Injuries occurred of course, during the unsupervised free play. That was how we learned our lessons! “Teddy” two streets over, once cut his finger very badly when he turned his bicycle over on its back and pedaled with one hand while sticking his finger on the spokes with the other hand when the wheel was spinning very fast. He slipped and the finger was slashed and almost cut off when it was stuck between the bike frame and the tire. Dumb, but we all thought it was fun to make the special noise. Mom patched him up before sending him home. I returned his empty bike and didn’t stay to hear his mother screaming.
Playing in and around the poison ivy gave every kid the rash and itch. Calamine was slathered on and we were sent out again. Connie got poison oak, only once, and her arms were covered with huge water blisters that broke and oozed. We ooo'd and ah'd over her calamity. She showed us all where that horrible encounter occurred and none of us went there again! Another lesson was learned.
There was a rope swing in my backyard and a tire in another’s. The splinters on my swing seat were to be avoided by covering the seat with leaves. The tire would fill with rainwater and have to be emptied.
Hammers struck fingers, saws made scratches that bled, ropes could burn palms, and paint was hard to remove. Brambles tore faces, bees stung, mosquitoes ate us unmercifully, hot tar burned feet. Everyone’s knees always seemed to have large scabs or bandaids covering fresh scrapes. Bloody noses were common. Sling shots had to be aimed carefully. Whips stung, and they weren’t wielded by parents, but by ourselves during games of fun. It was a daring game of swords (sticks) that caused Ellen to break her eyeglasses. Pete had a broken tooth and Joey was blamed for swinging a rock on a string into Pete’s mouth.
We had a hidey hole hut dug deep in the woods and were adding more planks to the roof because it leaked. Even though we had put branches and leaves and dirt on the roof water continued to drip down on us when it rained. Well, by us, I mean the boys and me. Then the worst accident of the summer happened. To ME. I stepped on a rusty nail and got “blood poisoning.” It was a rusty one that was already through the wood. When I stepped on it, the plank came up with my sneaker'd foot as I tried to remove it. I was supposed to stay near home that day and didn’t. Because of disobeying, I didn’t tell my mother about the nail puncture that quickly got infected - really badly. The end result was hospital surgery (I was told they had to scrape the bone!) and many blood transfusions. My dad had to solicit his lodge brothers to donate blood. I was given penicillin injections multiple times daily IN MY BACKSIDE until the infection was conquered. The surgery caused me to be hospitalized for several weeks! The fun part for me was when I finally could get out of bed and ride a wheelchair up and down the hospital halls, scaring the nuns as they scattered out of my way. (My first four children were born in the same hospital.) After I returned home, I read everything available while loafing on the studio couch in the sunporch. My buddies often visited, and wanted to know all about my hospital experience. I was the only one of us who ever had to have surgery or be hospitalized during those years. We ALL learned from that! I also learned that books were a wonderful thing to have to pass the time and enter "escape" mode. I have since tried to follow rules throughout my life.
Those years were “learning-by-doing” years and the lessons weren’t forgotten.
Comparable Penicillin Story (click on link to left)