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Home Opinion Oden: He's lucky there are no land sharks in Appalachia

Oden: He's lucky there are no land sharks in Appalachia

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“Well, Jake did it again!” said my wife, after a visit with our neighbors at the farm next door.

“Did what?” I asked, concerned about my little buddy and part-time helper.

I have written columns about Jake. He was a five-year-old bundle of energy and terror of the barnyard, wearing smelly rubber boots summer and winter and running everywhere, when we first met.

Now Jake is 10, a wiry kid with flattop haircut, wearing muddy cowboy boots, a sleeveless undershirt and Massey-Ferguson ball cap wherever he goes. He’s in 4-H and on the junior wrestling team, a real help to his parents doing farm work and hard on his 16-year-old brother because of his interest in girls.

My wife and I are confident Jake will grow up to become a handsome young man of great ability, if only he can break the chain of accidents that started years ago, If it can happen to a kid and hurts, Jake has a scar to show for it.

“They had to take him to the emergency room again. He was up in the bucket of the front-end loader, goofing around, and nearly cut his finger off on a sharp piece of metal,” explained my wife.

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I inwardly groaned. This mishap followed on the heels of Jake shooting himself in the foot and falling off a ladder to suffer a compound fracture of the forearm. These were just the latest in a long line of medical emergencies, including snake bite, being trampled by a runaway cow, attacked by a coon, falling out of trees on his head, bike wrecks, accidents involving pocket knives and other sharp-edged objects… the list is quite impressive.

Jake is on a first name basis with the nurses and doctors at our local medical center.

I must clarify the shooting incident. The weapon was a pellet gun. The actual trigger pull might have involved a bet with a fellow 10-year-old that Jake’s new cowboy boots had tough enough leather to repel a projectile.

So Jake confidently placed the end of the barrel on his left boot and fired.

We were working in the garden when our neighbors roared past in their diesel farm truck, Jake sitting in the bed and waving cheerily with his cap. A bath towel was wrapped around his left foot.

He later told me he was disappointed. “Them new boots ain’t made good like they used to be. I did that plenty of times with my old boots and a BB gun,” he said.

I explained it was all due to global trade and a lack of quality control in China. When you can’t trust boot leather, what’s happening to the world?

“Yeah,” Jake agreed. “I bet that ladder was made in China, too.”

The infamous ladder incident resulted in Jake having metal rods inserted into his arm so the still-growing bones would straighten properly. It did not slow him down a bit, however.

He was back at work in the farmyard the next day, arm encased in wrappings of protective bandage and padding. We spied him jumping his mountain bike across the creek like nothing had happened.

Around the time of the 4-H Junior Fair in late August, we missed seeing Jake for a few days. This is not unusual. He shows calves and enters a woodworking project or two. Jake’s family camps out at the fairgrounds, so as to be close to the action.

I read in the local newspaper about an outbreak of swine flu at several of the fairs in neighboring counties. Sure enough, a handful of our 4-H’ers contracted the illness at the local fair. Guess who was among the unlucky?

He is feeling much better this week. The sutured finger also is healing nicely.

His mother worries about what will happen next.

“At least we don’t live near the coast. You don’t have to worry about shark attack,” I said, trying to console her.

At that moment, a 600-lb. steer went tearing across the pasture, with Jake in hot pursuit. He was dragging a length of rope.

His mother yelled, and he stopped.

“Why in the world are you chasing that steer?”

Jake shrugged his shoulders and said, “Practicing rodeo.” Wasn’t it obvious?

“Steer roping?” I asked.

He grinned. “Naw, bull riding.”

■ Steve Oden is an award-winning columnist and former newspaper in Tennessee and Alabama.

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Steve Oden
Steve Oden is an award-winning columnist and former newspaper editor in Tennessee and Alabama. His column, "Appalachian Notebook," appears in the Independent Herald bi-weekly.
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