Many summers ago, I was in Denver visiting my sister and her family. One morning, someone suggested a game of golf.
I don't play golf. But I figured, nice day, get some exercise, move the legs, see some scenery, try my hand at it. What the hell. So, off we went to a course whose name I no longer remember. My brother and brother-in-law were playing, and my nephew was there, too. Playing at a high altitude helped, since even a bad shot went further in the thin air. The course was fairly narrow, and some new houses were being built on either side of the fairways. Around the third hole, I realized I was actually having fun.
Not that I knew what the hell I was doing. I just reared back and let her rip. Sometimes the ball went somewhere, and sometimes it trickled off the tee disconsolately. I took a lot of mulligans. No one cared. It was just a good time on the links.
Somewhere along the seventh or eighth hole, I teed up. It was a par five. I would have been happy with a ten. I wielded some kind of driver, a number five, if memory serves. I liked that little head. I did some obviously fake warm-up stuff, stepped up, reared back and swung. Thwack. Miraculously, the ball took off from the head of the club and sailed high and long away. That felt good!
And then mid flight or so, the ball began to curve right. What is that called? A slice? Or a hook? Well, it curved right and headed directly for the houses that flanked the side of the course. "Uh-oh," my brother-in-law said. "Get ready to pay for a window," my brother said. I didn't hear any glass breaking, but of course we were pretty far away. "Nice shot," my nephew said. "Even better of it had gone straight."
We walked down the fairway until we came to where I thought the ball had gone. There was a house, and then, next to it, a house in the middle of being built. I walked to that house, the walls of which hadn't been raised yet, and encountered a man, obviously a carpenter, lying face up on the wood floor, arms outstretched, a hammer in his open hand. One of his fellow carpenters was kneeling next to him and saying, "Dude! Dude! Can you hear me! Dude, are you ok?"
Next to the prostrate man was a golf ball. Indeed, as it turned out, my golf ball.
Restraining my first urge to flee, I walked toward the poor guy who was moaning, but not dead. First good stroke (no pun) of good luck.
"Dude! Speak to me!" his friend said. And, thank the gods, he began opening his eyes.
"Whappened?" he asked dreamily.
"You got beaned by a golf ball, Dude. I think it was this dude who did it." He looked at me.
"Hi there!" I said.
"Oh, my head hurts," the injured party said, rubbing the back of his head.
But the fact is, he came around. He even sat up. I apologized like an insane man, offering to take him to the hospital and pay whatever bill there might be to be paid, hoping an operation wouldn't be necessary.
"No, man," he said, continuing to rub the back of his head. "That's ok."
"What are the odds of that happening?!?" I said cheerily, picking up my ball.
And guess what--it was ok. I got his number and called him the next day, and he couldn't have been sweeter. I apologized again, and he really was all right about it.
But for years afterward, I would hear that refrain at family gatherings,
"Dude! Dude! Can you hear me? Dude!"