Rick Houser:
My desire was to be Hercules

As we grow up we see hero characters such as Superman and Davey Crockett who we want to be just like. I was no exception. When I was about fourteen years old there was a series of movies most often shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when little was on the television to watch. The movies were entitled “The Sons of Hercules.”

I did some research to be certain about this and there was a series of fourteen movies that were made in Italy. They were loosely based on the mythical character of Hercules and the many mythical demons and creatures he had to fight and conquer. The lead character was a former Mr. Universe and therefore was a muscle from head to toe. Since the films were done in Italy the voices had to be dubbed over and the actors lips were never in sync with their lips. (This helped in watching just to see that.)

Rick Houser

So since I was at an age where I had grown in stature and strength I watched as each week ole Hercules would whip any and all comers who thought they could win over him. When I was fourteen we didn’t have cable t.v. or cell phones or any of the entertainment devices that is available these days. A lot of our entertainment was tests of strength. Things like how many bags of fertilizer a person could lift at one time. Or how many tobacco sticks could be carried on your shoulder at one time. If weight was involved it most times became a contest. I know as a freshmen I would lift the front end of a Volkswagen Beetle and carried it in a half circle. (Only if five bucks were at stake.)

So watching this hulk of a man do feats of super human power weekly almost immediately caused him to be a hero to me. So when I would see something that resembled one of his feats there on the farm I would have to try it.

That summer my cousin Walt had talked his grandpa who also was my Great Uncle Roy into buying some fence posts from him with the following provisions. The posts had to be cut from the Osage orange tree. (Or as we called them hedge apple trees.) The posts had to be straight and that was difficult as this tree rarely grows straight. Walt also had to deliver them and stack them for him. I think Walt had got him to agree to .50 cents a post. A brief word about the Osage orange tree. It might be the hardest wood of any tree in the USA. I know Walt went through several saw chains and sharpening’s to get the posts cut. Since the wood is very dense it is also heavier than most trees. One other stipulation was that there be at least one gate post. So Walt cut a post that easily was bigger than four regular posts. Also it weighed more than 300 pounds.

So late one August afternoon I got our truck and Walt and I went to where he had been cutting the posts and began to load them. I must admit this was a workout for us and we were in maybe the best conditions of our lives. But hedge apple never is an easy task no matter what the job is if they are involved. When we got to the gate post my Hercules ego kicked in and I ask Walt to let me load it. He smiled and said ok if you think you can. I took my time and evaluated just where the center of balance was before the lift. I got one end off the ground and then advanced it to my shoulder and just like Hercules there I stood. This monster of a log on my shoulder and I wasn’t really struggling. In the movies at least once per movie he would hoist a log and hurl it into advancing bad guys knocking them all down. I think I looked around to see if any bad guys were around but only Walt was there so I placed it onto the truck. Walt I think was somewhat surprised that I could do that and he said just wait until you show grandpa.

That was something I hadn’t thought about. Showing Uncle Roy! He was always looking to see feats of strength and something new to talk about. This would be something I could impress him with. So after we tied the load of posts securely to the truck we headed to Uncle Roy’s’. Walt knew where he had told him to unload them so we pulled up to a concrete foundation to lay the posts on so water wouldn’t stand on them. It was only a couple of minutes and Uncle Roy appeared with a walking stick in hand and a check to pay for the posts. He looked the posts over first and then told us where he wanted them stacked even though we already knew.

As we were untying the load he was turning an old five gallon bucket upside down so he could sit and watch us work. Uncle

Roy securing a front row view of people working was just as expected as the air flowing into us. We began unloading and he would comment from time to time if one might be a little more crooked than he wanted but he would accept it. Finally I got to the gate post and he commented on the size and he bet that thing was heavy. I said well just watch this Uncle Roy. I then began getting the post to where I felt I had the center of its weight and I then hoisted it onto my shoulder. But as I stepped back away from the truck I forgot to figure in we were on an incline. The tilt changed the center of weight and I began stepping backwards with a log on my shoulder. I think I stepped back at least twenty feet before I could get that post off my shoulder and avoid a serious injury.

Once I took an inventory on myself to make sure I was ok and answering Walt that I was ok I then looked up towards the place where Uncle Roy was sitting. He was trying very hard not to laugh. Of course I was embarrassed and I will tell you my Hercules ego by them was long gone. After it was all ok Uncle Roy looked at me and said “nice!” “Did you load it that way also?” I meekly said no I didn’t. But I will tell you this. That was the last Hercules feat I ever attempted and I only watched the movies and declared that Hercules feats were not really real. Things weren’t as they looked. Some lessons can be so hard to learn.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.