Friday, May 16, 2014
How Did We Do It?
I have often wondered how so many of the children of my age survived to become adults. I had a lot more freedom than my children mostly because of the fact that I lived in little towns and on farms while my children grew up in the city.
I have tried to be a responsible parent. It is not always easy because there are so many dangers and like all parents I wanted the absolute best of everything for my children. They deserve it.
At the same time I know what sorts of silly things children do and often those things are dangerous. I know this because I was once a child and I remember some of the silly things we used to do. I will try not to repeat any that I have written before but I am certain you will understand if I repeat myself.
I do not remember this incident. It was one of my mother's favorite stories. I was very young and we were at the farm. I was out playing. On the farm we could wander wherever we wanted to go. I was playing in the shed where Grandpa had that magical grinding wheel he sat on to sharpen tools.
I went crying into the house and told my mother that the bird bit me. Being only a couple of years old there was no way I could have gotten close enough to a bird for it to peck me. All of the adults laughed at my imagination.
But I kept crying. I was obviously hurt. Mom took a look at my hand and there were bite marks on it!
Grandpa went out to the shed to see what was out there. Caught in a trap was a large mouse. I had been trying to play with it and it, being in pain and scared, bit me.
When Daddy would leave for work we would sometimes pretend that we were pushing the car from behind. I was about 5 years old which means my brothers were 3 and 4. He would carefully drive off gradually accelerating his speed until we could not keep up. Then he would be off for real.
One day while sending him to work my three year old brother decided to push for real. Daddy saw my other brother and me standing on the road behind him so he took off. My brother was dragged for about half a block before my father realized why we were screaming frantically for him to stop. Luckily other than a few scrapes and bruises he was not hurt.
There were three of us. My two best friends and I were inseparable. One of them lived on what we called an acreage at the edge of town. There was a lot of room for wandering and exploring there. And there was the creek.
We were not allowed to go to the creek without permission. Of course that did not keep us from going. Skinny dipping on a hot summer day helped keep us cool. Then we had to let our hair dry before we could be seen by anybody or we were in trouble.
When the river flooded our parents were more strict about being around the creek. Diseases that are associated with flood waters gave them reason to caution us to stay away. But did we? Of course not.
The water level in the creek was high during floods. Swimming was great. Of course we had to dodge debris being carried along but that only added to the experience. The day the dead bloated pig floated past was the day we got out of the flood water and did not go back during floods. However we still used the creek often.
Crossing over the creek and down a ways from where we swam was train tracks. Under the bridge that crossed the creek the ground sloped down toward the water. It was shady and cool there and made a good place to lie on our backs daydreaming as we stayed cool. It was exciting when a train rumbled over the bridge. What if the bridge collapsed and the train fell on us? Scary indeed.
Using a rail as a balance beam was also great fun. We had heard the tales of people getting their feet stuck under a rail and not being able to get loose before the train ran them over. It only added to the excitement of it.
Just past the train bridge was the bridge for the highway. Now this was a little Nebraska town so the higway had little traffic. The bridge had trusses on either side of the road. The creek was anywhere from two to three feet deep during the summer. The top of the trusses was about 20 feet from the creek.
I am sure that you have already guessed what happens next. We would climb the truss, walk to the middle of it, and jump off into the creek. How stupid we were.
Sometimes when it would rain nobody wanted to ride the horses out to bring the cattle in from the pasture. Grandpa had an old Model A Ford that my uncles could use on the farm. We loved to pile into the Model A to herd the cattle. One of my uncles was a bit of a daredevil. He liked to drive fast which we loved. One time he actually took one corner of the dogleg coming back from the pasture on two wheels! Grandma was furious. Grandpa was furious. We all wanted to go again!
When we lived in Washington on the dairy farm we lived near the top of the mountain. It was a small mountain but it was a mountain. I liked to get in the car, release the emergency brake, then step on the clutch. That should have put the car in neutral. I still do not know why the car never rolled taking us along with it down the side of the mountain. Heaven knows I tried.
Modern safety requirements were in the future as far as vehicles were concerned. There were no seat belts or air bags. Children rode in the front seat. The baby usually sat on the lap of the person in the passenger's seat of the front. We often rode standing up so we could either see better or get closer to drive our parents crazy. We also rode in the back of the pick-up, hanging off the side of the tractor, and on the running board of the car.
We had ready access to knives in case we wanted to cut something or whittle. Sharp tools were available and used for chores.
We liked to play cowboys and Indians. We would get a bunch of kids together and play at war. We would be swordfighters, etc. For all of these activities we used sticks as weapons. Often we went home with bruises and small cuts from being a little overzealous in our play.
As I said I remember all these things and how much fun we had. It was part of childhood taking all these chances. That does not mean I wanted or allowed my children to do them. But I tried to be understanding when their daredevil sides showed through.