Scott Graves
Curry Coastal Pilot

Scientists recently determined the three most dangerous things to man are nuclear war, killer robots and ladders.

That’s right. Ladders.

Have you ever watched a 50-year-old man climb a ladder in the middle of winter storm to clean the gutter? It’s like watching a video of cars sliding helplessly down an ice-slicked road and crashing into one another — only funnier.

So says my wife, who was supposed to hold the base of the ladder for me, but instead went in search of her cell phone. She called 911 to let them know an ambulance would soon be needed at our address.

Dispatcher: “911. Please state the nature of your emergency.”

Wife: “My husband just celebrated his 50th birthday and is about to kill himself.”

Dispatcher: “Ladder?”

Wife: “Yep.”

Dispatcher: “We’ll be right there.”

Yes. I recently turned 50. Nothing I couldn’t handle with the help of ibuprofen and an afternoon nap. Still, feeling the need to prove my manhood, I did something daring. I didn’t have enough money to buy a red sports car, nor was I brave enough to go skydiving or clean under the couch cushions. So I went to the hardware store in search of a ladder. The helpful clerk took one look at me and knew exactly why I was there.

“Happy 50th birthday. Ladders are on aisle 7,” she said.

I immediately found the perfect ladder. It’s no ordinary ladder. This is the Atlas 5000 Deluxe Macho Edition. It’s made of NASA-grade titanium, it’s fire-engine red with black flames on the side, and the promotional packaging includes words such as “steel rivets,” “rocket fuel” and “instant death.” It weighs 550 pounds and took six guys to carry it to my truck.

I couldn’t wait to get it home and try all the extra features: wifi, surround sound and a cup holder that keeps your beer cold (because getting drunk and climbing a ladder is a manly thing to do).

Best of all, the ladder doesn’t feature that annoying warning on the top step that reads: “DANGER! DO NOT STAND ON LAST STEP YOU IDIOT!” Instead, the message reads: “GO FOR IT IF YOU’RE MAN ENOUGH.”

When I got the ladder home my wife was super excited.

“You paid what? For that much you could have bought a red sports car or gone skydiving.”

Of course one does not simply use a ladder of such caliber for mundane chores as hanging Christmas lights or painting the house. No. This is a ladder with a “destiny.” One ordained by the “Secret Order of He-Man Ladder Climbers” to be used only at the most desperate of times, like cleaning the gutters in the middle of a hurricane.

I’m not delusional when it comes to the dangers of climbing a ladder. I will fall. It’s a foregone conclusion. In fact, every time I use a ladder, the neighborhood cats gather around.

First cat: “You think he’ll land on his feet?

Second cat: “He didn’t the last five times.”

There’s a reason why women live longer than men: ladders.

However, I find comfort in that old axiom: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

If that’s true, I’ll be ready, with my trusty Atlas 5000 Deluxe Macho Edition by my side, to survive a nuclear war and take on those killer robots.

Scott Graves was editor of the Curry Coastal Pilot from September 2000 to November 2017. He can be reached by calling 541-469-3123 or