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Monday, 23 June 2008

Country Life

By Ronni Prior of Rants By Ronni

This is Texas. A week in the country can net you a heart attack.

We lived outside of this (once) small town, in an old farm house that had been towed to its location by a mule over rollers. We had no air conditioning and cooled off with a device known as a swamp cooler. Roughly, it was a fan that sucked air in through a revolving cylinder lined with wet straw. It cooled the kitchen. The toddler and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

Still, the best thing to do in the heat of the day was to nap, so we did. I would hook both the screen doors and lie down with the toddler.

One day I woke to the sound of the screen door banging in the wind. There was a small step stool next to it and no toddler to be found. Her dog was missing, too.

The house sat in the middle of 26 acres of Johnson grass. While we kept it mowed around the house, most of it was taller than the toddler. One day, the cat had come in with what I thought at first was a worm. It turned out to be a baby rattlesnake and I never did find the nest.

There were scorpions, asps, fire ants, sinkholes, centipedes, red wasps, yellow jackets, poison ivy, bull thistles and those nasty little plants, related to tomatoes, with the purple flowers and little yellow poisonous fruit. There was also a drop-off into a creek bed where I had seen water moccasins.

I was out in a second, screaming her name. The wind blew hard and steady from the south. I could see her little barefoot prints heading down the driveway to the narrow county lane that had an S bend right in front of our house by the aforementioned creek bed. I headed that way, calling her name with increasing panic. I had never been so scared in my life.

By the time I got to the road, I could hear her voice calling me and it was coming from the south - across the road in the field. I heard her little dog barking. I crawled under the gate, which was locked to keep in the couple of dozen head of cattle in there from roaming. There she was, sitting waist deep in a stock tank with her little dog keeping the cattle at bay. She was happily splashing about. Rags was having fits. The cattle looked thirsty and unhappy.

I said, "Chandra, it's time to go home."

She said, "No."

I decided that the matter was not up for negotiation. I waded in, picked her up, and the three of us high-tailed it out of there.

We put hooks high up on the screen doors after that…

...and moved back to town as soon as possible.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I shared your panic as I read, and you reminded me of similar stories with my children. We lived in an apt. when we first moved to Raleigh, and my then 3 year old stood on a chair to open the chain lock on the front door and had been out of there for almost an hour when I discovered he was gone. Luckily he had gone to the apt. of a friend and was playing. I died a thousand deaths until I found him!

What parent isn't shuddering as they read this? Oh me, oh my, toddlers have no fear and so parents have to double or triple up on fear. Very exciting and well told story. Thanks!

My heart started pounding when I read your story because it brought back a memory of a similar experience I had with my son when he was still in diapers. We lived in the country also, but it had lots of trees, two unfilled well holes, a few cows, a busy highway about a block away, etc. Your mind immediately goes to all of those dangers when a toddler is missing.

In my case my son had managed to make it to the neighbors house through the trees (no path) about a half mile away. For sheer terror there is no match. He was laughing when I finally saw him and I said, "You won't laugh when I get my hands on you." I grabbed him and started crying, my step-daughter who was ten years old looked at me and she started crying; my son looked at her and then at me and he started crying. We were all an emotional mess.

I tell you what...I never told my husband about it! Just casually mentioned that we needed higher hooks on the doors. He never asked me how I knew that.

Oh, I was holding my breath as I read. I lost my youngest twice past locked gates, and I will never forget the moments until she reappeared.

Ronni, oh how horrible that feeling of panic must have been. I suffered somewhat the same thing when in my bedroom hearing my three-year-old son talking to the next door neighbour while leaning out of our kitchen window (three flights up). I must have flown from one room to another and scooped him up from the windowsill. Reading your story made me realise that we never do forget those moments, do we?

Dear Ronni,

Is there anything worse or more frightening than a lost child?

My 5 year old daughter did not arrive home from kindergarten one day and I was in a panic.

I went up one street and down another looking for her. The school was closed when I got there and the janitor assured me that no child was in there.

I called the police and they came and asked me for a picture of her and began looking for her.

Then I got a call from one of her school friend's mother asking me if Carol could stay for Dinner with
them! What? Who are you? Where are you? Where is Carol?

She gave me her address and I called the police back and they took me to the address. There was Carol, happy as can be, sitting at the table with another little girl cutting out paper dolls.

The mother told me she had asked Carol if it was allright for her to stay at their house and Carol had said,"YES"

Can you imagine that woman letting a 5 year old child come into her home and never call the girl's Mother and tell her where she was.

The Policeman gave her a lecture and then took us home. It was a frightening experience, Ronni, and I know exactly what you went through with Chandra.

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