Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Just Call Me Harry.

Many decades ago, when we all lived in a sepia world, I would often spend my summer holidays on a relatives farm in N. Ireland. I had many relatives on my mother's side alone as she was one of twelve (my grandparents were THAT Catholic) and many of these relatives had farms.

It's strange how, when we look back on the summer holidays of our childhood, they all seem to be filled with long hot days and the occasional slightly damp night. Ahhhh the joys of puberty.

Now when I say holidays, I don't mean I sat around on the grand farmhouse patio, sipping lemonade from a tall glass while the paid help milked the cows or gathered in the crops or worried the sheep.

I was put to work and it wasn't easy, I can tell you. Well I just have.

Never mind some la-di-da big girls blouse prison. They should've sent Paris Hilton to a working farm for 16 hours or how ever long she's going to end up spending away from mommy and daddy and a toilet seat that isn't encrusted with the number two's of LA's not so finest.
That would've sorted her out in no time and given her a much different personal fragrance to boot.

Anyway, down on the farm, one particular day will live with me forever and, in classic style, the scars will also be with me forever. Well one scar at least.

I've no idea what age I was on the day in question, but lets say I was.....12. That would make sense as I'd have been old enough to have been home from boarding school (oooh get him !!) and yet still young enough to have felt I was indestructible. By days end, so did everyone else.

I loved to ride on the tractor. Hell I loved to DRIVE the tractor and on a farm, a 12 year old could do that now and then when uncle was being generous and aunty wasn't looking. On this day we were cutting up the soil in a field and so the tractor was pulling a piece of machinery I called a disc but I think was really called a harrow.

Here is a picture of one I found on t'internet so will probably get sued for pinching it. First offence, gov'ner.

The one we were pulling wasn't hinged in the middle like this one is, but was one long line of razor sharp disks which, when dragged over the soil, would carve it up and so let air get down into it. Actually our harrow had 2 rows of discs, to be sure, to be sure. There endeth my knowledge of the contraption and it's uses.

I said I sometimes worked on the farm. Never said I knew much about it.

Now even the non farmers among you may have noticed that not many tractors are set up for passengers. Well not back in sepia day at least. Farming is mainly a solitary career and as well as being short on cigarette lighters, pine air freshener 'trees' and furry dice, tractors have only one seat. Muggins was happily perched on a cushion fashioned out of a couple of jackets and wedged between the one seat and the huge right side wheel arch....on top of the axle really.

Normally this would have been a fairly secure location as the wheel arch provided good support for my right hand and I could grab some part of the seat with my left hand. Given the noise of a tractor at full revs, few words could be exchanged between uncle and myself which was fine as nothing needed to be said anyway. I was enjoying being out in the fresh air (built in air conditioning came as standard) and was bouncing along in a world of my own.

The next thing I knew, I was being fussed over in the farmhouse by some frantic relatives and feeling that I was having the worst hangover in history - if I'd known what that felt like at 12.

It appears my uncle suddenly sensed he truly was alone and when he looked to his right, I wasn't there. With no real evidence to go on, theories abounded within the family from.................

- the jackets shifted under me and I slid backwards off the tractor.

- I glanced back to look at the birds trailing us and slid backwards off the tractor.

- we hit a slight bump in the field and I slid backwards off the tractor.

- I was depressed by the onset of puberty and flung myself backwards off the tractor.

The one thing in common was..........I'd left the tractor in a backwards direction and this meant I had to have been run over by the twin rows of the harrow. I have no memory of the incident at all and as it was such a long time ago, I have little memory of what happened after it. I do remember lots of raised, slightly stressed voices and a bit of crying - although that was probably coming from me.

My only injury was a cut on the side of my forehead which, being a head wound, bled a lot. I don't know if I got stitches or if I even was taken to a doctors or a hospital - farms, by their nature, aren't close to hospitals or even towns for that matter.

So why do I not remember more details ? Well for years afterwards, the story of my miraculous survival was recalled at every family gathering and believe me, there were plenty of them. Every time it was mentioned, some seemingly small detail was either missed out or exaggerated and after a while, it was being said that "he was blown 10 feet into the air off a speeding tractor don't ye know, and fell under the spinning discs of some hellish agricultural behemoth and then his uncle, in a panic, reversed over the poor lad a few times for good measure. Another pint for me, Shemus".

The one constant in all this was that a blessed miracle had taken place. You can always trust good Catholics to put a positive spin on everything and I was talked about in whispered tones as some sort of early Jose Mourinho (ok an obscure reference, I know). The reason for this miracle was down to my wearing a cloth scapular around my neck and this was always worked into the story.

Oh don't get me going on scapulars. They seem to be the religious equivalent of Nectar Points and like a lot of articles and practices in the Catholic Church, can get you a reduced 'sentence' if and when you end up in Purgatory. Strange.......Paris Hilton just flashed into my mind again.

Go to the site and read about them if you want and find out about the bizarre world I grew up in. My theory is that the scapular got caught on some moving part of the tractor and that is what caused me to be violently pulled backwards off my snug and cozy jacket seat in the first place.

In any case, I've carried the scar ever since - I once tried to leave it on the top of a sightseeing bus in Paris but it found it's way back to me.

It's a sort of lightning bolt scar and it flares up every so often. Not so much miraculous as........magic.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

An interesting story and I realise that I have got through life so far without having the foggiest clue as to what a scapular is, though I have heard the word before. Amazing.

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