November 25, 2014



I’ve been thinking this week about the many things I’m thankful for. One of them is and always has been this: I’m thankful I survived childhood.

Your childhood experience depends very much upon where you grew up and your parents, and being raised on a ranch made my childhood more dangerous than some. Sure, I wasn’t an orphan on the streets of Bombay, but there were lots of things that could have killed any one of us. And the fact that all seven of us survived ~ though there was another sister who died at birth ~ is a miracle.

What immediately leaps to mind is the time my cousins were going to take my two brothers and I repelling. We have never been a safety family. In fact, quite the opposite. You were supposed to stare in the face of danger and laugh. Or at least grit your teeth in a pleasing way. I am and always have been afraid of heights, and I spent the whole trip up there praying fervrently to get out of it. The funny thing was, our car overheated or vapor locked or something, and I did get out of it. If there was ever a moment in my life where I would have become ultra-religious, that was it.

And the two times my one brother got majorly injured. Once, he was climbing some cliffs with a cousin, and the cousin rolled a rock down on top of him that swept his feet out from under him and he fell from the cliff. And the time both brothers were playing around a dragline, and the dragline bucket fell and the one brother pushed the other brother out of the way and got buried under the dragline bucket. My father had to dig the dirt out from his face so he could breathe, and he ended up in a body cast, chest to ankle with a bar between his knees. Which my cousins would hang him from.

Breaking horses. A stick came up under the belly of a green-broke horse that I was riding and I flipped forward, riding the saddle horn, and then back off the horse’s rump. Knocked the wind out of me but I wasn’t otherwise worse for the wear. My other brother was roping on a rainy day and his horse slipped and went down and broke his leg. It was three hours to the hospital, and he gritted his teeth the whole way. Oh, and chasing cows in freak late-spring storms when you’re just in tennis shoes and light jacket and it’s so cold the horses’ breaths are freezing in mustaches on their faces.

One of my sisters had a thing with her hips where as a baby she could sit on the floor and swing her legs all the way around her body. Another kid in the area had to be in a body cast and he died from it, but since my family never goes to the doctor, apparently the condition corrected itself.

We regularly drove trucks without brakes, and there was even a jeep that only turned one way. Driving up to summer pasture was quite a feat. And you’d get stuck in mud or snow 90 miles from anywhere (think the Draggin’ S Ranch Cow Country Cartoons) and have to figure out how to get out. People would push and it’s a miracle no one was run over. I’ve been in pickups that drove into ravines or kicked by horses and lost a wheel that went bounding across the prairie. The bus took us to and from school every day, an hour each way, rain or shine, and it’s a miracle something didn’t happen there.

Childhood diseases. I had pneumonia. I even had this strange disease that gave me circular spot rashes all over my arms and body and took away the tan I’d gotten during the summer and made me look like a reverse leopard. The doctor had no idea what it was. I broke my leg on a motorcycle and burned it on the tailpipe. I broke my collarbone by falling out of the back of a truck. A cousin got nicked by a chainsaw and another cousin got his arm shot off at Thanksgiving while turkey hunting.

I could go on and on. But I won’t. You get the picture.

This year and every year, I am thankful I survived childhood.

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