The Big Buck Contest

Next Saturday, is the date of the local big buck contest, an annual event and as usual I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think I’ve missed one in the last 25 years.

All the usual characters will be there and the format will be familiar.There will be three categories of the bucks, local, all California and out of state. For the last few years, the contest has been held on a weekend and it has a family flavor, but that hasn’t always been the case.Winning the contest at least once is on everybody’s bucket list.

This weekend the event will be filled with wives and children and attendance numbers will be higher than ten years ago, when this story took place and probably there will be a little less drinking and the crowd will be more subdued.

Ten years ago this was an all-male event.

A good friend of mine has attended the big buck contest almost every year for longer than I have, but misfortune overtook him about a dozen years ago and he had a stroke. Unfortunately for him, he laid on the floor for quite a while before he received help and the effects of the stroke became permanent, leaving him disabled.

As is still the case, he was able to walk a short ways in those days, but not far and generally traveled by wheel chair. His friends, myself included, made an effort to include him in events whenever possible and the big buck contest was an event that he almost never missed.

My brother, Rob, and I took pleasure in assisting him to the big buck contest where he was popular with the guys, especially those who didn’t have the opportunity to see him but once or twice a year.

Over time, the inability to exercise as well as his propensity to consume food led him to become somewhat overweight, but what the heck, he had to enjoy something. The stroke left him paralyzed on one side and hampered his ability to communicate, but he could carry on a limited conversation and worked hard at it.

The guys could usually figure out what he was trying to say.

On one particular night, the big buck contest shifted to a new venue. The room was upstairs and we had to take my friend to the second floor in a small elevator. It was a tight squeeze and there was no room for a second person in the small space. We were a bit anxious as the door closed and he disappeared upward. Without trouble he made it to the top and the door opened.

As we arrived his many friends moved in to visit and offer him drinks, which he accepted with a smile. Everything seemed to be going well, so Rob and I dispersed into the room to say our own hellos.

The night wore on and all was going well, when I checked in to see how my friend was doing. He indicated that he needed to use the toilet. Now we were entering uncharted waters as I’d never had to accompany him to the toilet on our previous ventures.

I just assumed it would work out fine as I wheeled him to the John. I got the wheelchair in place helped him raise his 300 pound body into the air. So far so good. Standing behind him I helped him move into position, leaving the wheelchair behind. I helped him get his trousers down, clear his underwear and use his good arm to take aim. At that point I offered to leave him on his own to do his thing and he seemed to accept my initiative.

I backed out of the small room and closed the door most of the way, acting like a body guard watching over a crime boss.

All of a sudden a major thud rattled the room and I immediately knew what had happened. When I looked around the corner of the entry to the narrow room, I could see him lying on his left side, face next to the toilet, not moving. Somehow he indicated to me that he was OK.

I told him I’d get some help because I couldn’t lift him by myself. Retreating into the room I grabbed the first two young men I could find -two guys who were not oversized and looked capable. It wasn’t long before they were in the bathroom lifting back onto his feet.

Amazingly, there seemed to be no damage. The two young men who had helped melted back into the crowd and before long my friend was back at his table ready to continue the party. As before, I left him mostly alone with our mutual friends who continued to buy him drinks. Naturally I suggested he hold it down. He was not normally a heavy drinker, but the situation was ripe.

Dinner was served and the awards were presented. All the while my friend was surrounded by buddies having a great time. As the end of the event neared, it became apparent that we needed to get my friend home sooner rather than later and as we approached the elevator, we once again grimaced at the prospect of putting him in the elevator alone, especially in his inebriated state.

We were in a bit of trouble when the elevator stopped at the bottom floor, but the door would not open. After a bit of panic, we finally succeeded in releasing him at ground level and soon we were rolling well and in the parking lot.

I was driving a new Hummer at the time and I really enjoyed that vehicle, but it wasn’t the perfect car for transporting a 300 pound partially paralyzed former deer hunter who was very inebriated. We muscled him out of the wheel chair and got him to step onto the running board and eventually into the passenger seat.

Once again we were relieved and thinking we were out of trouble. I walked around the car, opened the driver-side door, stepped in, pushed my key into the ignition switch and started the vehicle.

For some reason, which I do not remember, I decided it was necessary for me to exit the vehicle and go back to my friend’s door. As I stood next to the door, my friend wobbled back and forth and then with a fairly powerful motion he leaned out with his right elbow and hit the lock switch. Clunk, all the doors locked in unison.

The key,  the only key, was in the ignition. All the windows were up. My paralyzed and inebriated 300 pound friend sat in the passenger side of the vehicle nearly motionless.

Yelling and beating on the door produced no positive sign. He could not unlock the door. Now I was wondering how bad this might get. I did not have my cell phone in my possession, so I borrow a cell phone from a friend and called the phone number for ONSTAR a GM service that boasted an ability to open the door of cars which carried the ONSTAR package, particularly valuable if the owner’s key was lost or locked inside.

This would be our savior. Like magic, a voice came on the line. “Hello, this is ONSTAR.” I provided the necessary security information and the voice on the line said something like, “OK we’re ready to open the doors, make sure you don’t interfere because we have only one chance of making the happen.”

I replied OK and turned towards the passenger door just in time to see Rob yanking on the door handle exactly at the same moment that the attempt was made to use the ONSTAR door-unlocking method.

Oh no! What option was left? We had blown our remaining chance to  release my paralyzed and passed- out friend. Time to find a lock smith.

As I stewed and paced while looking for a lead to a midnight lock smith on the borrowed cell phone, I noticed movement in the Hummer. It was my friend who was now swaying back and forth in the passenger seat. All at once he leaned to right, much like he had at the beginning of this issue. His elbow once again came down on the door lock and clunk, like magic the door was unlocked.

We were saved. And, that should be the end of the story.

But not quite.

As the three of us drove towards my friend’s house, he once again rocked in his seat. This time rather than sideways, he rocked forward and back. With a tremendous belch, vomit shot from his belly. It was a mammoth shot from deep within his large body. As is typically the case it was not just one belch, but two or three.

It was quite a sight when his wife came out the back door to get a report on the results of the contest. You might think that she would be upset, but she took it in stride like an angel, she accepted the fact that this was just another of life’s trials.