Hard Knocks at the Big Rock

Growing up in the country in the 1950’s, we often used the landscape for play. the “Big Rock” as we all called it was in the background of many good times. It was also the location for a couple of catastrophes of mine.

I recall my early tree climbing training. I’m a self- taught tree climber, school of hard knocks type lessons. A couple of the neighbor boys and I were out near the big rock and the older and bigger of the two, Keith was discussing how he could climb the wild cherry tree that grew in the stone wall. I decided that was good idea too, and began climbing right behind him. He was, as I said taller and had a longer reach so he was able to grab the first limb and begin upward progress right away. I jumped and barely grabbed the branch, but followed right behind, mimicking his choice of limbs.

We were quite a ways up and I was right under Keith waiting to take the next branch. As he went upwards, I put my arms up and grabbed the branch he was standing on. His weight evidently was all the strength the branch could muster, and as I pulled with my hands and searched for a place to get footing, the branch snapped. I plummeted down, landing on the stone wall on my back, and my head snapped backwards with some force. My neck suddenly felt warm and I reached back to see what made it feel wet as well. I pulled my hand up in front of my eyes and to my surprise, it was covered with blood. There in front of me was my little sister who instantly began jumping up and down to the tune of her own screams. Our mothers who were inside the house came running out together asking what had happened. We all gave frantic accounts of the incident and a dishtowel was wrapped around the wound in the back of my head. They led me up the road about a quarter mile to our own house where my mother decided the gash was large enough for stitches but needed to be disinfected before a doctor visit. She put me on my stomach on the metal framed bed and poured some Listerine in the open cut. (Not recommended by me!) I was only about 7 but my strength was multiplied by the pain, and I actually bent the hollow metal bars on the head of the bed.

I still have the scar which is hidden by the hair I have remaining 57 years later. It is one of several scars I have on my cranium. The hair is the only thing keeping my scull from looking like a highlighted road map. I even inherited the bed when I moved out of the house and moved away years later. I decided to put it in the recycled metal pile at the local collection location a few years ago. The memory and the scar are still quite prominent in my repertoire of life stories. It’s not so bad to have painful memories like that. They bring a smile back to my face when I recall the pride with which I wore the bandage. It was just one of the many trees I’ve fallen out of, as I never gave up my love of tree climbing!

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Back in the days of my youth in rural Vermont, a lot of people my family knew had hunting dogs for rabbits and sometimes raccoons. Those that did, kept them outside and had dog houses for their shelters. In winter they were outfitted with dry hay to make a warm atmosphere for their comfort and always had fresh food and water. People cared about their dogs and were attentive to their outdoor needs.

My friends and neighbors down the road had a couple of rabbit dogs and one of them was on a run. As kids we always spent time playing with them and giving them attention while we were home. The neighbor boy David, and I were outside one day playing on the “Big Rock” which was a giant boulder near the dog run. We jumped up and down off the rock to pet the dog named Sport, and give him a reason to excitedly jump on us while we played with him.

This one particular time, I was standing on the rock waiting for my friend to come over to the rock, and Sport was hopping up on him and running over toward me on the rock. I got excited about the games and paid a little less attention to my balance than I should have. I remember falling forward, and my height was just in line with the cable run. Suddenly I found my teeth gripping the cable to keep from going face first to the ground! I tried to bring my hands up, but before I could, Sport assumed I was trying to join in the play, and ran full speed toward my end of the cable run, and the ring that was attached to his chain hit me right in the mouth. I was lucky not to lose any teeth in the process. I tumbled to the ground in pain, and apparently David found it extremely funny. He laughed as I frantically tried to spit out the awful rusty taste. I remember my teeth felt very sensitized from the metal contact. We were both laughing after a few minutes of realizing I hadn’t been too badly damaged. The fact that I caught a dog cable run with my teeth would have been difficult to explain to my mother. We enjoyed many more hours of fun playing on the Big Rock over the next few years but I never again let myself lose my balance near the dog run!

(c) Rick Wyman

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