One of my co-workers said Friday that growing up on a farm was like surviving a death trap.
The comment came after I and another former farm kid shared stories of electric fences, PTO shafts and broken bones.
Laura, our resident city slicker (she grew up in South St. Paul), started off the conversation by saying, â€œWhen you guys were growing up, kids actually played outside.â€
Well, of course we did. What else was there to do? (Back then we didnâ€™t have home computers, video games, cell phones and iPods to keep us entertained.)
Our farm south of Worthington was a jungle gym, race course, torture chamber and adventure land all rolled into one. Add my three brothers to the mix and yes, I suppose one could say we did survive a death trap.
As a kid, I remember thinking it was fun to put my fingers on the smooth PTO shaft as it ran at full speed. Iâ€™m sure I had no idea it could lead to multiple broken bones in my hand or the loss of an arm. Then again, maybe I was just one of those kids who thought it wouldnâ€™t happen to me.
So many of the things we did as kids on the farm probably werenâ€™t well thought-out. Today, I cringe when I think about all the things that could have happened.
Oh sure, there was that episode when one of my brothers got bucked off a Holstein calf and hurt both his rear-end and his pride; and the multitude of times we held back giggles when we told each other the electric fence had been switched off when indeed it hadnâ€™t. Thereâ€™s also that episode Iâ€™ve mentioned a time or two before about breaking my arm and spending two weeks in traction in a Sioux Falls hospital all because of a pedal John Deere tractor.
Then I think about the times when something really nasty could have happened and didnâ€™t â€” like when a Holstein calf took me for a ride down the pasture lane as a kid, or when we speared carp with pitchforks in our bare feet after the Ocheyedan Creek overflowed its banks and created a pond in our back pasture.
And what was the deal with the electric fence â€” Iâ€™m pretty sure none of us were ever standing in a puddle of water when the zap stole our breath away.
I guess the greatest lesson the electric fence taught us kids was never to trust anyone â€” especially not a sibling!
We also learned not to trust horses and siblings operating motorized vehicles.
My oldest brother was taken for a ride through the evergreens by a spooked Shetland pony (that was the end of the horse, not the brother!), and another brother ran into the corner of the garage with the go-cart (again, that was the end of the go-cart, not the brother!)
Lest you think my parents had some kind of trend going on here, Iâ€™ll just say thereâ€™s an old, heavy duty John Deere pedal tractor still lingering around on the farm â€” the very one that led to a metal rod being put in my left elbow for a while. My mother refuses to part with it.
Iâ€™m reminded of that mean green tractor every time the weather changes and my elbow pops.