I Think I Can!

I Think I Can!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

I Think I Can!

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

~Henry Ford

Rocky Lyons, the son of New York Jets defensive end Marty Lyons, was five years old when he was driving through rural Alabama with his mother, Kelly. He was asleep on the front seat of their pickup truck, with his feet resting on her lap.

As his mom drove carefully down the winding two-lane country road, she turned onto a narrow bridge. As she did, the truck hit a pothole and slid off the road, and the right front wheel got stuck in a rut. Fearing the truck would tip over, she attempted to jerk it back up onto the road by pressing hard on the gas pedal and spinning the steering wheel to the left. But Rocky’s foot got caught between her leg and the steering wheel and she lost control of the pickup truck.

The truck flipped over and over down a 20-foot ravine. When it hit bottom, Rocky woke up. “What happened, Mama?” he asked. “Our wheels are pointing toward the sky.”

Kelly was blinded by blood. The gearshift had jammed into her face, ripping it open from lip to forehead. Her gums were torn out, her cheeks pulverized, her shoulders crushed. With one shattered bone sticking out of her armpit, she was pinned against the crushed door.

“I’ll get you out, Mama,” announced Rocky, who had miraculously escaped injury. He slithered out from under Kelly, slid through the open window and tried to yank his mother out. But she didn’t move.

“Just let me sleep,” begged Kelly, who was drifting in and out of consciousness.

“No, Mama,” Rocky insisted. “You can’t go to sleep.”

Rocky wriggled back into the truck and managed to push Kelly out of the wreckage. He then told her he’d climb up to the road and stop a car to get help. Fearing that no one would be able to see her little boy in the dark, Kelly refused to let him go alone. Instead they slowly crept up the embankment, with Rocky using his meager 40-pound frame to push his 104-pound mother. They crawled inches at a time. The pain was so great that Kelly wanted to give up, but Rocky wouldn’t let her.

To urge his mother on, Rocky told her to think “about that little train,” the one in the classic children’s story, The Little Engine That Could, which managed to get up a steep mountain. To remind her, Rocky kept repeating his version of the story’s inspirational phrase: “I know you can, I know you can.”

When they finally reached the road, Rocky was able to see his mother’s torn face clearly for the first time. He broke into tears. Waving his arms and pleading, “Stop! Please stop!” the boy hailed a truck. “Get my mama to a hospital,” he implored the driver.

It took 8 hours and 344 stitches to rebuild Kelly’s face. She looks quite different today — “I used to have a straight long nose, thin lips and high cheekbones; now I’ve got a pug nose, flat cheeks and much bigger lips” — but she has few visible scars and has recovered from her injuries.

Rocky’s heroics were big news. But the spunky youngster insists he didn’t do anything extraordinary. “It’s not like I wanted it to happen,” he explains. “I just did what anyone would have done.”

Says his mother, “If it weren’t for Rocky, I’d have bled to death.”

~First heard from Michele Borba

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