Whether or not it was a part of Dad’s purpose in building the big dairy barn, the hayloft provided Paul and me with our one of our favorite winter recreation spots. By February, we’d fed out enough of the alfalfa bales to leave lots of space for our creativity. We’d manage the feeding to leave multiple levels in the stacked hay, creating a sort of obstacle course that we’d further complicate by building tunnels and forts.
When a couple of cousins came to visit on a weekend when I was in the sixth grade, we headed for the loft as soon as Saturday morning chores and breakfast were finished. Of course, it wasn’t long before a game of tag broke out.
With an older cousin in hot pursuit, I scrambled up the bale elevator, my feet finding the crossbars almost instinctively. With my advantage of home court, even his larger size didn’t let him keep up with me. Just before he could tag me, I turned and launched myself from the upper end of the elevator toward the stacked hay eight feet below me.
It would have been a heroic image, I think, farm kid launched into thin air, arms spread, knees slightly bent in anticipation of the landing, surprised cousin frozen in astonished admiration, eyes wide, mouth open, hand stretched toward the empty space where I’d just stood a split-second before. Yes, it would have been quite impressive…
If my foot hadn’t caught in the open frame of the elevator.
Instead of the paratrooper’s landing I’d had in mind, there was a loud sickening snap as the weight of my body caught in the twist of my left knee. Napalm exploded in the joint and I found myself hanging upside down, dangled above the bales, my foot still trapped. In the adrenaline of sudden agony, I pulled myself back up onto the elevator and freed my foot.
By the next morning, the knee was swollen and red. I did my chores on crutches for the next week or so, and eventually returned to my adventures in the hayloft.
It was not the last time, though, that some clever idea of mine left me limping for a while. In this world, whatever doesn’t kill you sometimes leaves quite the scar. In His grace, even scars heal.