By Jason Rackley

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Long-time visitors to my site remember when I broke my back running Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon, an accident I emerged somewhat shorter and a little wiser from (well, maybe not wiser, but definitely shorter..)

For the first week or so after accident I was bed-ridden, loaded up on pain killers and oblivious. (Well, oblivious until Groovy, our brand-new kitten, leaped off a shelf and landed squarely on my crotch, causing me to jump and then nearly pass out from the pain of sudden movement.. Groovy was banned from my room for her own protection after that..)

My L1 and L2 vertebrae were crushed down to about 60% of their original size, and there were a number of bone fragments embedded in the tissue surrounding my spine; quite painful. Fortunately I was starting to lean forward when I landed, so most of the damage was on the anterior (front) side of my spine. Otherwise, there is a good possibility I would have damaged my spinal cord.

Anyway, There were two especially large bone fragments (thumbnail-sized on the X-Ray) that the doctors were particularly concerned about, and there was a good possibility I would have to have them surgically removed. I named the bone fragments "Chippy and Scratchy" and decided I was going to keep them if I had surgery and put them on a necklace as a good-luck charm / bad karma sponge.

The other, more pleasant option was that my vertebrae would 'reach out and grab' the Chippy and Scratchy, and the myriad of smaller chips would be absorbed naturally. If this happened, I would probably be able to avoid surgery altogether.

So, everyone was rooting for Chippy and Scratchy, (hoping they didn't miss their line), and after a few weeks the X-Rays showed that they were migrating toward my vertebrae, and my family breathed a collective sigh of relief. I was relieved too, but I didn't have time to think about it too much because I was training hard for my new sport: SHUFFLING.

You see, I was now dangerously mobile again and was almost able to catch the cat, but not quite. The injury area was extremely sensitive to the slightest movement, so when I moved I had to slide my feet along the ground a few inches at a time to avoid the slightest impact. This was a pretty slow way to get around, but better than the alternative.

Not many young people are aware of the sport of Shuffling, but it is definitely cutting edge among the over-90 age group. Most of the folks who shuffle are blue-haired and use strollers, but every once in a while the sport is receives a transfusion of new-school blood from someone like myself.

The newer, more visionary shufflers scorn the use of old-school support devices like strollers, instead relying on more modern, low-profile devices like my aluminum back-brace that kept me locked in an absolutely vertical position. This cutting-edge equipment used by the so-called 'new-school shufflers' (known as Shuff-N's, or 'Shuffins' in Shuffling circles) has definitely taken the sport to the next level.

I shuffled to school. I shuffled to the bookstore. I shuffled to the doughnut shop. I shuffled after the cat... shuffle..shuffle... here comes Jason!

Because the pioneers of this sport are mostly old-aged folks who are not willing to take risks, I figured I would soon be the TAO BERMAN of the SHUFFLING world. Tragically, my shuffling career was cut short by the healing process five months later, when my back-brace came off and I started kayaking again (sans big waterfalls, of course..)

Still, I remember my brief but prolific foray into the Shuffling world with a bit of nostalgia. For any aspiring shufflers and/or recently shorter kayakers out there, I have included the International Shuffling Scale of Difficulty for your reference.
(Note: Be sure to receive proper training before engaging in any level of shuffling..)

The International Shuffling Scale of Difficulty
Class I shuffling: ( Beginner ) Shuffling to the refrigerator, on front lawns, golf courses, local parks. Conditions include carpet, short grass, clear weather, and no significant obstructions.
Class II shuffling: ( Novice ) May involve crossing over to your neighbors lawn, no pets, grass may be uncut with shrubbery. Can include short distances on public sidewalks.
Class III: ( Intermediate ) Suburban sidewalk shuffling. May involve small children on bicycles, large, over-friendly pets, and damp, wet conditions.
Class IV: ( Advanced ) Long, difficult, high-risk shuffles that require precise shuffling under difficult conditions.
Routes may involve large, unavoidable groups of obnoxious kids armed with slingshots and/or pellet guns. Angry, biting pets may also be encountered.
Can also include inclement weather conditions, such as: ice, snow, lightning, and/or small earthquakes.
Class V: ( Expert ) Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent shuffles which expose the shuffler to above average danger. May include large, unavoidable gangs of tattooed adolescents wielding chainsaws, crackpipes, and Puff-Daddy cd's. Routes often have multiple street crossings frequented by homocidal, myopic cab drivers and/or coked-up yuppies. Incidents of violence, molestation, and random manglings are not uncommon.
Class VI: ( Crazy / Lucky / Senile ) Shuffling carried the extreme. Nearly impossible routes. For groups of expert shufflers after extensive scouting and preparation. This class does not include routes thought to be unshuffle-able, but may include shuffles that are only occasionally done.
Shuffling in avalanche zones, Formula One raceways, airport runways, busy highways, and in the path of active hurricanes or tornadoes. Death or injury very likely.

A thoroughly unrepentant Groovy, taken shortly after the crotch-jumping incident..