Read the current Progressive Forage digital edition
advertisement

Tales of a Hay Hauler: ‘Is there a sane person among us?’

Brad Nelson Published on 01 February 2013

Years ago, a fellow I went to high school with shared an odd thought. He and his wife chose not to be parents because they felt unqualified.

They honestly thought, considering the life experiences both had seen, that it would be an injustice to bring children into this world, both to the child and to the world.

The thought he shared was this: “Adolf Hitler may have had one thing right. People ought to have to have a license before they can have children.” Over the years I’ve witnessed some unfortunate situations that make me think Brian had it right.

So who is right? My oldest son came to us with some severe physical issues. It was after his third birthday that he mastered walking, and then with braces on his feet and legs and wildly unsure of himself, as he called out,

“Daddy! Quit backing up! I need you to hold my hand when I walk!” But he did it; he found he could walk by himself and soon after, he learned how to get up by himself when he took a tumble.

Some thought it strange that we would go ahead and have more children. Our other four children appear normal physically, but the youngest claims to share some idiosyncrasies with her father. (She calls it “insanity.”)

The other two sons are now self-employed hay haulers, which some would call proof of profound, utter insanity.

Some expressions of insanity result in new rules. I once named a dog “Sour Mash.” It came from one line of an old country song, “Old man Oscar Hicks, lived back in the Tennessee sticks; I worked for him one time, runnin’ sour mash across the line – he said he wouldn’t hesitate to kill, anybody he caught a messin’ around his still – or his three daughters.” (“Sour mash” was a component of moonshine production.)

After that, the household rule was that no dog, cat or child was ever to be given a name without someone first yelling that name off the front porch 10 or 12 times. The dog was insane.

My brother Galen had a Honda motorcycle and gave the dog a ride on the fuel tank while he was still just a big pup. That was a big mistake. Galen could not come on the place on the Honda without Sour Mash getting a ride.

The dog soon thought everyone with a motorcycle should give him a ride. I have never since seen such a happy face as that of Sour Mash, with ears and tongue waving in the wind with a look of ecstasy in his eyes, as he sat on the Honda having his ride. We never had another dog with an off-the-wall name like that again, either.

Most of us, as I view the world, are seen as insane by some of us. And others of us are seen as insane by all of us, with the possible exception of the individual who is not capable of living as a part of society without harming himself/herself or others.

Humanity as a whole has a rather spotted record as to how we deal with those who have a disability of the mind. It seems that some of us mature at different ages. Others seem to stop maturing at the mental age of 2 or 7 or 12, etc.

Another fellow I knew in high school was a few years behind me in school. He and his older brother lived alone with their alcoholic father after their mother passed away.

They had to change clothes at Tom’s house for church – and again after church – or their father would sell their “church” clothes for money for liquor.

Everyone thought that Jimmy, the younger brother, was mentally retarded, the “politically correct” term of that era. Fifteen years later, I learned that Jimmy had earned a Ph.D.

Another of our group died of lung cancer just before our 30th high school reunion. I asked Frank about Victor, and he said Victor would light the next smoke with the last one, to “save matches.” Then he added, “And we used to think Jimmy was the crazy one.”

I think most of us are aware of someone who has to stay on his or her “meds” to run at an even keel mentally. Science has come a long way in helping those among us with a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be corrected.

From personal experience with a rural volunteer ambulance, it becomes a day much too interesting when someone 6 foot, four inches tall and 230 heavy with not an ounce of fat on him gets off his meds and loses track of reality: of who he is and where he is and of the dangers he places himself and others in.

I recall an older fellow who chose to care for his Alzheimer’s-disabled wife in his own home. She weighed at least twice what he did and still it almost killed the man to have to call his neighbors for help getting her up when she fell out of bed.

They would have gladly been there more often had they realized how overwhelmed he was. Six months after her passing, the husband looked 10 years younger than he had for the last year he cared for her.

The world is still a village, and it still takes a village to raise a child, or to care for one no longer the age of a child who cannot care for himself or herself.

I’m writing this three days after the Sandy Hook school shooting took place in Connecticut. Hopefully, by the time you read this there will be more answers.

As I contemplate this tragedy and a number of similar tragedies over the past several months, one common thread emerges. What if – in each of these terrible events, someone, sometime before the day of carnage had asked for help; what if someone had said, “I have a family member/friend/associate who seems to have lost a grasp on reality; I fear for him or her – and for society. I need help with them.” There is help.

There comes a time when public safety has to take the front seat over the liberty of an individual who may be a danger to those around him/her.

Public safety has to take the front row ahead of family privacy when that time comes. We cannot change history; no, we cannot even change yesterday. For tomorrow, there may be hope.

It is not an issue of weapons, guns or otherwise. It is an issue of mental health. It is an issue of compassionate consideration for those who do not realize they are a danger to themselves and others.

So what constitutes insanity? I have friends in a number of states who, like me, are licensed to and who do carry a concealed weapon most of the time.

Some see this as paranoia. In 30 years, I am blessed that I have never had to even disclose to those around me that I am armed, much less to use deadly force.

In Clackamas, Oregon, the mall shooting ended, according to media reports, when a concealed weapons permit holder drew his weapon – and when the shooter saw this, he fired one more round which ended the carnage by taking his own life.

Deadly force remains the option of last resort. Unfortunately, there are times when it is the only option. My only hope is that through it all, the Lord may bless us to remain a free society and that we deserve and cherish that freedom. It’s a rare commodity these days.  FG

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS