Town Crier: Danger: Childhood! (part 1)

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The Town Crier discovered at a young age that climbing trees can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.

I came across an article that posted the top 10 ways kids are injured in this country. It’s just a reminder of how dangerous a world it is for a little kid that’s trying to make their way in the world.

Everything new you do as a kid is learning it for the first time. They say you never forget how to ride a bike once you’ve learned, but the key point of note there is “once you’ve learned." I dare say that saying could safely include the addition “... and you never forget how to crash on a bike, either.”

Having been a kid once myself I can attest to the bangs, bumps, bruises, cuts and breaks that can come the way of a youngster. I think here in our little town with the countryside so nearby we may even have a few other ways to injure ourselves that the big city kids or the sprawling suburb children might miss out on. Lucky for them and their parents' health insurance, I say.

First let’s take a look at some of the national statistics for top 10 childhood injuries.

1. Injury from a fall.

2. Being struck by an object: Say a baseball or a rock.

3. Being struck against an object: This means crashing into something.

4. Insect stings.

5. Animal bites and insects: I guess kid sisters or brothers technically count as “animals," because that’s where a lot of those bites come from.

6. Overexertion.

7. Motor vehicle occupant injuries.

8. Burns.

9. Non-fatal suffocation.

10. Poisoning.

When I look back on my childhood, I think I can safely say I’ve suffered an injury of some type in all these categories. Growing up in a small town like Dalton back a half century or so, parents let you do more on your own it seems and the prevailing sentiment was if you got hurt it was probably your own fault and therefore a good life lesson not to do it again.

Lawsuits back then? As the New Yorkers say, “Foggetta bout it”.

Injury from a fall

Let me count the ways. I’m not just talking about falls, I’m talking breaks.

Living in the countryside there were trees that needed climbing. Each one was a challenge and I thought as a kid the only ones I couldn’t manage were the ones that were so big in circumference I couldn’t get my arms around them to get a grip. If I could get my arms around it and my feet pushing off from the trunk below I figured I could ascend it like a monkey climbing a banana tree.

But one time I was at my cousin's and we were climbing trees in the front yard. He was taller so he could get up the trunk in fewer pulls than me. Meanwhile, my uncle had trimmed off the lower branches so there was a long, tall trunk to get up before we got to the first limbs where the climbing would get as easy as a ladder.

What I had never encountered before was a trunk so tall that I would run out of gas before I got to those first limbs. I slowed, the pulls got shorter and soon I had come to a complete stop. I was kaput.

It’s frustrating and embarrassing to be outdone by a tree. I slid down a bit and then figured I might as well bail out. I pushed off, jumped toward the ground and “Crack!" I landed on the side of my foot and fractured it. I didn’t realize it at the time but I knew it hurt.

My uncle, amateur football coach that he was, told me to walk it off. I tried but it didn’t get any less hurty. The next day I was taken for the X-ray that would tell the story. When my uncle found out, he felt terrible. It was the first time in my young life a grown-up had apologized to me. Six weeks on crutches and I was good as new. About a year later I conquered that tree.

Then came a “fall” injury that probably only happens around here. Us kids were chasing each other around the Brookwood neighborhood and just basically goofing off. Somehow we ended up in a carport and there was a roll of carpet lying in there. Rolls of carpet are pretty common around here, right? So you’d think I’d know not to get to crazy on one.

I jumped up on it and was pretending it was one of those giant logs in the middle of the river those lumberjacks roll-walk on as they work their way downstream. Then I jumped off. "CRACK!"

This time it was the ankle. It was only about 3 years after the crutches for the tree fall. Once again I was hobbling along the playground for about six weeks. I’m sure a lot of people get hurt by carpet rolls around here but probably not too many of them are kids.

Being struck by an object

I guess this means like a baseball or a rock. The unstated part of this type injury is that there is probably also a “thrower” involved at the other end. When I was a little kid playing baseball in the yard after Sunday dinner with my whole family, I got a wild pitch that went behind me and struck both shoulder blades as it grazed me. Ouch.

And this was a real baseball, not a wiffle ball or a softball, ‘cause back then baseball meant a baseball. I must have been about 5. One of the grownups was pitching so it came in pretty fast. I think it says something when I remember it to this day.

The other time I got struck by an object that wasn’t a football or a poorly passed basketball, was when they were doing some work at my cousin’s house. They had a giant pile of dirt and rocks. We started throwing dirt clods and watching them bust up in a cloud of dust like little explosions.

We thought we should get little green army men and have a war, but before we got inside to get the soldiers, we started throwing the clods at each others’ feet. It was funny to see them burst and scatter dirt all over the other person's tennis shoes. Then we started throwing them at each other.

If it hit you in the back, it didn’t hurt too bad and was still kind of funny. But pretty soon somebody got their feelings hurt as well as their backside and so the battle was on, only not with little, green, plastic soldiers. It wasn’t long until we had upped the ante and were throwing rocks at each other. I’m going to guess this is exactly how the first war started between cave men back in the day. Anyway, rocks hurt worse than baseballs, I’ll tell you that little truth. And so I was able to check off the struck by an object box on the national injuries to kids list.

Being struck against an object

This means crashing into something. For the ground, playing football or crashing too hard on your sled when it snows comes to mind. And there’s furniture at night.

Sometimes "America’s Funniest Home Videos" aren’t so funny.

When it comes to snow, I do have one crash that’s worth mentioning. At a neighbor’s house who lived on a hill, we managed to gather a flotilla of sleds, including a regular Flexible Flyer that could fit two or three kids on it and a pair of those disc sleds which were pretty new back then. We eventually tied the two disc sleds to the Flexible Flyer and loaded everyone on there, probably seven or so kids all at once.

Down the hill we went and, getting up enough speed to possibly escape Earth’s gravitational pull, the kids on front bailed off of the front sled and left us on the disc to sail off the bank at the bottom of the hill and crash into the ditch next to the road. It was a pile up of sleds and kids.

There are other times I’ve met my match when it comes to the floor. If you’ve had a child, you may have heard the old saying that if they haven’t fallen off a bed when they’re little, it’s bad luck.

Someone told me that most kids fall off the bed when they are pretty small and first start rolling over or crawling and so they came up with the saying just so new parents wouldn’t feel bad about it. I’ve also been told I rolled off the bed before I was 1.

In another instance of boy meets floor, or in this case floorboard, I’m old enough to have been around before seatbelts and car seats. As a baby I was wrapped in a blanket and laying on the front seat of the car when my mom had to hit the brakes to avoid a crash. I went flying into the floorboard. I don’t remember it — I was so young — but many people that have known me over the years say this might explain some things.

See you next week as the injury list countdown continues starting with animal bites and insects!

Mark Hannah, a Dalton native, works in video and film production.

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