Scared Spitless

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

I don’t like to get scared. I’m not talking about the anxiety you feel waiting in the dentist’s office or that initial worry when you look in your mailbox to see a letter with a return address to the Internal Revenue Service or that feeling of sudden panic when you are hurrying home in the car and when it is too late, notice that a police car is parked off to the side looking for traffic violators like you.

No, those are all unavoidable, lump in the throat, knot in the stomach facets of life.

What I don’t like is the all is quiet, you’re minding your own business “Boo!!” kind of scare. Whether the scare is intentional or not, I sometimes go ballistic after someone surprises me unexpectedly.

Now spiders and snakes don’t bother me. If you hunt and fish or work in the woods, you’re going to encounter a few of them. They are expected, but that still doesn’t keep my heart from skipping a beat or two when I see one lying along a trail where I’m walking. And it’s even worse when a hunting, fishing or walking companion casually and all-too-calmly comments, “Huh, look at that snake next to your foot.”


I don’t like to intentionally scare myself and so have never watched any of the Freddie Kreuger movies or the hockey-masked Jason films…or any other in that genre, for that matter.

Several years ago I was mowing at the Gorrel Cemetery a mile or so east of town. It is a very peaceful resting place situated just inside a wooded area. Some of the tombstones show birth dates back into the 1700’s.

Being interested in local history, as I pushed the noisy mower past the multitude of grave markers I had a chance to read about who was buried there and wondered what kind of life story they could tell. I had recently been in a production of “Spoon River Anthology” which takes place in the graveyard of the community of Spoon River. Those buried there rise up to tell brief snippets of the humorous and tragic, bland and exciting aspects of their life in Spoon River.

Push mowing can be somewhat boring and I was all alone and lost in thought contemplating what Spoon River stories those resting beneath might tell when, as I turned the mower around to make another pass, I looked up and there was a man standing next to a grave at the entrance of the cemetery.


Shutting off the mower and trying to slow my now trip hammer heart, local fire chief Steve Murphy apologized explaining that he knew I would be startled when I saw him but I would have been even more instant heart attack prone had he walked up behind me as I mowed in the cemetery and tapped me on the shoulder.

Yep, doing that, he risked getting a running lawnmower up side the noggin. Adrenalin-crazed people can do some pretty amazing things.

I wonder if scared spitless qualifies as a viable defense in court?