PHOTO: THE COW BARN AFTER 1980
For some reason known only to God and my Guardian Angel, between the ages of five and seven, I liked to jump from high places. This peculiar pastime started with climbing onto the first rung of the windmill ladder and jumping to the ground. When I had mastered that skill, I went to the second rung. And so on. Before I had gotten to the fifth rung where the first strut around the whole base of the windmill was located, I and my sister Mary and our friends had graduated to a second phase of this sport. We had discovered that we could climb up the ladders at one side of the various hay lofts in the various barns on the ranch and jump into the hay. That was softer than jumping onto the ground, but did not have the satisfying, teeth-jarring jolt.
One day, when I was seven years old, and Mary was eight, we were standing in the outer window of the hay loft in the cow barn. It was open so it must have been haying time. We looked down at the ground so far below. I got the overpowering urge to jump. I did not know that the ground was as hard as cement having been rolled over by hay wagons ever since it was built fifty years before.
Did we jump? I didn’t remember.
When she was in her thirties, Mary had a spinal X-ray and found she had the indications of a once-damaged vertebrae. She told me about it. She told me the doctor had said she would have had to have been in some kind of accident. She had never been in an accident. She said, “It had to have happened when we jumped out of the hay loft.” I said, “Mary, we DIDN’T JUMP OUT OF THE HAY LOFT”! I paused thoughtfully and continued, “I can remember standing up there, looking down, and thinking what fun it would be to jump. But we didn’t actually jump.” She said, “Oh yes we did! You jumped first, and I wasn’t going to be shown up by my little sister, so I jumped too”!
That must have been the jump that cured us of jumping! Probably I couldn’t remember because it jarred my head loose.
I later found I had a whiplash injury that the doctor said was “very old.” I wonder if that is why I had so many headaches all those years. Poor mother! Perhaps I should have told her. But how could I when I didn’t remember—even the next day?
Mother and cousin Velma in front of the cow barn, about 1930. The haymow door is above the barn door