My 500Word Challenge: Write about ignorance. Tap that part in all of us that remembers what it was like to be innocent.
You don’t have many places to hide when you’re crammed into a three-bedroom house filled with six kids, one hyper-emotional mother, and an obnoxious stepfather. It takes creativity to find your own secret garden, so to speak.
At eleven, full of imagination and an innocent view of the world, I found mine in the cow pasture a quarter-mile from my house. The sloping hills, dotted black, and white, beckoned me like candy on Halloween. The barbed wire fence became a minor obstacle to scale.
Finding time alone to explore was the tricky part. I had to deal with younger siblings wanting to be the center of attention, homework, and chores, then dodging mom. At the first opportunity, I’d slip out the back door, run over the hill, and climb the barbed wire fence into another world.
The cows, covered in splotches, were fascinating. They had the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen. It was as if they could see into my soul. Intrigued with this interloper, they paused, chewing cud and waited for me to scale the barrier and join them on the other side. Talking to the cows came easy and boy did I talk.
I told them about my first crush and getting caught shooting spit balls at my teacher. I complained about mom. She seemed blind most of the time. And I gave them all the details about becoming a woman (that’s what my sisters told me happened). To me, it all seemed a bit messy and inconvenient, even if, for reasons known only to God, I felt the swell of pride.
I received the scar, one day, in the middle of my visit. Deep within the pasture, I sat underneath the shade of tall oak trees, the trickle of water as our background symphony, and read to my spotted friends from my journal.
I didn’t hear his footfalls in the tall weeds, but the skittering of nervous feet and snorting, as if in protest, raised my awareness and I turned. He stood a few feet from the tree line staring at me. I knew him by name, only. He was older than I and lived in a shack not far from our house.
The wind stilled and the water’s symphony faded into the background as the sound of my pounding heart took its place. I was in trouble; not for being in the pasture, but for being alone with him and the way, he looked at me. Far down in the field, I was out of sight and earshot from everyone. No one would hear me scream.
The cows, uneasy, stood a short distance from me. My heart beat faster against my ribs as he walked closer. When the cows shuffled their feet, he stopped, shoved his hands in his pockets, and watched as I sidestepped into the middle of my four-legged friends.
“Mom’s calling me,” I said, turning my back and running. I scrambled up the hill, through the thick grass, dropping my pencil as I leapt onto the fence. My shorts caught on the barbs cutting into my leg as I pulled free and ran toward the safety of home, blood streaking my leg.
It was my last excursion into the cow pasture. I understood the risks I had taken, but the danger of climbing the fence had never been from my four-legged friends. The barbed wire may have scarred my leg, but discovering my tiny space in the world wasn’t safe robbed me of my friends and scarred my innocence.