Reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken (click here for review) I had to smile when she described some of the antics and misadventures of her hero Louie Zamperini’s youth. It reminded me of my brother Steve. However, I really thought of Steve when she relayed the following incident: “Late one night, Louie climbed the steeple of a baptist church, rigged the bell with piano wire, strung the wire into a nearby tree, and roused the police, the fire department, and all of [the town] with apparently spontaneous pealing.”
A few weeks ago a lady came into Buzzy’s Country Store with her young grandsons and stated that she wanted to show them what a real country store was like. However, she also noted that she had an ulterior motive. She had heard about and wanted to verify if it was true that my brother Steve had climbed up the Episcopal Church steeple, rang the bell at midnight, fell off the church and broke both his ankles. I confirmed for her that it was a true story all of it.
|St, Mary’s Chapel, Ridge, Md.|
In his low riding days and feeling good, Steve would pull into the church parking lot late at night and tell whomever was riding with him that he was “Going to wake up Nelson Dean” who lived just across the road from the church. Steve would then bounce around the corner of the church and via a lower roof make his way up onto the church’s main rooftop. He would then shimmy along the church ridge to the bell tower and begin ringing the bell for several minutes before heading back down.
One night, however, as he was making his way along the roof he slipped, fell, and landed on the side walk such that he broke both of his ankles.
When I went to visit him in the hospital the next day, both of Steve’s legs were in traction and he was in a bed in a room that he shared with an older gentleman from Hollywood. When I entered the room, I gave Steve the wisdom and advice that only a big brother could conjure up, “Maybe you should quit going up on that Church and try to ring those bells at midnight.” The old man from Hollywood sat up in his bed and exclaimed “You mean that’s what really happened to him? When they rolled him in here and I asked him what happened, he told me that he fell off a church trying to ring the bells and I thought he was kidding me. I told him “Well son, you don’t have to give me a smart ass answer if you don’t want to tell me what really happened, just tell me it’s none of my business and I won’t bother you.” But damn I didn’t think he was telling me the truth. I owe you an apology boy.” In the old guy’s defense however, it was kind of hard to believe.