Kenny Cobb, my father’s ride-or-die motorcycle compadre, believes some things in life are simply meant to be.
In Kenny’s case, he and trouble were meant to have some mighty intense scuffles.
Those brawls have quite the mileage, going all the way back to Kenny’s childhood. The ornery son of a Baptist preacher, Kenny and his daddy, Edward, realized very early that ol’ Ken would be getting his hide wore out before church ended every Sunday.
There wasn’t a switch or branch left on that hillside by the time Kenny grew up.
Once, when he was about 8 years old, Kenny spotted a little green snake and stuffed it in his pocket before heading inside his daddy’s church in the West Alabama community of Zion for the Sunday service.
The snake provided some good entertainment for the youngster Kenny, who surreptitiously took the fork-tongued reptile out of his pocket to show a fellow back-pew buddy. All the while, Kenny’s daddy was busy preaching yet another fire-and-brimstone message of holy deliverance
Intrigued, Kenny’s buddy asked if he could hold the snake, too. Never one to hog the fun, Kenny obligingly handed it over, but his buddy promptly got scared.
Down went the snake.
No doubt, the congregation prayed for all sorts of deliverance and strength – spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and so on – when they spotted the snake slithering among the pews.
Unflinching, Kenny’s daddy reached a stopping point in his sermon before stepping down from the pulpit to snatch up his son. Outside they went, where Kenny’s daddy proceeded to whip the devil out of him.
Sure enough, Kenny got his tail tore up that day. On another, nearly a decade later, he almost got his head tore off.
This happened back when a 17-year-old Kenny was helping build a plank fence on a dairy farm in Zion in 1980. As he was trimming the project’s last two boards, Kenny’s chainsaw suddenly kicked back and struck his neck.
Coming out of his back, the blade was merely a quarter of an inch away from nicking his heart. Kenny did, however, remove his own tonsils.
Maintaining consciousness as rags were packed in his neck to try to control the river of blood, Kenny was put in an ambulance and rushed minutes away to the nearest doctor in Gordo, who gave Kenny less than 20 minutes to live:
“Hell, he ain’t gonna make it to Northport!”
Bear in mind, now, that Kenny was still conscious and hearing all of this.
Speeding toward Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa, the paramedics aimed to defy Kenny’s none-too-promising forecast. But things got even grimmer when the ambulance sputtered to a halt.
Calling for back-up, the paramedics received the awful news that no other ambulances were available. Refusing to give up, they reached out to a last resort: a funeral home.
Shortly afterward, as the paramedics desperately worked to get the ambulance running again, a hearse pulled up and followed Kenny to the hospital. Its presence certainly added the extra emphasis that was needed for the situation, as the ambulance’s siren stopped working during the rest of the drive.
Kenny received 18 pints of blood during that hospital stay. But he bounced back, just as he did the other three times a chainsaw struck him. He’s even had three trees to fall on him.
But ol’ Kenny’s a fighter, and lately he’s been whipping cancer. When he can, he and my father ride motorcycles, going on benefit rides and crossing items off their bucket lists.
Kenny looks forward to every trip, even the time he was trailing other bikes while heading toward Fayette, and he just so happened to get stopped by a particular traffic light where, just months prior, he’d previously wrecked his Harley. As he waited for the light to turn, the first vehicle that went by was a hearse.
That time it wasn’t for him. But I reckon the hearse was letting Kenny know it was nearby, in case he needed it.
Keith Huffman’s book, “The Portable Creek: Southern Nostalgia and Other Shenanigans,” is available to order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and keithhuffman.com.