Some things we shouldn’t have done

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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I wrote a few weeks ago that, in many ways, we live in a much safer world today than we did a half century ago: Houses that are more fire-proof, much safer appliances, seatbelts for us and child seats for the little ones and lots more.

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There was also, at least among those of us who grew up in the country, a much more casual attitude toward safety.

Don’t misunderstand. High School agricultural and 4-H courses emphasized farm safety. In fact, they drove it home. Farm equipment could kill or maim you. We were all told what not to do and why — and we often ignored the warnings, not only in farming, but in our sometimes rambunctious lives.

A few things come to mind.

Riding in the drawbar of a tractor as it bounced over rough land or along plowed hedgerows was never a safe mode of transportation, but at one time or another, we all did so. And if a disc harrow was trailing behind, just waiting to cut us to farm boy mincemeat, well, that couldn’t really happen, could it?

Nor was it unusual back then to find a teenager riding on the front fender of a car. That insane act, one must say, was encouraged by the fact that cars back then had big steel fenders and definable, steel bumpers. Couple those with hood ornaments that could be used as handholds and, there you go.

Farm buildings offered numerous ways to get hurt. We used to store peanut vines in our largest barn, using the vines as winter feed for the lone Jersey cow we kept for milk and, earlier, a lone draft horse. Those vines were made for digging and we tunneled under them from one end of the barn to the other, pushing back vines as we went. We never dreamed that we could become trapped and, fortunately, we never were.

There weren’t many hills on the farm, but rolling down even the slightest grade in an empty steel oil drum was a blast. We even rolled each other off a pile of cedar posts. That ride was a bit rougher.

And barn roofs were made not only for climbing onto, but also for jumping off of. I even tried to make a parachute once out of an old piece of canvas with four ropes tied to the corner. It didn’t help, but fortunately, it didn’t snag on the roof either.

Cutting down gum trees to build a fort or tree house invariably included one of us climbing the tree and the other cutting it down. If the axman was slow, the ride was pretty gentle. If he was quick, it was quite a thrill.

Throwing cherry bombs was always fun back when they were legal and even after they were outlawed if we could get them. Even worse, we used cylindrical firecrackers as the powder for a cannon made out of a piece of water pipe. We’d load the pipe with small gravel and fire it off. Every now and then, the threaded cap in the back of the “barrel” would unthread and come whizzing past.