"Why Walt Ledford limps"

As told to me by Walt Ledford of Big Elk Meadows

by Arthur Vyn Boennighusen

I first met Walt Ledford about three years ago while I was fishing in Mirror Lake in Big Elk Meadows near Estes Park, Colorado. Walt was standing about a hundred feet to the right of me on the shore of the lake near the outlet stream. My companion this day was our Chesapeake Bay retriever "Tai-Chi".

Well, old Tai-Chi had been blind for about ten years and as usual he was exploring the area near me as best he could. I did not pay much attention to what he was doing until I heard a deep voice calmly and clearly say "If he pisses on my leg, I am going to come over and pee on yours!". Upon hearing this I turned and saw that Tai-Chi was just starting to lift his leg to pee on Walt, mistaking him for a tree or a post (remember Tai-Chi was blind).

"No, Tai-Chi !!" I shouted as I ran over to where Walt was still casting with his fishing rod. I managed to grab his collar just in time to pull him to the side and watched as the stream of urine passed by Walt's leg by about four inches.

"Sorry mister" I said to Walt. "My name is Arthur, I am new around here. What is your name?".

"My name is Walt Ledford, which is German and means "someone who pulls someone across a stream with a rope" " was his reply as he walked over to shake my hand. As he came toward me, I noticed that he had a terrible limp in his legs. Walt saw me looking down at his limp and said with a twinkle in his eye: "You are probably wondering why I limp so badly".

"I did notice you were limping, Mr. Ledford" I commented. "Did you get hurt in an accident or are you just real old".

"You are right on both counts, young man. I am 177 years old as of last June. People born in June are under the influence of the astrological sign Gemini. You probably know that a person born under the sign of Gemini has two aspects to his personality and that is the way I am."

"As an example; I always tell the truth except when I am lying." Mr. Ledford explained with a big smile that exposed his silver tooth.

"However, I mainly limp because of an accident I had when I was your age when I thought I had figured out a faster and easier way to do my job." Here is what happened:

I was the foreman of a construction company who supported Public Service. Our job was to pour a cement slab with these big bolts sticking out of the corners and direct the efforts of a helicopter that would lower a high tension electrical tower onto the slab where we would tighten down machine nuts onto the bolts until the tower was held in place on the slab by the bolts.

The kind of electrical towers I am talking about are around three hundred feet tall and usually made of a gray galvanized metal. You often see them standing like sentinels across the desert areas of the American West. These towers carry thirteen thousand volt electrical service from a electrical generation station to a town or city.

Well, after we got a couple of towers in a row in place we then were responsible for stringing the braided steel cable that acted as the conductor of the electricity between the towers. This required climbing up one of the towers and attaching the end of the cable to the tower with a clamp that gripped the end of the cable. Once we had the end of one cable securely clamped, we climbed back down to the ground, walked about an eight of a mile to the next tower dragging the cable attached to the first tower, climbed up the second tower with the other end of the cable and attached the cable to the second tower using the same kind of clamp.

Each set of two towers had six separate cables strung between them so we had to climb up and down the towers over and over all day long; stringing strand after strand of cable.

One day, while complaining amongst ourselves about how slow and tiring it was to climb up and down the towers stringing the cable we had an idea that looked like it could save us a lot of time and effort. This was the idea:

Why not string a single strand of cable between the first two towers just like we had always done. But after getting the first cable securely in place, we would clip the metal snaplinks that mountain climbers call caribiners between ourselves and that first cable and pull ourselves hand over hand between towers; stringing the remaining five cables as we went.

Well, we thought this was a great idea and from that day on, we adopted this new method of stringing cables between towers as our new way of doing things.

All went well until one day after I had just finished putting the first strand of cable between towers and had clipped into the cable for the hand over hand traverse between the towers. I was about fifty feet from the first tower and three hundred feet off the ground when the clamp that held the cable to the tower let go its grip. It turned out that the last shipment of clamps that we had received were slightly larger than they were supposed to be and while they looked like they were holding the cable real good; in reality they only gripped the cable enough to hold the strand under its own weight.

When the clamp let go of the cable, I went sailing through the air like that jungle movie character Tarzan toward the second tower where the cable was still firmly held in place. Needless to say, since the distance between the towers was greater than the height of the towers I struck the ground still holding onto the cable.

I regained consciousness about an hour after I struck the ground and discovered that I was severely injured. In fact both of my legs were broken so badly that the heels of my feet were along side of my head next to my ears AND I had one broken arm that was pinned under me.

Not knowing what else to do, I decided to straighten out these broken limbs on my own. The first thing I did was to use my one good arm to reach across my chest and pull the other broken arm from under myself. The pain was so great that I passed out for a little while. When I came to I reached up to one of my feet next to my ears with my one good arm and pulled one of the broken legs down into a more natural position. Again I passed out from the pain.

When I came to the third time, I reached up next to my ear and grabbed the other foot and pulled the second leg straight. Again I passed out from the pain, this time for almost an hour.

While I was still passed out, my workmates came upon me lying there all broken up and one of them named Gary decided that maybe I had a heart attack on top of all the rest of the injuries. Well Gary had just taken a CPR (Cardio pulmonary resuscitation) course and so knelt down and started to give me mouth to mouth resuscitation. While Gary was working on me, I became conscious again and when my eyes cleared, all I could see was Gary's big old head bent over mine and feel his mouth and lips on my own.

Being in shock and not remembering the accident very clearly I decided that I had simply taken a nap at lunch like I always did and that Gary had decided to take advantage of me while I was asleep. Never having liked Gary very much and being very unhappy with his mouth and lips all over mine; I pulled back the fist of my good arm and let him have a good punch in the jaw which knocked him right out.

This got everyone around me to yelling and hollering about what had happened until I understood what was going on and let them take me to the hospital without further incident.

I spent almost a year being in and out of the hospital on the road to recovery. The doctors still make me take a shot of Jack Daniel's bourbon each day for the pain. I have recently decided to increase the dosage to about a half a bottle per day. You know you have to take care of yourself when you are 177 years old like I am.

Copyright 1996 Arthur Vyn Boennighausen