‘Get outta the road’ and other childhood warnings

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Recently, a Wilson resident told me that when she reads my column, especially when it deals with country life, she recalls memories of her family visiting country relatives on Sunday afternoons. She remembers that some adult would sooner or later yell out to the children, “You young’uns better get outta the road!”

This warning was just one of many that city and country children received from adults to keep them safe from potential dangers on the farm.

Our Wilson County grandparents lived on a country road that could have heavy traffic, especially on Friday afternoons when service men were traveling from Camp Lejeune for their weekend leave on their way to Raleigh, Durham or some other part of the state. Adults warned us to stay out of the road at those times, as well as all through the week when traffic was not even heavy.

Our Anson County grandparents lived on an unpaved road with almost no traffic. If there were a car or truck coming toward us, we had plenty of warning, since we could see a big puff of dust in the distance that gave us a visual reminder to get back into the yard. Adults warned us just to same to “get outta the road.”

We children got warnings about many other dangers on the farm. Adults feared that children might fall into the well if they got careless and did not heed their warnings. Many children stood a few yards away from the well as some adult lowered the bucket and pulled it up again, full of water to haul to the animals or for other uses on the farm. We always wanted to get a good look into the well but were not allowed to.

We climbed trees frequently but with caution, since we heard over and over about the dangers of going out too far on a limb and taking the risk of it breaking and sending us tumbling to the ground and suffering a serious injury.

Some of us were watching one of our city friends who must not have had as many warnings about tree-climbing as we had. Our friend climbed the pear tree, reached for a pear, lost his balance, fell to the ground with a thud and received a painful cut on his forehead. He went through all that trouble and pain and did not even end up with a pear.

There is no way to know how many warnings we children had about the dangers of playing in the hayloft. Snakes were up there and lived on barn rats, not to mention the gaping hole in the loft through which the adults threw hay down to the mules.

I remember one incident when my sister and I were playing with our cousins in the hayloft on our Anson County grandparents’ farm. We got a little careless when we were playing in the loft and almost fell through the big hole onto the back of the cow down below. The incident caused us to heed warnings about hayloft adventures.

Speaking of mules, we were also told not to get too close to them because they might get spooked and kick one of us. By some miracle, none of us ever got kicked by a mule, even though we got a little too close for comfort from time to time.

What would summertime be without going barefooted, as we called it? The warnings here were that we might step on a rusty nail or can and have the wound doused with merthiolate or kerosene or have to be taken to the doctor to get a tetanus shot. There were numerous other ways to hurt our bare feet, yet we tried to be careful and to endure whatever happened.

Other warnings included remembering to take shelter during a thunderstorm, being sure not to wear red clothing when we were in the pasture around the bulls, staying out of the pool for at least an hour after eating to avoid cramps and avoiding drinking coffee because it would make us ugly.

Whether children live in the country or in town or somewhere in between, adults must continually warn them about dangers that lurk inside the home and outside. It takes every day’s learning for children to remember to be careful.

“You young’uns better get outta the road” is a warning that is so common and so country and so necessary, especially when the adult points a finger at the children and shakes it a few times in their direction to let them know that he or she means business.

And so are all other warnings, at least for as long as there are adults to give them and children to need them.

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.