I believe in the importance of childhood, no matter when one lives it. I grew up on a farm. We had plenty to do in the way of work, but we always made time for play, often baseball with a golden retriever covering the outfield.
Phillip worked summers through college on our farm. One morning he ran to the house saying we needed to call an ambulance. He didn’t know who was hurt or how so Mom sent me to get more information.
I ran ahead of Phillip to the back of the farm where we were putting in new water lines. Two men huddled around my father who was propped up on a couple of hay bales. His left leg was torn nearly completely off below the knee.
Mom came running and told us that our town’s only ambulance was already en route with another patient and we would have to wait. As soon as she saw what we were dealing with, she sent me to get the doctor.
Doc, a family friend, lived across the road. I called and his daughter told me that he’d already gone into work for the day. I drove into town to get him. It didn’t matter that it would be years before I was eligible for my license. Farm kids learn early how to operate all kinds of machinery. Plus, the cop was my baseball coach and mom figured he would understand.
Doc gave my dad a shot for the pain and after what seemed like three lifetimes, the ambulance arrived. They loaded my dad on a gurney and asked Mom if she wanted to ride along. She said, “You’re in charge,” stepped inside, and they drove away.
I cried a little bit, wiped my eyes, and went to tell my brother and sister that everything was going to be all right. I fed the rest of the animals with a stomachache.
That night, Grandpa and Mom sat me down and told me that they were counting on me. I went from dreaming about girls and motorcycles to thinking about how much feed I needed to get out the next day and when to cut the hay. I said I wanted to quit the ball team but Mom wouldn’t hear of it.
I grew up that day, all at once, ready or not. Everything became serious. I looked past the fun. I thought I needed to be the voice of reason.
It took a move to Alaska after college to make me realize how important play is in our daily lives. I worked seasonally, kayaking in the summer and skiing in the winter. I still work on my skis as a patroller in the winter. I do my best to honor the 13 year-old in my heart.
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