pointed and laughed the way you’re supposed to point and laugh at your friends when they fall, but when he popped back up, his arm was dangling from its socket. Apparently, these things happen when you get older. Shoulders just dislocate on impact.

His shoulder was messed up enough to require surgery, which demanded eight solid weeks of total rest. This sucks for him, but I’d argue that it sucks more for me. He’s my go-to ski and bike partner. Who am I going to play with for the next two months? He gets to spend several weeks drinking beer and watching super hero movies, while I’m stuck skiing and biking solo. Who’s the real victim here?

man down franco donohueThere was a two-week gap between his shoulder dislocation and the surgery, so he wanted to do one last road ride before he went under the knife. We picked a chilly, but sunny Saturday to ride a 22-mile loop up and over Elk Mountain, our favorite road route close to town. A small group of us rode slowly, like a funeral procession up the blacktop. We joked about bringing a pistol and putting him down for good once we reached the summit of the climb, the way they used to put race horses down if they broke a leg.

We had beers at a bar at the end of the ride, and argued about politics and super heroes the way we always do. It was fun, but kind of sad, like an Irish wake. We’ve had a couple of Whiskey Wednesdays without him since his fall, and those nights have also taken a slightly morbid tone, with us pausing for a moment of silence in the parking lot and tipping a bit of our whiskey out for him. Traditionally, you drink Jameson at a wake, but considering we live in the South (and he’s not Irish) I’ve been going with Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye instead. It’s a stellar, spicy rye made in Virginia that feels appropriate for the solemn, but still awesome weekly ski sessions.

We make a point to send him pictures of us shredding the local hill and having a blast, and then laugh in unison as we think of him sitting on his couch, all doped up on Percocet. Because that’s what you do when you have a Man Down.

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