Occasionally I get overwhelmed by all the toys my three-year-old has received for every Christmas and birthday. Musical toys can turn on randomly in the night, and everywhere I step there’s a Matchbox car just waiting for me to sprain an ankle on it. Now that I have two boys, I fear that someday we’ll be hosting Nascar right here in our house. I like to get my son outside in the yard where we take no toys except for a few balls and occasionally a truck to roll down the driveway. It feels good to watch him pick up a stick and “go fishing” in a puddle or watch him dig in the dirt. He entertains himself, and the earth is his playmate.
My grandmother, a.k.a. “Granny,” whom I have written about before, was fond of telling me that when she was a child, they didn’t have any of these fancy toys, and she and her brothers had to entertain themselves on her parent’s farm. She was the youngest of three daughters, so she wasn’t needed in the house, and this allowed her to roam around outside with her three younger brothers. She said they liked to play “tricks,” and you can bet she was the ringleader.
One day they were bored, so she “struck on an idea.” There was a lonely pine tree in one of their father’s fields, and she thought it might be fun to climb up into that tree and pull every single needle off of it. (If you read my previous story of how she decided they would take a bite out of each peach on a peach tree they were forbidden to take the fruit off of, you’ll see this was a theme of hers.) She said that she and her brothers and maybe a cousin or two ran down to that field where that pine tree was, and they spent several afternoons pulling off all of those needles.
Then, of course, came the day when their father was out plowing that field. You can imagine his surprise when he came upon this pine tree that had lost all of its needles. He went down to the house to fetch his wife and children, and they followed him back to the field. All of them, especially my grandmother and her brothers, were very surprised to find a pine tree that had lost all of its needles.
There was another story about how they all climbed up into the loft of a barn, and my grandmother boasted that she was going to jump off the side of the loft. But when she looked down, she saw just how far that was and decided against it. Another brother said he’d do it, but when he looked down, he chickened out too. Finally, her youngest brother, James, said he’d do it, and without knowing any better, he did. He hit the floor and passed out.
Well, my grandmother said she flew down the loft stairs and tried to wake him up without any luck. Scared to death, she scooped him up and began to run to the house with him to get her mother. On the way to the house, he came to. Seeing that he was okay, she said she turned around and went back to the barn because otherwise she knew she would get a good whippin’.
There are times that I long for a simpler life, and growing up on a farm sounds so ideal to me now, despite the hard work that I know it entails. But I suppose I should also be grateful that we don’t have a barn with a loft that my three-year-old will someday talk his baby brother into jumping off of.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.