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As children, we were told to never play with matches. But I was raised on a farm, so that rule obviously never applied to me.
Growing up amongst the forests and plains of rural Missouri, there were many rules I felt did not apply to me. For instance, learning to drive at age 15 did not apply. I was driving 4-wheelers and an array of vehicles when I was 12. It’s what you do. Ask any farm kid. I’ve been known to run a backhoe once or twice too, and I begged my dad to teach me how to run a chainsaw when I could barely life it.
This is the life of a child raised on the farmlands of the Midwest.
Another piece of nostalgia most farm kids can reminisce about is haybales. Whether it was running and jumping across the crevices or playing hide and seek, hours of fun could be had with a stack of haybales.
Farmers live for hay. Haybales are like gold in the Midwest. When you buy, sell, or cut hay, it is no joke. People take hay-bartering seriously. This is because hay is the number one way to feed your livestock throughout the year.
So… you can imagine my parents’ dismay when I torched three of our own haybales on fire.
Every now and then, my parents would buy 6-7 haybales to feed our horses. These bales were sacred because we were poor and they were expensive.
When you line haybales up against one another, they make triangular openings between them. Some of these openings are large enough for a small child to fit in, with a dog or two. The holes between haybales are perfect hiding places for kids — especially kids like me — accustomed to spending time alone with my imagination. I could make any space into a hideout, and no matter where I wandered, I always kept a set of matches on me. You never knew when a small fire might be needed.
In the darkness between haybales, a fire was most definitely needed! I could not see a thing. With the intent of lighting my hideout, I gathered some hay (duh!) and set it aflame.
I know what you’re thinking now. What a dumb child! I admit, as a 10 year old, this moment ranks high on my top 5 dumbest ideas.
My intent was not malicious. When the haybales burst into flames around me, I did what any 8-year old would do. I tried to stomp it out with my sandals. When that didn’t work, I ran for help from my brother. By the time I ran inside the house, we had lost two bales.
The whole family was taking an afternoon nap. When he looked outside and saw the blazes, he said “Liz, we have to wake Mom and Dad.” I was terrified. I was in deep manure.
Long story short, we lost 3.5 haybales and my mom found the nearest stick and whipped me 3 times. I got one whippin’ for each bale of hay lost. Thank heavens she didn’t round up.
For those that don’t believe in whipping your children, I’m sorry. However, getting my butt striped taught me the lesson. I never played with matches again. I was more careful with my plans AND my imagination.
We laugh about it now, but it was a big deal at the time. I was fortunate to have a childhood where I learned life lessons through simple mistakes. My #1 lesson is DO NOT let your kid play with matches, and keep them hidden. My parents never intended for me to play with fire, but I was a bit of a sneak and pyromaniac, so watch for that as well!
Did you ever do anything totally stupid as a child that got you in massive trouble?