Chariton Valley News Press
There are a lot of advantages to being the baby of the family. One of my favorites is that as an adult, no matter how old I get – I can always smile at my brothers and sister with confidence and contentment. They will always be older than me.
As a kid, it wasn’t always a great thing. I was picked on a LOT. I am five and a half years younger than my next oldest sibling so I had many sets of “parents” around keeping me in line. As I have been walking down memory lane each week to find topics to write about, I have recalled some of the incidents that shaped me growing up. Several come to mind but by far the most traumatic and emotionally scarring for me was the day the door handle in the old farrowing house broke.
A typical non-school day for me growing up meant I was outside as much as possible. Sleeping late was never an option and staying in the house meant doing laundry or dusting. I always made for the back door while still trying to pull my pants on to keep from having to do anything domestic. It usually didn’t matter what I found to do through out the morning as long as I was in the kitchen by 11:00 helping fix dinner – that’s lunch to most people but at our house it was dinner. Come 12:30, ready or not, here came the men. When the sand started through the hourglass, dinner was on the table. We didn’t have DVR back then so you didn’t want to miss Days of Our Lives or you would be totally lost!
I always tried to sneak out before the show was over but never made it. There were dishes to be done. This also meant Janiece and I had to get along for the hour it took to clean up the kitchen – that … never … happened.
I will never forget the day the fight escalated to a fever pitch. I had had enough! The perfect helicopter whirl that towel made over my head would make die-hard Steelers fans proud. The release was flawless. I don’t know if I hit my intended target because the instant I released that towel I was out the back door. I knew before I ever let it go that it was in my best interest to make sure Mom knew my side of the story first. I made record time to the old farrowing house.
It was tricky getting to the door. There was a maze of farm equipment, bin fans and a constant mud hole – aka manure pit - to weave through. I managed the obstacle course and burst through the door with great pride. Janiece was normally a lot faster than me but I had won. Probably because she knew Mom had finished vaccinating baby pigs that morning and wasn’t working in there that afternoon.
I slammed the door shut and with the most innocent voice I could muster, I called out for Mom. Motherly voices responded – every sow in the farrowing house had been awaken from her afternoon siesta and thought it was feeding time.
When they all finally quit rattling their feed troughs - reality set in. Mom wasn’t in there. I dropped my head in defeat. Janiece was going to get to her first. I was doomed. I grabbed the latch to go find some place to hide until I absolutely had to go back in the house. The latch easily moved but the door didn’t open.
After slamming the handle up about 20 more times, it sank in. I was trapped! I then realized I might not be found until the next morning when Mom came out to feed again. I didn’t think anybody knew where my lightening fast exit had taken me. I was far enough from the house, they couldn’t hear me beat on the door, scream in panic or sob uncontrollably at the thought of being locked in there with all those pigs overnight.
I finally gathered myself together and started planning an escape. There had to be a way out of that building. As I evaluated my surroundings, I noticed the door that would save me. A feed bin took up a space at the west end of the building. Dad had just filled it with feed so there was a mountain I could climb and open the small door where the auger of the grinder emptied the feed. Eureka! If I could get that door open, it was facing the house and old garage. Surely I could get someone’s attention to come save me.
I was confident as I started my march down the aisle to freedom. I made it to the first crate before I was stopped dead in my tracks. My first thought was one of the baby pigs had escaped and was running loose. That was the only logical reason an animal of that size would be crossing the aisle in front of me. But as the animal was swallowed by the hole in the wall, the long, spindly tail went on for another 30 minutes. I knew it wasn’t a pig – it was a rat. A humongous rat that was sure to eat me limb for limb and leave nothing but pearly white bones for my family to find.
The sea of tears began flowing. I ran back to the door and I believe the first curse words I ever uttered flowed out of my mouth. Somewhere between sobs I heard a tractor. I’m pretty sure I bruised every body part possible beating on that door. I screamed until my voice abandoned me from fatigue. It was all for naught. The silence – after all the sows calmed back down – was deafening.
I almost mustered the courage to try the feed bin door again but the image of that rat played back in my mind like a movie at the drive-in. I promptly sat on a feed sack and drew my legs up so the rat couldn’t reach my toes.
It was there, on that sack, my sister found me that evening. Apparently, I was in big trouble when it came time to fix supper and I was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until the whole family sat down for supper that they realized I wasn’t playing. When I didn’t show up to eat, it was serious. After recounting the day and figuring out the last time anyone had seen me, Janiece quickly made her way to the farrowing house to look for me.
It didn’t take me long to forget why I was mad at her when she opened that door. She was my hero! The rat had missed his meal and I skipped all the way back to the house and took my place at the supper table.
I can remember tears of laughter flowing like the Nile River that night around the table as I relived the encounter with the rat. They found great humor in my terror. I was pretty upset with my siblings for not caring about me. As I grew older I realized that with age comes knowledge and they were all old enough to know I wasn’t in danger. There lies the beauty in being the baby – no matter how old I get, they will always be older than me – no need to mentally insert wiser there, I’ll argue with you every time about that.