The hazards of being Timmy Nipple

My young brothers and I were playing in a bedroom with our good friend, Timmy Knievel, who was equally young. Timmy had been part of our lives since birth. He was the son of my dad’s best friend and was destined to be absorbed into the Mueller clan.

We had dragged our toys onto the floor for hours of fun while the adults sat around the kitchen table for their biweekly card party.

The closet door was open and Timmy was sitting nearly in it, because the bedroom was so small. As he got up to grab another tractor, he suddenly tripped and fell back into the abyss of items we threw in there as an alternative to actually cleaning up our room.

That’s when we heard an exclamation from our four-year-old friend.

“Timmy? Are you OK?” I asked.

He turned and looked at me, giggling with his infectious laugh.

“Uh oh,” he said, acting as if he was unhurt. But his appearance begged to differ as a wire hanger hung from his eye. Somehow, the metal hook had inserted itself into his eye socket, latching on between his bottom lid and that space between it and his eyeball.

Horrified, we stared at him as he acted unaffected and yet entertained that a hanger was literally hanging from his face. We quickly sent younger brother, Steve, to the card table for help. When he got there, my little brother, who had speech difficulties as a child, wildly screeched, “Mommy! Timmy Nipple nee help, hanga in eye!”

At that moment, the persona of Timmy Nipple was born.

Steve, not being able to say the word “Knievel” and having a habit of using people’s last names, created the term we would use for decades when referring to our hazardous best friend.

Timmy Nipple always seemed to find himself in a predicament. Oh, the hazards that befell him and the situations that followed him through his life! We loved being around him as he was often as entertained by himself as we were while he greeted his perilous existence with humor.

As we grew older, Timmy Nipple was diagnosed with diabetes. He didn’t seem to understand it much, or care for that matter. All he knew was that if he didn’t drink his juice, when his mother told him to, bad things would happen. But almost in defiance of what nature had bestowed on him, he would sometimes skip the juice and head out to the sandbox to play with us. So we weren’t that surprised when we noticed, time and again, that Timmy Nipple would suddenly “be asleep” in the sand. We knew exactly what to do — send Steve into the house to get the moms.

“Timmy Nipple nee doos!” Steve would yell into the front door and out the matriarchs would run. A few doses of orange goodness and Timmy Nipple would be up and running, giggly as ever over the Tonkas.

We all soon found ourselves entering the arena of being 10 years old — what a time to be alive! His family would visit the farm often on summer evenings. In order to keep the body heat down (because we had no air conditioning), Mom would often shoo us outside.

“Play hide and seek,” she’d suggest. “It’s fun in the dark. But just be careful to stay out of the cactus patch.”

She had a large number of cactus plants that she’d transplanted from our pastureland, in an area that had squatty barricades around it. The plants would flower and the patch was truly quite remarkable — but dangerous. To fall into that mess would result in a very traumatic event, due to the number and size of the thorns.

Despite the warnings and a general pre-scolding from the parents, yelps of pain would always ring out in the darkness after 30 minutes of “ghost in the graveyard.” And it was always Timmy Nipple. He’d writhe on the front step while the parents pulled the thorns as quickly as possible from his body. And like always, as soon as they were gone — he’d bounce back, almost as if he’d been infused with energy from the natural acupuncture.

Oh, Timmy Nipple. He must have thought his real last name, Knievel, meant he had the same innate abilities as his fourth cousin, Evel Knievel. He always wrecked his bike down the hill in front of his house and traditionally being the one to slam his head into the siding during stunts.

And when he became a teenager, it became a run-of-the-mill sight to see his car lodged in a ditch somewhere. I remember so many times, cruising down the road, to see his familiar wheels stuck in mud. We’d stop to see if he needed any help, but he always laughed and shook his head.

And we’d say, “Timmy Nipple, what’d ya’ do this time?”

That’s just how Timmy Nipple rolled, listening to his AC/DC tapes and recovering from the last hazard he survived.

We all graduated from high school and he started working for his family’s automotive/tire business. There was many a time I’d have car trouble and if no one was around to help me, I’d call down to the OK Tire Store.

“I need Timmy Nipple,” I’d tell the workers, who knew exactly who I was referring to. He’d stop his work to help me and I’d thank Timmy Nipple for always being there. And as he’d bend down to finish the job, he’d nearly knock himself out with the jack handle while talking about how he nearly broke his arm the week before.

We moved to York and I unfortunately don’t have much contact with him. I’ve often asked my siblings about him — even as adults, we still refer to him as Timmy Nipple. It sounds like the perilous life had slowed down. They say he is still a comedian.

I’m told I’m going to see him in a few weeks at a family wedding. I can’t wait.

A few years ago, I was in Elgin for an event and I saw a familiar face coming toward me. I ran to the man who had been one of my best friends growing up — with the same mischievous smile, the same entertaining laugh. But he didn’t have any hangers coming out of his facial crevices, splints or casts, bruises or cactus spurs in his skin. He was all grown up, wearing a wedding ring and carrying children’s photos in his wallet.

Most importantly, he was still alive, despite the hazards he’d dodged.

“Timmy Nipple!” I uttered before catching myself.

He goes by Tim these days.

But as my formerly haphazard friend hugged me, I heard him say in my ear, “That’s OK — you can always call me Timmy Nipple.”

We went inside the KC Hall without incident. But I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if a car would have run off the street and hit us, or a piece of the building would have fallen on us. After all, that’s the natural hazard of being my beloved Timmy Nipple.


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