During the tenth and eleventh years of my life, owing to scheduling issues for my mother, I spent a larger than usual amount of my summers at my maternal grandparents’ place. This coincided with my mother’s older sister living with my grandparents – my aunt married a military man and he was deployed overseas for a spell. Well, at the time, my aunt and I were oil and water – or maybe gasoline and a match. Grandma raised eleven kids and had always been pretty tolerant of noisy play and, so long as there was not an IU basketball game on, kids selecting the television programming. My aunt had at this point raised no kids and was in favor of peace, quiet, and strict control of the television, and the house – and everything else. So, my siblings and cousins and I were routinely banished from the house, urged on by swats from an egg turner – my aunt’s weapon of choice. I was the oldest of the male cousins (oldest of the females too with the exception of my one older sister) and something of a leader of the pack. The kind of outdoor activities I led involved the hay loft, trees, the woodlot, a small cave that existed on the farm, the gently sloped roof of a hog house, a long rope left over from an old system for putting up loose hay, and so forth. It turned out my aunt was not in favor of any of these activities either. Whenever she discovered we were involved in them she would issue forth from the house, egg turner in hand and demand that we line up for instructions drilled in with repeated swats. Grandma shook her head a lot and grumbled that kids ought to be allowed to be kids but no more than that. My mother laughed when the whole matter was reported to her. My aunt’s reign of terror continued – which is simply to say that I continued to find things to do that irritated her. I don’t think I thought this out in advance. I recollect it as the impulse of a moment. I had rounded up some old lumber from the destruction of a dilapidated granary, grandpa’s can of bent rusty nails, a hammer and a piece of pipe and was busily constructing a see-saw to accompany the swing I had hung from a limb in a barnyard cedar -for which, by the way, I had already faced egg turner justice. My aunt’s objection to the swing was in my methodology. I had flung the afore mentioned long rope over the first limb, perhaps fifteen feet off the ground, shook the loose end back within reach, tied a slip knot and drawn it tight. I then used grandpa’s brace and bit to drill two holes in an appropriately sized plank, passed the rope through the holes, tied the loose end around my waist and climbed the rope to the already fastened end, sat on the limb, adjusted the length to level the plank below, tied off the remaining end, and climbed back down the rope to the ground. It all seemed perfectly reasonable to me – less so to my aunt. I subsequently reasoned that the construction of the see-saw would require no climbing that would ‘risk breaking my fool neck’ and so concluded that it should not be a problem. This was an incorrect conclusion. My aunt re-emerged from the house with the egg turner. It occurred to me all in an instant. I could climb the rope – had already done so. I was almost certain my aunt could not. This turned out to be a correct conclusion. I sat secure on the high limb while she fussed, shouted, threatened, paced below, and stopped several times to jerk on the rope. It occurred to me that she might be trying to shake me out of the tree which, I thought, put the lie to her supposed concern for my fool neck! I was never swatted with the egg turner again – not for lack of effort. It was simply that I could run faster and climb things. My grandmother and mother were sufficiently amused by the whole proceeding to let me get away with it. This period of my life came to an end – I turned twelve and was reckoned old enough to stay home alone and my uncle came home and my aunt move out of grandma’s place. I can no longer recall which thing happened first. My aunt and I eventually reconciled though all these years later she is still fond of explaining to people that though I am all right now – I was a baaaad kid. Anyway, it was certainly a poor lesson to learn – that one can escape punishment by running ahead of the punisher rather than by modifying one’s behavior. I hope I have learned better since and at any rate, we cannot ever really outrun justice in a universe where God reigns – and He does.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church