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The Hidden Dangers of Monument Park

Monument Park

Monument Park is an innocuous-looking place. We used to hang out there a lot as kids. During the summer, the city would host a camp at the park where we would make pipe-cleaner googly-eyed creatures (for the end of the summer city faire) and paint the dark and scary tunnel that ran under the big street with fresh white paint and colors for hand-prints that the transients would ultimately wiz on as soon as they got the chance. We must have done sports like tennis or something too but my most vivid memory is buying 25 cent Pop Ices at lunchtime. You know the kind that taste good while simultaneously burning the back of your throat with their chemical compounds.

The park had one of those dangerous tire swing things that was replaced by a slide which was more of a static vortex.  It created such an electrical build up for the slidee that whomever was next in their path might end up with second degree burns. Behind the jungle gym, there was a creek that was always dry except for sometimes in the spring and a poison ivy-lined path that one had to navigate to gain entrance to the park.

The picture at the top of this post is the hill which one day, out of the blue, was dotted with big slabs of rock which spelled out the city’s name. It always reminded me of a fallen Stonehenge and plenty of people complained that their tax dollars were used to commission something so mundane. Before the rocks came, we used to fly kites with Captain Al the Kiddie’s Pal who claimed that they were really secret kamikazes waiting to strike. At the base of the hill, sits a baseball diamond which hosts city rec leagues. I think Buddy played a game or two there.

During the winter, we would head over to the hill because, even though it wasn’t the steepest hill in town (all the action happened at Dogwood which had the extra thrill of having an actual ice water-filled creek at the base of its sledding runs!), we could walk to it without getting run over by anybody. We lugged our sleds and snowtubes up to the top and took runs on the smaller incline while the big kids created moguls and ramps on the steeper parts.

This is where things get dicey. For some reason, an extraordinary number of people would get seriously injured while sledding at Monument Park. Let me recount a few instances:

  • A few days after Christmas ’80 something, your very own Baby Hatchetface was trying out her  brand new snowtube. She was positioned lying stomach-down on the tube and not holding the handles. Somehow the tube gravitated toward the ramp track and hit the moguls. Baby Hatchetface went airborn for at least 3 seconds and landed face-first at the bottom of the hill. The snow tube was 20 feet away. Baby Hatchetface regained consciousness to the sounds of “OH MY GOD” and “IS SHE ALRIGHT!?” Never wanting to cause a scene, Baby Hatchetface attempted to issue a reassurance. All that came out was, “UHHNGHN!”
  • Buddy, with Pop’s blessing (“Yeah! Do it!”), decided to take his sled down the hill, surfer-style. Standing up in the blue plastic square, Buddy’s sled charged right for the steepest part of the slope which then directed him straight into the metal fence / baseball dugout at the base of the hill. Buddy stumbled to his feet with deep gashes all over his face, bloodied and crying. Pop sheepishly took Buddy home. This was the first time I remember Ma yelling at Pop.  I don’t remember if Buddy got stitches.
  • While riding tandem on a flexible flyer, Aunt Jo Jo and Eggplant Braymer (whose sons ended up 1 – a sociopathic computer programmer who tossed my science notebook into a raging fire and programmed his high school’s printer to print out 5 million Zs without stopping and 2 – a Evangelical preacher in Ocean City) decided to take a trial run down the weenie part of the hill. Midway through the ride, their sled somehow flipped over 180 degrees and Eggplant Braymer crushed Aunt Jo Jo with his massive girth. Aunt Jo Jo survived the ordeal, although her glasses were broken and her ribs were cracked in two places.

And that’s the story of Monument Park.

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