Anyone who’s seen a Road Runner cartoon knows the anvil gag – a heavy iron block used by blacksmiths somehow makes its way into nearly every cartoon, usually winding up in the hands or landing on the head of Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner’s nemesis.
Life was not all ‘Merrie Melodies’ recently, though, for self-proclaimed ‘Looney Tunes Superfan’ Derek Whatley, 47, when he found himself with a broken leg while visiting a blacksmith’s shop in historic Colonial Williamsburg.
“We went down ‘Olde Main Street,’” said Whatley, “and stopped by the blacksmith’s to see how tools were made way-back-when.”
The Whatley family decided to spend a day at Colonial Williamsburg at the start of a cross-country trip.
“We saw a crowd in front of one of the storefronts,” said Derek’s wife, Susan. We went up and saw a demonstration by a blacksmith. It was fascinating! I made sure the twins, Elmer and Sylvester, got up close for a good look.”
The Whatley’s twins are 13, and blame themselves for what happened next.
“The blacksmith asked if anyone would like to experience what it was like to work in a blacksmith’s shop in the old days,” explained Elmer. “My dad’s always into new adventures, so we volunteered him.”
Whatley was outfitted with goggles, gloves, and a long leather apron to cover his Wile E. Coyote sweatshirt. The blacksmith explained that he was going to help him forge a piece of metal used in part of a hand pump for a water well.
“I started to hammer out the little flat piece of metal on the anvil, and I guess I hit it wrong, or something. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, and I couldn’t feel anything from my left knee down. My wife was screaming and the kids were crying. I guess I was in shock.”
Whatley’s leg was broken when the anvil slipped from its block and tumbled onto his leg. A bolt used to secure the anvil, apparently weakened by years of metal fatigue, had snapped.
Whatley and family ended up in a nearby emergency room to have Derek’s broken leg attended to.
“Some of the doctors were laughing – the older ones anyway. I forgot that I was wearing my Road Runner cap and my Wile E. Coyote sweatshirt. I’m a the biggest fan of all those cartoons, and when I explained what happened and what fell on my leg, one of them looks at me and tries hard to keep from laughing, but he said he just couldn’t help it.”
The family will return to Williamsburg to fill out some incident reports and insurance forms related to the accident.
“The twins said I’m going to be an urban legend now,” said Whatley. The family is temporarily housed at a nearby motel.
“This isn’t the kind of vacation we thought it would be,” said wife Susan, “but it could have been worse. At the end of the day, it is what it is,” she said. “We’re trying to look on the bright side. At least he didn’t get blown up by TNT or fall off a cliff, you know?”