Today’s post comes to us from Steve.
Accidents are part of life, and kids are especially likely to take risks or do dumb things that result in injuries. One of my sister’s sons was a wild child who lit fires, jumped off garages, climbed trees, explored dangerous caves, ascended water towers and did other unsafe things. As an experiment, he once bit a wire attached to a lamp, a lamp that was plugged in. Electricity burned a hole in his tongue, sending him to a doctor’s office.
Apart from my one wild nephew, kids in my family have been remarkably prudent and accident-free. My daughter had only two accidents of note. Well, she had three if you count the time a dog bit her, but I blame the dog for that one. That accident had an unanticipated benefit. My daughter had struggled to remember which was her right and which was her left hand. After the bite she knew that her right was her “dog-bite hand,” and never again was confused about left and right.
My grandson is a good example of a kid who is naturally cautious. One afternoon he was walking with scissors in my apartment. My daughter reflexively said, “Be careful Liam!” He wasn’t running, and didn’t appreciate being cautioned. In a quiet voice, Liam responded, “When have you ever seen me not being careful?” I thought that was a nice sentence from someone who was six.
I must have had that same natural caution, for I had very few accidents in spite of living what would now be regarded a risky childhood filled with BB guns, bicycles, bows and arrows, hunting knives and many firearms. While swinging on a very tall swing set at school I used to pump for speed and then “bail out” to sail through the air. In fact, all of the play equipment I used so recklessly as a child would be banned as too dangerous by today’s child safety experts. But I never broke a bone, suffered a concussion or had a cut serious enough to require stitches.
The one exception was when my buddy Mike shot an arrow into me. When I was fourteen I discovered a dump that was heavily infested with rats. The dump, as was true of all such places at that time, was just an open hillside where garbage was strewn willy nilly on the surface. Of course, the place stank from rotting garbage. Plumes of rancid smoke wafted over the dump, making our clothing fragrant.
For reasons that escape me now, my friends and I spent many hours hunting the dump rats with bows and arrows. Although it was a pointless activity, it was challenging. The rats were smart and quick, and they rarely ventured anywhere in sight because they had a fantastic system of tunnels in the rubbish that let them travel unseen.
One day a young rat made the mistake of leaving the security of the tunnels, and it ended up running in little circles around my feet because it apparently didn’t remember where there was an opening to the tunnel complex. I always wore four-buckle black rubber boots for trips to the dump. With the rat running right around my feet I was hopping about in panic. My panic deepened when Mike came up with his bow at full draw—a bow powerful enough to hunt deer—and let loose an arrow. Mike was a superb athlete but somewhat excitable.
I’ll never forget the astonishment of looking at my foot. Mike’s arrow had gone through the boot, through the leather street shoe underneath and was now sticking up proudly like a little flag pole. I limped out of the dump and pulled off my footwear. The arrow had hit my big toe, but apart from that had done little damage.
Back home, I handled the wound the way any teenage boy would have: I kept quiet about the accident because I didn’t want my mother to explode with anxiety. But when I left for school the next day, my mother couldn’t fail to see I was limping, so she forced the story out of me. She was not mollified by my insistence that I was okay because “it was a new, clean arrow that had only been through one rat.”
Did you have childhood accidents? Have you had some close calls? Did you ever do things as a kid that you now know were stupidly risky? Do you remember any painful or unpleasant remedies for childhood mishaps?