The Superman Contest
When I was five and a half years old, my family lived in a big two-story house near Mission, Texas. My brother Lee was eleven and my youngest brother, Lowell, was only one, so my brother Lynn, four years old, was my best friend. We spent more time playing with each other than any of the kids we knew, which wasn’t many because of our constant moving. Lynn and I were best buddies.
Television was in its infancy, so we had to wait until four o’clock each day to watch our favorite TV show featuring the greatest superhero of all, Superman. We sat quietly enthralled as Superman resolved one crisis after another with his awesome powers, flying through the air at supersonic speeds to catch a falling Lois Lane or crushing a bad guy’s gun like so much putty. Plus, he had x-ray vision, and that was just cool.
As soon as the show ended, we’d rush into the kitchen and tug at Mother’s skirts, pleading for her to “Make capes for us! Make capes!”
Mother would take a couple of dry dishtowels and tuck them into the back of our shirt collars, securing them with safety pins. Then Lynn and I would dash into the yard with our arms outstretched, swooshing around the trees and bushes, swishing air through our teeth for effect. Though cursed with limited earthly powers, we imitated Superman in every possible way. We were two Supermen, battling the dastardly forces of evil that threatened to destroy our yard.
But one day it dawned on us that something was wrong with our play. There was only one Superman, and here we were, running around like there were two Supermen. Only in Bizzaro World could such abject nonsense persist. One of us, it seemed, was going to have to play Jimmy Olson or Perry White. It just wasn’t right to have both of us skipping around the yard with our capes flapping in the breeze.
“Let’s have a contest,” I suggested. “Whoever wins the contest gets to be Superman.” Lynn agreed. It was the American Way.
I’m not sure which one of us thought up the idea (probably me), but we decided to hoist a rock into the air and take turns dropping it on each other’s head. The brother who survived the test with the most composure and grace got to be Superman.
We scoured the yard and garage for a suitably large rock and a good length of rope. Lynn threw one end of the rope over a low-hanging tree branch and I began tying the rock onto the other end. When I was done I stared hoisting the rock into the air. Lynn stood under the rock, bravely waiting for the inevitable.
Now, Dear Reader, you might think that I would never drop a large stone on my brother’s cranium, but I assure you that I had every intention of letting go of that rope. I also knew that my turn would be next, after which we’d decide who performed most like the real Superman. But before I could release the stone, it slipped out of my poorly tied knot and scored a nasty bull’s-eye on the crown of Lynn’s head.
Lynn’s hands flew to the top of his skull as he left forth a cry of such anguish that it could have bent steel. Blood gushed through his fingers as he bolted for home, his little legs churning as powerfully as a locomotive’s wheels. He was moving faster than a speeding bullet, and with a well-timed leap I figured he could clear the roof of our house in a single bound.
Once Mother’s initial shock had subsided (a few more years and she wouldn’t bat an eyelash at our injuries) she tenderly applied iodine and a few Band Aids, patching Lynn up as good as new. For many years thereafter, I could easily see the purple jagged scar that marked the top of Lynn’s head like a lightning bolt.
After the Superman debacle, Mother gently suggested that we play Davy Crockett (ABC 4:30 pm) Davy was an extraordinary frontiersman, trapper and “Indian fighter” but he was still just a human being from planet earth. We could plausibly have a whole carload of Davy Crockett’s running around the yard.
But there were still important decisions to be made, such as which one of us got to wear our only coonskin cap, and who got to wield our only genuine tomahawk.