My Aunt instantly corrected me. “You weren’t screaming. You were quiet as a mouse and that’s what was so scary.” “No Auntie, I was screaming the whole way.” “No sir, you weren’t. You laid in the back of the car, white. You were WHITE…….Like you were already dead!
I must have been in my mid thirties when my aunt and I were visiting at my grandparent’s home. We were flipping through family memories when she mentioned a farm accident that became part of family lore.
I was recently out of 3 cornered britches (as diapers were called in our neck of the woods) and all available hands were cleaning the tractor building. I was too young to be of any help so I pretty much just had to stay out of the way and out of trouble.
The thing about tractor sheds is that there is a lot of interesting things in a shed and this particular day I was messing with the tread on the rear wheels that were leaning against a wall that had been removed from one of the tractors. See, to me the treads were huge and I figured that I could climb the tread if no one was looking.
Dad hollered at me to get away from the wheels so I did…. for awhile. Pretty soon he hollered again to GET AWAY. So I did……. for awhile. Well, charm ain’t always what we want it to be and in this case, third time was the charm.
Every story that moves along eventually has to have a plot point, you know, where everything is boring and then something happens that changes the course of the rest of the story. We’re getting close to that very plot point for this story.
As I’m writing this the memory is rich and real. Dust, smell of grease, rubber, it’s all living in my body waiting for a memory to resurrect them.
Well, I was doing fine, almost on top of the tire. Just a little more. Whoa, uh-oh, the tire started moving and I was sliding off, hoping dad wouldn’t see me……..
There was a WHUMMP and there was dust and a panoramic, black-and-white snap-shot of Dad and my aunt looking my way. This was bad! Daddy is gonna spank me. They came a-running and somehow lifted that tractor tire off me.
You know that feeling when you get punched really hard in the stomach? Or when you are shoveling snow and the shovel hits a crack while you are pushing it and it pokes you REALLY HARD in the gut so that all you can do is gasp and maybe cry if you’re a sissy or maybe puke? Kind of like that except that it hurt.
Being able to breath…….. God, I hope when you die… I hope it ain’t cause you got your breath knocked out. Some of it isn’t clear. I think my system might have shut off my mind for a while to focus on learning to breath. Can’t breath… it sucks!
Since I hadn’t gathered my thoughts, (they were scattered all over the warehouse floor) nor did I have any idea of dignity, I just laid around and screamed.
While I maintained a decent level of noise, everything else was just a bunch of busy. People running for phones and a bunch of serious big-people talk. I was too young to know what a hospital was but I do remember knowing I was gonna find out.
I’m not sure if we took the ’63 Rambler or if Auntie set me in back of her car, I just remember turning out of our lane onto the highway and she kept looking over the seat at me and saying stuff that I couldn’t hear over my screaming.
This was all before Smokey and the Bandit taught us all to drive and I really didn’t understand the concept of speeding but my older brother told me that Auntie was HAULING ASS!
The phone call had the Cheyenne hospital ready but when we Auntie hauled me in, there was a problem. They understood that it was my Dad that was smashed so they were ready to pronounce him DOA (dead on arrival) and move him down to the refrigerated drawer to keep him fresh untill the funeral. Evidently adults don’t usually survive that level of boot-stomping. Dad said it took a half hour to set up for me.
Auntie came and visited me every day for a week. She brought finger puppets and such. She asked the nurse “Is he OK? Why is he lying so still? Can he move around?” Turns out that when I first got there one of the nurses had told me to lie still. Being a little kid in that condition I took it to heart. The nurse assured her that I was fine and it is OK if I moved around. “You can move around sweetie, it’s OK.” She said I could move so I did. Later Auntie told me that the nurse was sorry that she said I could move!
Come to think of it, Auntie was pretty nice to me then. We haven’t been real close in the past 15 years or so. Maybe I’ll call her.
It took a week to make sure I wasn’t pooping blood and somehow little kid bones bend like grass before a wind so no bones got broke. The tires didn’t have the liquid ballast in them or I would have splattered. Good luck I guess.
Out of all the perhaps hundreds of times this memory was recalled or brought to me by family conversations I ALWAYS remembered screaming all the way. Now Auntie was telling me, “That’s what was so scary. You didn’t make a sound all the way to Cheyenne”. Now that put a different spin on the whole thing. How the hell could that be? Was all that noise just in my head?
Of course, the years don’t stop putting distance between us and the past so more thoughts arrive.
Sometimes now I wonder when petty misunderstandings happen and people don’t understand why no one hears them….. Maybe the screaming is just in their head. (Don’t say that to your wife. It’ll piss her off!)
A mentor of mine used to talk about people ‘acting out’ instead of communicating. I thought of ‘acting out’ as a euphemism for being childish. Now I wonder if he was saying that people have a feeling and they ‘act out’ the feeling instead of communicating and they assume everyone else is hearing the message. (Couldn’t you see by my expression that something is wrong?)
Anyway, I’m starting to wander off.
See you next time.