Wait for It, Wait for It…OK, Now!

Image result for haybarn free images

Wait for It, Wait for It…OK, Now!

James R. Aist

This true-life experience happened when I was about four or five years old, and my family was living in central Indiana, near Marion. We were living in a large, stately, red brick farmhouse with tall, white pillars in the front and a long driveway lined with stately white pines. Daddy had been hired to manage this attractive farm property, which we called “the Love Farm”, after the original owner. Out back was a large barn used to store hay in the loft and to house animals and farm machinery on the bottom floor.

For some time I had been longing to climb up the ladder inside the barn and explore the hayloft, but I was forbidden to do so, because it was at least 10 feet high above a solid concrete floor. If I were to fall through the large hole that had developed in the hayloft floor, I would surely be seriously injured or even fatally wounded, according to Mama anyway. Then one day I came up with a brilliant idea: I would get my older sister, Carol, to accompany me in my adventure and make sure that I didn’t get close enough to the hole in the floor to fall through it. Voila! Problem solved. (For some reason, Mama agreed to this arrangement.) So out to the barn we went, where I promptly began to scale the ladder, with Carol watching closely. About half way up the ladder I began to get second thoughts about this adventure, because it began to dawn on me just high up 10 feet really is! And that hard concrete floor would not be a particularly hospitable landing pad should I, in fact, accidentally fall through the hole, Carol’s watchful eye notwithstanding. However, I was too far into the plot to quit now and have to suffer the embarrassment of returning to the house a failure, especially with an eye witness present to tell the story. So, I gathered my courage and scaled the rest of the ladder without further ado. At the top I crawled onto the hayloft floor, stood up victoriously, and began to walk around and explore the corners and edges of the hayloft to see what was really up there.

Nothing much of any real interest was there, so I approached the hole cautiously to look down at Carol and tell her I was done and ready to climb down. But, as I looked down over the edge of the hole, I got dizzy from the height, lost my balance and went hurtling down through the hole straight toward the concrete floor 10 feet below; “Carol can’t help me now!”, I thought to myself. As I was falling, I saw myself getting closer and closer to impact. It was terrifying. Then BAM, I hit the floor, landing perfectly flat, belly side down. By this time Carol was running toward me in a panic to see how badly I was hurt and console me until help could arrive. As it turned out, I had, miraculously, suffered only a slightly cut lip – no broken bones, no bruises and not even any scrapes from the impact!

I was so frightened by the fall that I was about to break down into full-blown bawling and crying, with tears, when Carol arrived to console and comfort me. But just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mama running toward me calling out to us in fear of the worst. So, now I had a dilemma: do I start crying now and waste my tears on Carol, or do I hold off until Mama gets here so she can do the consoling and comforting instead. Well, that was a no-brainer. So I puckered up my face, held my breath and waited for Mama to arrive. Then I let-er-rip. Good choice; I was rewarded royally for my patience. After all, Mamas always trump big sisters when it comes to giving consolation and comfort. You just have to muster enough self-control to get the timing right!

Now, you may wonder, as I do, how I could have escaped such a fall with only a slightly cut lip. Think what you will, but I am convinced that, on that day, I put my “guardian angel” to the test, and he passed with “flying” colors (so to speak!).

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

Bumblebees? Surely You Jest!

Bumblebees? Surely You Jest!

James R. Aist

“Some people live and learn; others just live.” – Gene

In an earlier story (click HERE), I introduced a childhood activity that we called “fightin’ waspers.” Growing up in the early-to-mid 1950s in Cypress Valley, Arkansas – one of the more rural areas of the state – did not afford much opportunity for the more standard kinds of leisure recreation, to put it conservatively. We lived on a dirt road off of a dirt road, and our friends were few and far between, literally. Consequently, we were often left to dream up novel activities to entertain ourselves, using whatever meager resources were at hand. This particular “adventure” took place when I was about 8-10 years old.

One of the most exotic and creative “games” we came up with to counter the boredom was what we called “fightin’ waspers.” Now, we were already into sneaking up on large “hummingbird” moths feeding on flowering shrubs and smacking them down with home-made ping pong paddles, or “snapping” them with home-made, woven “whips” constructed from cotton string. But we didn’t dare mix it up with our local wasp population, because we didn’t know how to make such an endeavor end well for us.

Not to worry, though; help was on the way. Through the intervention of a family friend, a Mr. Johnson, we learned that wasps cannot sting you while you are holding your breath. Well, it didn’t take long for us to put this new information to good use. But, how could we come up with a plan to, finally, take on the waspers and emerge victorious? After our twisted little minds had mulled it over for a while, we came up with the following rules of engagement: 1) decide beforehand whether we would either a) all stand still and let the waspers fly past without trying to sting us; or, b) strike them down with hand weapons fashioned from small persimmon bushes and try to actually kill as many as we could when they attacked; 2) walk along the dirt/gravel road looking for suitable wasp nests in the bushes lining the ditch, and then throw stones at them until we hit the nest, causing the wasps to “explode” off the nest looking for an enemy to attack; 3) always hold our breath, just in case we were attacked, despite all of our precautions; and 4) everyone will do the exact same thing (freeze or fight) each time we engaged the “enemy.”

After numerous successes, “fightin’ waspers” became established as a permanent part of our repertoire for dispelling boredom in Cypress Valley. Many a time, Johnny and I would summon Herman Lee, Fred Ray and/or Danny Lee to come over and play “fightin’ waspers” with us. And, as God is my witness, I can recall only two or three times anyone got stung, and that was only because they happened to take a fresh breath at just the wrong moment during the fight. Amateurs!

But this, admittedly risky, game took a turn for the worse one fateful Sunday morning. Tommy Joe, Herman Lee, Fred Ray and Danny Lee had joined Johnny and me at our house to “chill” until it was time to walk over to the local church for Sunday School. Now, Tommy Joe had heard about “fightin’ waspers”, but he had never actually participated in any of our wasper fights, and he didn’t know the rules. For some reason, while we were waiting in our living room to walk to church, Tommy Joe asked if we could play “fightin’ waspers” right then and there. When I heard him say that, “Satan entered into me”, and I devised a sinister plan to play a practical joke on Tommy Joe. Boys will be boys, you know.

So, I explained to Tommy Joe that we didn’t have time to roam the road-side looking for a suitable wasp nest, but there is a bumblebee hole (nest) – in the road embankment almost directly across the road – that is easy to find. “But”, I explained, “we only fight waspers, because bumblebees are so big, fly so fast and pack such a wallop in their stingers.” I was sure that would end the conversation. Not to be denied, however, Tommy Joe insisted that he wanted to fight the bumblebees anyway. So, thinking that he was really just bluffing, I led Tommy Joe through the front screen door and out into the front yard to show him the bumblebee hole. Without hesitation and to my surprise, Tommy Joe picked up a stone and proceeded to hurl it at the hole. By that time I was running like the wind back toward that screen door and the protection it would afford.

Alas and alack, and as luck would have it, Tommy Joe’s aim was true, and out came the bumblebees, mad as a hornet (so to speak)! Next thing we knew, Tommy Joe was making a bee-line (pun intended) for the screen door too, yelling and screaming and flailing his arms in panic. Once he was inside the house, we quickly gathered around him to see if he was alright. Well, he was not alright, not at all. A bumblebee had “nailed” him right on the tip of his nose, and his face was already beginning to swell up and turn red. The pain must have been intense, as he was crying and holding his hands to his face. This ruckus attracted the attention of my Mama, who rushed into the room to assess the situation. The moment she asked, “What in the world is going on?” I realized that this was not going to end well for either Tommy Joe or me.

With “such a cloud of witnesses surrounding me”, I had no recourse but to tell the truth and face the consequences. The exact sequence of the ensuing events was like a blur to me, but Mama dealt appropriately with me, making several swift and strategically placed contacts with my rear end, before driving Tommy Joe home and apologizing profusely to his Mama for what had transpired and for the now fully inflated, beet-red face of her poor little boy. And, much to my chagrin and regret, that was the first and the last time Tommy Joe was given permission to attend church with us. Go figure!

To this day I feel really bad about this – perhaps somewhat innocent – practical joke I played on my friend, Tommy Joe. If there is a moral to this story, I suppose it would be to carefully think through a practical joke before you set it in motion. Or, perhaps better yet, don’t set it in motion at all, because it could turn out to be a serious and irreversible disaster, as this one did. That said, “Y’all have a ‘fun-filled’ day, now, ya hear?”

(To enjoy more of my short stories, click HERE)