Monday, July 15, 2013

Safe in Grandma’s House

                My grandmother’s house was a dangerous place, not like the kid friendly homes of today. There were no padded corners, no locked drawers, and no household cleaners out of reach. Children were taught not to touch and if they got hurt it was a way of life.

                The first and most central hazard was the outhouse. Getting there involved going down a steep hill or if you chose to go out the back door there were twelve steep concrete steps without railings. Those steps could be covered in snow and sometimes ice. The holes in the outhouse could swallow a kid if he or she chose the large hole instead of the smaller, kid-sized hole. There were spiders, bees, and an occasional snake. A kid wasn’t “safe” until he or she was back inside of Grandma’s house.
                Her back porch sported splinters for bare, unprotected feet and the concrete front porch and cinder block railings were unforgiving for the unfortunate kid who would fall.
                The roots of the three hemlock trees had spread their roots and made the brick inlaid path uneven and a tripping concern.

                Inside she had a wood cook stove that was warm at all times and hot most of the time. There were no kid-guards against the hot surfaces, only stern warnings.
                My grandfather and uncles had guns that they kept in their upstairs bed rooms. They weren’t locked away. There were no trigger locks. Ammunition was handy.

                The house had steep hills on both sides. When we played, there was always the risk of falling especially with dew or rain slick grass. (I accidentally hung by my heel in one of the huge lilac bushes when I slipped. I was about ten years old at the time. When I was rescued, my granddad said, “I should have left you there. Grandma doesn’t like kids climbing her bushes.” We did climb the hemlock trees. She didn’t like that either.
                We used to play in the barn. I hope I don’t have to elaborate on all of the sharp tools, rusty instruments, ropes, and places to fall found in a barn. Rusty nails, old medicine bottles, and manure are hidden in obscure places. Inside the barn and out were rolls and stretched lines of barbed wire. The barn and elsewhere there were snakes; black snakes, garter snakes, and even a copper head or two.
                There were animals that pecked, bit, bucked, kicked, and crapped all over the place. At the lower end of his farm was a red dog heap, slag and waste from the mines and iron smelting furnaces.
                There was a watering trough and a spring. Great places to play when it was hot, but danger lurked in the deep.
Grandma had a wringer washer. It could injure a child with the motor, the agitator, and by the wringer.

I don’t understand why there weren’t more injuries at my grandma’s house unless children were taught to think.

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