The Hayride…. 40 years later

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The other day during a moment of pondering I found myself reflecting back to my childhood when I was in the 1st grade.  Few memories in life have stayed with me like the one I found myself remembering, one I have relived many times.

It was a warm fall afternoon.  The leaves were changing color and falling from the trees.  I was an excited 1st grader who was about to embark upon his first field trip with my class.  We took with us our jackets, our  sack lunches and most importantly our excitement for the new adventure we were about to embark upon.  We headed off to a local and historic farm where we were able to see the animals, see how farms operated and of course the hay ride. 

The day started off just as planned.  We piled into the school bus and off we went.   After spending time with the animals and the farmer we had our picnic lunch under a large tree.  It was a perfect day, the kind that only dreams can create. We were so excited and so full of energy as we chased each other around that tree after lunch.

Finally the big moment arrived.  We were all loaded up onto the wagon and ready to go for our very first hay ride.  I was one of the lucky ones who snagged a premier spot along the edge of the wagon where we could dangle our feet over the edge as we rode along the dirt trail.  It was a beautiful fall day with the many colors and a slight breeze blowing. 

We listened to the roar of the tractor as it pulled our trailer around the farm, along the stream and through the trees. 

Some of the other boys seemed jealous of our perfect seats along the edge of the wagon.  Soon I found myself pushed off the side of the wagon and running alongside as I attempted to jump back on.  My friends grabbed my hand as they lifted and pulled me back up onto the edge of the wagon.  Relieved to be back in my seat, I sat there irritated by their actions when suddenly the boy sitting next to me found himself in the same predicament, having himself been pushed off of the wagon.

Quickly he ran alongside the edge of the wagon, along the bumpy dirt road.  The road was more narrow here and the dirt a little less secure.  As he got close enough to the wagon he reached out and grabbed my hand to help him.

As we gripped each others hands he slipped on the sand. I watched in horror as his little body, still holding my hand was pulled under the trailer.  I held on as tight as I could but my little hands weren’t strong enough to pull him back up and suddenly we hit a bump, he was gone. 

I cried. 

The bump we felt was actually the wagon wheel as it crossed his tiny little head, while holding onto my hand.

I have never been able to forget this day.  I have had many nightmares in my life as a result of it.  If only I had been stronger and could have lifted him up.  If only he hadn’t been pushed off the wagon by the others.  I can still feel that bump of the wagon wheel as it crossed over his tiny precious little body.

The other day I thought about this event as I reflected upon my life. Throughout the majority of my life I have been what many refer to as “a rescuer.”  Even as a little boy I always imagined myself as a knight on a white stallion riding in to save the day.  I found many of my friendships and relationships were fueled by this need to rescue others. 

I finally came to realize last week, that I have spent my entire life wishing I could have rescued my little friend sitting next to me.  That I could have made a difference.  My life as a rescuer has been a result of my trying to atone for what I was unable to do 40 years ago.  I was unable to rescue my friend so I have tried to rescue everyone else.

It has been 40 years.  These memories haunt me to this day.  I continue to learn from this experience and pray that one day I will be able to tell him how sorry I was that I wasn’t strong enough.  That I couldn’t lift him up. 

From moments of reflection I learned and now I understand my need to rescue others.

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12 thoughts on “The Hayride…. 40 years later

  1. What a horrifying thing for a first-grader to go through. You’ll probably never forgot the incident or that little boy. But perhaps writing the story here can be considered your memorial to your little friend, and maybe you’ll be able to put some of that old unfounded guilt to rest.

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  2. This is a difficult one to relive – your friend and you had a bond that froze forever with that moment into your psyche. Its good that you share about it and work in rescue. Thanks for your service.
    ~ Eric

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