A family friend passed away a couple of weeks ago. His family played a central part in making us feel welcome after my father retired from the US Navy. See…before moving to Madison County in Northwest Arkansas, I had been raised on and born on concrete. Being born in Southern California, I do not remember the beaches or the deserts most; I remember the sidewalks, and streets, and highways most of all. Then we moved to Chicago, more concrete with steel monoliths rising from the ground into the sky above me.
Our next family home landed us in Keflavik, Iceland at the US Naval Air Station. Iceland has a lot of wilderness and deep moss beds softer than the softest mattress (I’ll post about that some time), but we lived on the base. And if the government of the Cold War like one thing, it was concrete. So, when we moved to Arkansas, I have never seen so much grass. I walked out the front or back door onto GRASS…not a sidewalk or a street, but onto this lush, green stuff.
One of the first families we met in Arkansas were the Millers. They had a dairy farm over in Clifty. And one of the foremost things I experienced at the Millers was the fundamentals of electricity.
It may have been in the evening, but for some reason the memory in my mind’s eye is that it was night. I was a 13-year-old boy running like crazy. There was so much room to run. I don’t remember if I was chasing someone or they were chasing me. But as I ran around the back or side of the house, I am stopped dead in my tracks.
I looked down at what was preventing my forward motion: a strand of barbed wire had dug into my right thigh. Grabbing hold of it, I tried to pull it out of my skin. First of all, I am afraid I have done something for which I will get in trouble. A farm is not something I had ever been exposed to, and I had no idea what a single strand of wire was supposed to keep in…or out.
As I tugged down to get the wire out of my skin, I learned how the body reacts to a jolt of electricity. Holy smokes! I tried to pull this wire out of my leg, but with each jolt of electricity, I jerked it up deeper. Each time, I ripped more and more skin and tugged the wire deeper into my flesh.
I might be mistaken, but I seem to remember young Jeremy actually laughing about the situation. Not me. I was in a full-blown, meltdown of a panic. What had this city-bred, concrete-living boy got himself into? Blood was pouring down my leg, seeping into my brand new white socks. I just knew I was going to get into trouble for something.
Whether I pulled the wire out myself or someone helped me, I can’t remember, but when I walked around the house to the front porch, everyone just looked at me. Blood pouring down my leg. My skin torn and fileted like a fish pulled from the pond. It did not take long to learn stuff like that happens all the time on a farm.
I will always cherish the Millers for bringing calm to my chaotic life. To this day, I have a little white scar in my right thigh that looks like a smile. Though I wasn’t smiling, everyone else was. I guess it is a good thing I brought so much joy to other people.
Important lesson: do not run around in the dark, wearing shorts, where there is a possibility you can run into an electric fence. Just don’t do it.