Country kids’ imaginations run wild


Little Susan was inclined to exaggeration. Her stories always seemed so full of adventures, and she could never be talked into admitting the complete truth.

One day, playing in the front yard, a fox terrier belonging to a neighbor darted at her playfully. With a shriek of fright, Susan fled to her mother and yelled, “Mama, a great big lion ran down the street, jumped over the fence and almost ate me up!”

“Susan,” said her mother sternly, “aren’t you ashamed of yourself? I was sitting here at the window and saw the whole thing. Now you go in your room and get down on your knees and confess that it was just a little pet dog and you lied to your mother. Ask the Lord to forgive you.”

Susan reluctantly went to her room and shut the door. In less than a minute she opened the door and poked her head out.

“It’s all right, Mother,” she said. “I told God all about it and he says he could hardly blame me. He thought it was a lion, too, when he first saw it!”

Art Linkletter, from Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul

One of the best things about growing up in the country was the vast cast of characters available in a child’s imaginary world.

When we played “house” out in the barn, we had all sorts of characters to join our drama.

The dog could be a kid’s companion one minute, then a monster ready to overtake the world the next. A young litter of kittens could be lions on the wide open safari, predators one day, hovering angels of mercy the next.

Even the barn swallows might be given a role in the unfolding production.

Learning to improvise. We didn’t have the wide range of toys that most kids have today – we had bales of hay and piles of sticks – and our pets. So, we learned to improvise.

Once in awhile, we would run back in the house for a doll baby to play a very important role in our latest theatrical drama.

Time after time, I was told that I had to be the mother. I wanted to be the cowboy, the flying hero or the bad guy.

I finally stood up for myself one brave day, saying, “But I am the youngest! Why do I always have to play the mom who just sits here while you guys do all the fun stuff?”

My oldest sister, Sandie, always the director running the show at full tilt, sat me down and said, “You know, we just can’t change this. All ladies just keep getting shorter and shorter as they get older. You are the shortest. You HAVE to be the mom.

“If there was any way we could change this, we would. But, it’s just the way it has to be.”

Now understood. I didn’t like it any better, but at least now I understood. I didn’t have the power to change the world.

I just had to be the mom, standing there in my fake kitchen, pretending to stir up a big pot of stew.

I never got to slay any dragons or scare off the bad guys circling our ranch. But I made the best stew in the whole world.

Those big sisters of mine respected me more after my big outburst, and they learned to really smack their lips come lunch time.

True power. Imagination is a very powerful thing. I think kids who learn the power of a creative mind from those early years are blessed with a wisdom and strength to help get them through some of life’s great trials and tribulations.

A child can take a certain amount of pride and determination away from a long, hard day of fighting off the bad guys.

When the real thing comes along, dealing with a difficult classmate or later on, a demanding co-worker, this child can say, “Ah, I’ve done this before and lived to tell about it!”

As for me, I learned to stir up a mighty fine stew. Want seconds?


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.