Growing up, my grandparent’s farm was something of a free zone for my siblings and cousins. In most ways, this was a pleasing experience. We made the cattle shoot into a castle. We hunted toads, climbed trees, and every now and then caught sight of grandpa ambling between the buildings with a pail of feed hanging from each arm.
The adults never watched us too carefully. Looking back, I find this a bit strange. There was no heavy traffic or strangers to avoid but there were still a good many ways to get hurt. And yet, none of us (and we numbered into the hundreds) were ever injured beyond scrapes and bruises.
I don’t know this for a fact but I believe the general rule was a bit of homespun practicality I’m calling the Rule of Stupid.
Here it is, “None of the kids are stupid enough to get in the fence with one of the bulls or anything so patently dangerous. And all the other stupid stuff they will do (touching the electric fence) will only make them a bit smarter.”
Trust me, the electric fence hurts.
Of course, being so unsupervised did involve other risks…
My brother Nate and cousin Dustin were approximately the same age with an equal bend toward mischief. Grandma knew this but allowed them free reign because…well…the Rule of Stupid applies even to the ornery.
One day, Nate and Dustin wandered by one of the most important structures on the farm…Grandpa’s outhouse.
No one went in Grandpa’s outhouse. There was no rule against it but why would you sit on the worn wooden hole (spiders?!) when the indoor bathroom was only a short run away? The narrow wooden walls stood resolutely near Grandpa’s tool shed waiting patently for its one and only master.
Dustin stopped walking and grabbed Nate’s arm. “Hey Nate, you know what would be funny?”
Suppressing a giggle, Dustin pointed toward the outhouse. “Grandpa keeps his toilet paper in a plastic ice cream pail. Let’s take it and throw it into the hole.”
Short pause. “Yea! That would be funny!”
Our grandfather’s body consists of whole wheat, tanned leather, denim, and barbed wire…but mostly barbed wire. A few hours later, he burst into the home and came right for Nate and Dustin (who should have been half way to Nebraska by that point but were instead watching TV as if they had done nothing wrong).
“YOU BOYS ARE GOING TO GET OUT THERE AND START PITCHING SOME @#$@!”
I didn’t understand what was funny about throwing our grandfather’s toilet paper down the outhouse hole and I suppose I never will. But watching my brother and cousin pitch $#%^…now that was amusing.