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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If Farmer Boy Had a Cell Phone

One day--several years ago, in another state--I was standing at my kitchen sink, looking out the window, when a kid from the neighborhood, "Billy," rode by on his bike. He was riding in typical 10-year-old-on-a-perfectly-flat-street style: he was pedaling standing up and pumping as hard as humanly possibly, so that his bike jerked madly from side to side.

Then, wham, he hit something (maybe a tumbleweed, or a dead armadillo, or a tarantula) and wiped out. He flew off his bike and lay stunned in the street. He seemed perfectly fine, other than being surprised.  I watched him, thinking: Heavens to Murgatroyde, kid, get out of the street! But instead of a) pushing his bike off of himself, or b) getting out of the street, Billy fumbled in his sweatshirt for his phone. He then appeared to call several different numbers before finally reaching his mom.

All this while he was sprawled in the street, with his bike still lying on top of him.

After talking to his mom for  about two seconds, Billy sprang up and dragged his bike out of the street (obviously her first question was "Are you still lying in the road?"). After hauling his bike to the curb, Billy called his mom back to see what he should do next. (He was all of two blocks from home!) Apparently, Mom wisely instructed him to just get back on his bike and keep going, which he did,  after carefully zipping his cell phone back into his pocket.

Farmer Boy's dad would have walked away in disgust and left Billy to get run over by a minivan.

When Farmer Boy was eight--eight!--he had to learn to haul logs with his own little bobsled, driving the two oxen he had trained himself over many long winter hours in the barn. His dad's method of teaching him to haul wood was sending him out with the the bobsled, the oxen, and two French kids  for a whole day to figure it out.

Pierre and Louis rolled the log an inch, then Almanzo stuck his pole under it and held it, while Pierre and Louis rolled it again. They got the log high up on the steep skids. 

Almanzo was holding it with all his might. His legs were braced and his teeth were clenched and his neck strained and his eyes felt bulging out, when suddenly the whole log slipped. 

The pole jerked out of his hands and hit his head. The log was falling on him. He tried to get away, but it smashed him down into the snow. Pierre and Louis screamed and kept screaming. Almanzo couldn't get up. The log was on top of him. Father and John lifted it, and Almamzo crawled out. He managed to get up on his feet. 

"Hurt, son?" Father asked him. 

Almanzo was afraid he was going to be sick at his stomach. He managed to say, "No, Father...."

"Accidents will happen, son," Father said, "Take more care next time. Men must look out for themselves in the timber." 

Billy would have whipped out his phone, called his mom and said "I'm under a log!" before he was slowly crushed to death. Father Wilder would have probably just shaken his head and said, "Guess he wasn't meant to be."

Next week: Cell phones, part 2: the time I found three children under 5 and a cell phone on the side of a state highway. 

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