I was four years old, my big brother (who was fourteen)
agreed to give me ride on his bicycle. This was not the
first time I had ridden behind him, jostling down the ruts and rocks of
the old dirt road that sliced through our farm. Although the ride was
rough and bouncy, I loved those times with the sunshine and shade
taking turns falling across us and wind blowing in our faces. It was
fun to spend time with my brother.
One bright summer morning, our
at their jobs, otherwise one of them might have put a stop to what was
about to happen.
“Just a short one, sis,” he
said. “I’ve got chores to do.”
In our shady front yard, he got
on the bike then helped me settle on the flat bar behind him. Off we
went, across the grass toward the road rather than taking the driveway.
Between us and the road was a ditch. It wasn’t too deep, but it would
create a jolt as the bike passed over it.
“Hold on!” Brother shouted.
I tightened my arms around his
waist, then to be doubly sure I wouldn’t fall off, I clung to the bike
with my legs. In fact, I put my right leg right into the spokes of the
turning wheel. The leg broke, all the way from ankle to knee.
I don’t remember the pain from
that injury, but I do remember seeing blood from a scraped ankle. It
was the sight of blood, not the actual broken bone, that set me to
All summer my scrawny little leg
a great big cast, and I had to be carried everywhere.
The sanctuary of the church we attended was quite small. Someone
brought in a small bed and fixed it for me along a wall near the
platform. I lay there comfortably with my pillow, blanket, and doll
during the services.
responsible for my broken leg, my brother did his best to entertain me
during those days. My sister, who was seventeen years old, would have
preferred to visit with her friends rather than passing those days as a
nursemaid to an injured child. (To this day, she still bemoans the
times she and her friend Clara took me with them to the drugstore soda
fountain. One of them carried me, and the other bore the weight of the
cast. I’m sure the three of us were a sight as we went down the
sidewalk.) My sister’s caretaking gave her a summer of inconvenience,
but she did it well and with much love.
neighbor had sent news of my
accident and injury to a newspaper in faraway Kansas City. Somehow that
story found its way around the country. I received cards, letters, and
gifts from so many people—people I did not know! Most of the gifts were
glass animals: tiny fawns, zebras, giraffes, cats, dogs, and
birds of all kids. Those endearing trinkets, found in most “dime
stores,” became precious to me. My mother cleared out the upper part of
the china cabinet and allowed me to display my glass menagerie behind
I suppose I could look back at
the summer of my fourth year and complain that I’d been injured and
remained helpless at a time when I yearned to run and play outside. But
what good are unhappy memories? What I choose to remember most about
that time was the uniqueness of those days, the concern and love of our
friends and neighbors, and the outpouring of compassion from a
multitude of strangers for an injured little girl in the Ozarks.
A new year begins. In the coming
days, let us seek and find the good things in the events of our days.
By doing this, we will have happy memories all our lives.