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"What You Don't Know . . ." (1)

I have never been able to decide which version of this story I like best - so I have included them both in this web site. Please - leave feedback - let me know which version to keep.

version #1


Children are curious little beasts and growing up I was always full of questions (before I learned not to ask too many). Being fobbed off with, "I don't have time," wouldn't have bothered me, but to be told ridiculous things like, "Mind your own bee's wax," was an insult to my intelligence. Why didn't my Mother just say, "Mind your own business?" On the other hand, my Father would try to answer every question. Sometimes I think I would dream up questions for him to answer just for the pleasure of being able to sit on his lap and hear the deep rumble of his voice through my ear that was pressed firmly against his warm chest. Daddy always treated each question seriously. Every question and answer session was a learning experience even when I didn't understand all of the explanation at the time. Many of the things my Mother would say must have been the same lies she had been told as a child, like: "What you don't know won't hurt you." Why did she perpetuate such lies?

But, who would think to tell a three-year-old child that if she fell face downward in a mud puddle and broke her collarbone, she wouldn't be able to lift herself out and could drown before help arrived? My Aunt Norma saw me trip and came to my rescue; she held my mud splattered body close, useless arm and all. Mom scolded me as she sponged me off. A doctor bound my collarbone, winding white gauze around and around my shoulder under my arm and around my chest. I hadn't known that when one part of the body was severely injured it wouldn't respond to commands, nor did I know there was such a thing as drowning until then. They say that every cloud has a silver lining; my silver lining was being allowed to stay in my Grandmother's big bed for the afternoon. I felt like a princess with mounds of sweet smelling snow white pillows piled around me. [My Daddy was away in the Army.]

We had an old ice cart that hadn't been used for years; it was stored in the garage, leaning against the wall. I was a somewhat clumsy child and must have dislodged something that was holding it in place; the first thing I knew there was a tremendous hard whack on the back right side of my head and the heavy lead pipe handle of the ice cart thumped my shoulder before it landed on the dirt floor. I was lucky. Daddy was at home; when I came running with blood pouring down my neck, cut ear flopping, he scooped me up and ran us into the house. All of the time he was cleaning and bandaging my right ear back into place, my Mother was trying to find out just what I had been doing in the garage in the first place. I was glad school was out; I looked funny with a big piece of tape going up and down the ear and back into my hair, covered by an even larger gauze wrapping around my head; with a little bit more gauze I could have pretended I was an Arabian prince. [The garage had been my place for solitude; I hadn't known it could also be dangerous.]

As a child, I don't think I ever walked when I could run; I wasn't noted for always watching where I was going or putting my feet. After I stepped on a half buried piece of old scrap lumber with a big rusty nail in it, I could see the point of the nail pushing up the skin on the top of my bare foot. The nail came out shiny clean and I added a new term to my vocabulary: "blood poisoning". My Father had me soak and soak and soak my foot in a big pan of hot, very hot, Epsom Salt laden water to draw out any possible infection. I did this for a couple days and slept with a huge potato poultice wrapped around my foot. Daddy became seriously alarmed because the red streaks that had started going up my leg just kept going higher. "If it doesn't look any better in the morning you'll have to go to a doctor. It's beginning to look like you got blood poisoning from that rusty nail." That must have scared the poison into retreating, because the next morning the leg looked almost normal. My Mother just kept saying,over and over, "Why don't you slow down? Can't you ever look where you're going?"

No one had ever told me it was dangerous to dry a big sharp knife with the blade turned towards the drying hand. When I cut through several layers of dishtowel and sliced across the four fingers of my left hand leaving deep, nearly to the bone, surgical looking incisions, I learned. I also learned that the cut and bloody dishtowel, as well as the blood I had dripped on the red linoleum floor, seemed to be more important than my cut fingers. My fingers should have had stitches, but my Father bandaged them tightly and they healed; the scars have disappeared.

Mother told me lots of things I didn't have to ask: how to hang clothes on the clotheslines in blistering heat and biting cold; how to fold and iron clothes; how to wash and dry dishes; how to dust; how to clean smelly bathrooms; how to make a pot-roast; how to sweep, vacuum, mop and wax floors. Teaching me to spell to-get-her so I would never forget was the closest I can remember her ever telling me the why of things. She never thought to change "What you don't know won't hurt you to what you don't know can hurt you - sometimes a lot."

My Father had wanted to be a doctor. His father, who could have easily afforded to pay for the education, was a dyed-in-the-wool wheat rancher who thought that 'schoolin' was a waste of time and money. Granddad wouldn't let Daddy go to college, but Daddy had healing hands and the patience of Job. He taught me the why of things. He opened horizons of imagination and learning.