Be The Ball!


Winter sports are justifiably popular in the frozen north. However,
such stuff can be terribly unforgiving of foolishness. Public domain.

I had one particularly unfortunate soldier when I was stationed in Alaska. We’ll call him Billy. Billy was a good kid, but he grew up with a dearth of positive role models. We were putting him out of the Army for writing bad checks, but that process takes a minute.

Our arctic military base sported a well-lit ski slope that was visible from all over post. The Army just teems with arcane rules. Included among the myriad of obscure dicta was a prohibition against farting around on the ski slope after hours. However, these were young American males. You can take the boys out of second grade, but you’ll never take the second grade out of the boys.

On this particular Friday evening, Billy and his mates had parked at the base of the ski slope and trudged up to the top with big inner tubes to do some after-hours, off-the-books sledding. Somebody spotted the mischievous scamps and alerted the MPs. The Army cops met the motley mob at the top of the hill and directed them to go elsewhere and do something else. My guys requested and received permission to make one last run to get back down to their vehicles. Cue the ominous music …

Installation of a colostomy is a critical aspect of many life-saving
medical procedures. However, all things being equal, most folks
would sooner avoid one if possible. Photo by Bruce Blaus.

Everything is Physics

Billy launched down the sharply angled slope atop his inner tube. As it is not physically possible to maintain any semblance of directional control on such a primitive conveyance, he drifted off the track and struck a light pole a glancing blow. Fret not; there was no significant harm done … yet.

Billy bounced up in the air only to awkwardly remount his hurtling tube. This time, he was on his back, clinging for dear life with his legs flailing vertically in the air. It was in this inelegant configuration that his butt impacted the ski rack set in concrete at the base of the slope. He was traveling at, conservatively, three times the speed of sound when he sheared off that big piece of treated lumber with his rectum. By the time his buddies reached his side, he had eviscerated himself through his anus and was in the midst of a grand mal seizure. Billy’s entrails had tragically become his ex-trails. Investigators discovered one of his testicles in the snow the following day. To put it mildly, Billy was in a pretty rough way.

Come dawn, I located Billy in the hospital. Before I went to med school, he was the person nearest death, but not technically dead I had ever seen. He miraculously survived the first few days and underwent his first of several surgeries. Among other things, this ordeal earned him a colostomy bag. For those unfamiliar, a colostomy is a surgical procedure wherein your large bowel is plumbed through a hole in your abdomen to a bag on the outside. Once complete, a colostomy leaves your butt free to heal, meditate, sleep, or whatever without further molestation. Surgeons perform them for a wide variety of very good medical reasons.

The Inimitable Power of Family

A combat unit is a tribe — a curiously dysfunctional tribe without any secrets. Although Billy was a poor soldier, he was a good kid. We all wanted him to thrive. Given the sordid circumstances, his separation proceedings were quietly binned. He became a barracks rat, spending his days nondeployable in the orderly room answering the phone. In this capacity, I recall he did a simply spanking job.

We all followed his progress from a distance but with legitimate interest. If nothing else, Billy’s travails reliably put our own problems in perspective. You take stuff like pooping for granted right up until it’s gone.

After several more surgical procedures, Billy finally had a test. His surgeons were going to insert a rubber ball in his butt and then start a clock. If he could hold the ball in place for a fixed period of time, they would reverse his colostomy, and he would get to poop like a normal person again. If he failed, then that bag would become his lifelong companion. Test day was a big deal, and everybody knew it.

As he departed for the hospital on the big day, Billy’s buddies slapped him on the back with heartfelt admonishments to “Be the ball, brother!” and “Crush that ball, stud!”

Billy returned a couple of hours later, looking spent but happy. When I queried him regarding the events of the day, he smiled and said simply, “Held the ball, boss.”

A short while later, Billy had his colostomy reversed. He was ultimately medically retired to receive a military pension that would span the rest of his days. All things being considered, I’d say he earned that. Billy had, after all, and against all odds, indeed held the ball.

Subscribe To American Handgunner