A snapshot I treasure is one of me and two of my older brothers, Frank and Charlie, enjoying a late spring day in 1946 along the white sand beach of Rocky Neck State Park, Conn. I treasure it because it was taken just after World War II when Bill, Frank and Charlie had arrived home, and for the first time in many years we were a family again. I also treasure it because I learned something new and unusual that day.
I was sitting on the warm sand watching a swarm of seagulls diving down onto some sandy flats that had been uncovered at low tide. They scratched at the soft sand, came up with something in their claws, and flew out over the large rocks of the breakwater that protected the beach from wave erosion. Dropping their catch on the rocks, they landed, pecked away at it, and ate it.
Curious, I walked out to the end of the breakwater, where I saw that they were dropping clams on the rocks to break them open so they could eat them. The next day, while in the school library, I decided to look up such things. Running into a cross-reference in an encyclopedia, I read the first of three examples of incredibly good or bad luck, which have genuinely startled me.
Way back in 455 B.C. a Greek playwright named Aeschylus found himself living in dread because of a dire prediction that he would be killed by a falling object. Fearing the indoors, where a stone falling from the walls or ceiling of one of the stone buildings of the day might end his life, he spent all his time outside, far from buildings, trees, or any other overhead threat. Only under the open sky did he feel safe.
One day, the totally bald playwright was sitting outside under a clear blue sky, where he believed he was perfectly safe. A large vulture flew over him; and thinking the shining bald pate below was a flat rock, the vulture dropped a tortoise on it, killing him.
I could hardly wait to tell some of the other kids in my freshman class about it. It became the talk of the school for days on end, everyone saying it was probably the worst case of bad luck in the entire history of the world.
However, you think that was bad luck? Listen to this!
One Saturday evening in July of 1950 I leaned back to relax and read the New London Day. A story on the radio four days earlier had reported that 53-year-old Barney Doyle, once manager of a heavyweight boxing champion, had suddenly collapsed while sitting in the Polo Grounds, the New York Giants baseball stadium. When the police arrived they found that he had been shot in the head and killed by a bullet. Remarkably enough, the Day article reported, the 14-year-old who fired the shot had already been found and arrested.
Celebrating the 4th of July, the youngster said, he had fired just one round in the air. That round came down in a baseball stadium a quarter mile away, killing a man. Talk about incredibly bad luck!
And guess what? Here’s a link to the actual 70-year-old Day article!
Go online to this column at: https://www.paysonroundup.com/opinion/columnists/ for easy click-on links.
More next week.