My brother and I, “Mom! Going outside to play.” Mom’s reply, “Okay, back inside by dinner time!” That verbal exchange happened almost every day when I was a kid. Living on a farm back in the day, there was not a lot to keep us indoors. We did not have air conditioning and video game consoles like Atari had yet to be invented. There were no smart phones to keep a person occupied, although there were a few handheld, battery operated games like Mattel’s Electronic Basketball (I actually still have the one my brother and I shared!). Growing up on a farm meant when we got home from school, the first thing we did when we walked in the house was drop our books and head back outside to play before it was time to do the chores, which consisted of tending to cows, hogs, chickens, and other farm related work. Playing outside, exploring, and creating adventures kept us busy and active.
Even though we lived “out in the country”, we had neighbors. Our neighbors on the other side of Stranger Creek and up the hill were the Fitzpatricks. They were the first friends we made and we often spent time together in those early years. One summer day in particular, Shane and his sister, Lynn Elaine (pronounced LinnyLane…to this day I cannot pronounce it any other way!), rode their bicycles to our house and we began an impromptu game of softball. It was not much of a game with only four of us playing and two to a team. This meant the person on your team not batting had to pull double duty as the catcher because each team only had a pitcher and fielder. Granted, it was not that hard as the field was very small and was located between our barn and garage!
Play ball! Today it was siblings versus siblings. The sun was out and it was very warm. An ideal day for a game. We had been playing for awhile and the heat began to work on us. Shane came up to bat, but before he picked up the bat, he ran over to our water trough for a drink of cool, clear well water from the spicket that filled the cattle trough. We all did it when we needed refreshment. Sometimes we hooked up the hose and stretched it to the playing field so we didn’t have to go too far to quench our thirst. Not only did he get a drink, he splashed the wet, cool relief on his face, just as we had all done several times that afternoon. He returned to our makeshift home plate, a dirty white paper plate, and picked up the bat, which had recently had the handle grip repaired with black electrician’s tape. I had pitched the first few times, but Brian decided he wanted to give pitching a try. Shane gave a few swings to state where not to put the ball and my little brother let loose with his first pitch.
Brian never saw it coming. Shane’s hands were still wet and when he swung at the pitch, his wet hands lost their grip on the black tape and the bat went flying out of his hands, hitting my brother right square in the middle of the forehead. He dropped like a fifty pound sack of feed. I ran over to my little brother.
“Brian, are you okay?” My immediate thought was not again! It was just a few months ago that I untangled my brothers injured and bloodied body from his bicycle on the gravel road leading to Stranger Creek. I immediately covered his wound with my hand and applied pressure to stop the gusher of blood pouring out of his head.
“What are you doing? It doesn’t even hurt,” my little brother questioned shakily. He must have been in shock.
“Are you alright?”, I asked as I took my hand away from his forehead.
“I’m bleeding,” he calmly stated and then the tears welled in his eyes and the sobs began. “It hurts all of a sudden!”
Without looking up I yelled, “LinnyLane, go get my mom!”. She took off like lightning toward our front porch as Shane knelt down next to Brian.
“Oh man. I’m sorry Brian. The bat just slipped out of my hands,” he stated in a sincere tone. It truly was an accident, but I could tell Shane felt bad for Brian.
Seconds later, my mom was running toward us with LinnyLane leading the way. My mom looked at Brian lying there with my blood covered hand on his forehead. “Don’t move your hand Greg and keep good pressure on his head until we can get him inside and I can see how bad he’s hurt,” my mom calmly instructed. They all grabbed a part of my little brother and carried him into the house while I kept pushing on his forehead. Once inside, my mom had me release the pressure so she could see the extent of his injury. I let up the pressure, the blood flowed, and she told me to put my hand back. She grabbed a clean cloth, dampened it with cool water, folded it into a square, and put it over the gash in his head. “Go wash your hands and come back and hold this cloth on your brother’s head. We need to get him to the emergency room.”
I moved at the speed of sound to the kitchen sink and returned in no time at all. My mom asked Shane and LinnyLane if they wanted a ride to their house, but they said they could bike and did not want to slow us down. As they biked off, LinnyLane shouted, “Let us know if he’s okay!”.
The ride to the emergency room took about twenty minutes and I kept the pressure on Brian’s forehead for the entire trip. He ended up needing a few stitches and had quite a headache, but he was okay. What a relief! My fast action in applying pressure was probably instrumental in preventing major blood loss, at least that is what I told myself. I had now redeemed myself for semi-causing Brian’s horrific bicycle wreck a few months back. So far, country living had been hard on my little brother and my entire family! But we survived.
We survived the move, we survived adapting to our new surroundings, and we survived all of the dangers that can be a part of life on a farm. We survived together. One of the greatest lessons we learned was to be there for each other. And it is that lesson that guides us to this day in our adult lives. Although we live thousands of miles apart with an ocean between us, I know my little brother is there for me and he knows I am there for him. Brothers.
© 2019 Greg Vessar. All Rights Reserved.