Farm safety was constantly a part of our dialogue over the course of my growing up years, and though I am sure we turned deaf ears to it at the time, I now can understand the enormity of it.
We were children working with potentially dangerous equipment and potentially volatile animals who outweighed us by plenty. But, looking back, I am honestly amazed that five children who worked as we did never suffered so much as a broken bone.
Safe and sound. We played as hard as we worked, and it is a wonder that somewhere along the line we didn’t require a trip to the emergency room.
There were all the tunnels and forts we built in the semi-darkness of hay mows, which could have certainly been potential leg-breakers or mighty efficient ankle twisters.
And the most fun of all was potentially the most dangerous of all.
We discovered, after a hearty hay-making season, that we could reach a rope that had been tied to the rafters eons ago. Suddenly, we all became Tarzan in the wilds of the deepest jungle, swinging with wild abandon from one side of the mow to the other, dropping in to the cave that we had worked so hard to create on the south side of the mow.
When we weren’t milking twice a day, there were hundreds of trees to climb, mean mama sows to out-fox, sledding and ice skating in the winter, swimming in the summer.
A tree house. Then came the summer of the tree house. Our cousin Chris was visiting and decided we couldn’t possibly survive without a tree house. She couldn’t believe we had existed this long without one!
Dad had carried a bunch of old boards to the far side of the farm, planning to burn them when the first calm, still day came along. We rescued those boards from a potential inferno, recycling them in to useable material, long before we’d ever heard the word “recycle.”
‘The one.’ It took many trips, using a small wagon and steely determination, but we hauled every old board with new construction potential to the tree that Chris had chosen as “the one” – it was a gnarly tree that sat just to the side of our sled-riding hill.
The lowest part of the tree was perfect for our “ground floor,” as it opened up like an old hand, then its branches blossomed out nicely for a more impressive, larger penthouse floor above.
As the youngest, I was the gofer, and I gladly ran for nails and screws and tools, Kool-Aid and crackers. Each time I returned to the secret project, I was excited by the progress being made. Chris and my sisters, using handsaws, hammers and nails, were creating a memorable masterpiece.
Grand illusions. We all had grand illusions about that old tree house. We could potentially live there! And on chilly sledding days, we could retreat to our very own shelter, sipping hot chocolate and warming up for the next go-round.
It was, to us, every bit as amazing as a fancy lodge on a ski slope. In retrospect, it remains an incredible accomplishment and an awesome memory from our youth.
All of that fun and no injuries. Every kid should be so lucky!
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