Loco Locomotion

Jimmy and Donny Stephenson on the move.

Jimmy and Donny Stephenson on the move.

If it moved we were on it! Not each and every one of the eight of us together of course, but whoever happened to be present when we came upon it, and whatever number of us could be simultaneously accommodated at any one time. If it had wheels, or runners, or legs, if it had gyrating parts, or pulleys, if it had any amount of bounce or potential to be launched from, swung from, or dropped from we were on it!

Watch nothing but the most terrifying thrills and spills type of action movie excerpts for an entire afternoon, hunkered down with a stack of DVDs and your remote control on fast forward! It might approximate the tiniest semblance of the excitement that Keith and I, Marsha and Jeannie, Kathy and Janice, Jimmy and Donny or any other combination of the kids in my family felt when we were all on the move—on the move with no hands on the wheel, or on the handlebars, or even the  horse’s mane. The less control we had over the ultimate outcome of a particular adventure the better we all seemed to like it.

Sometimes we chose to ignore the wise counsel of our elders to “Hang on for crying out loud!” but more often than not there wasn’t anything to hang on to anyway. And in any case, is it really wise to tightly clench the sides of a big silver serving tray just as your sister launches you on your luge ride from the landing on the stairs, down towards the front door leading out to the veranda anyway? Isn’t that just inviting rug-burned knuckles? Is that any less painful than crashing into the front door? Perhaps Marsha might know the answer.

And is it less painful to ride bareback at high-speed around the pasture on a geriatric bony–backed horse with your cousin, or to get a swat on the behind from your father afterwards? The tingling in one area just might alleviate the pain in another, if it’s anything like that electric shock therapy you can get at the chiropractor’s office or the physiotherapist’s. Keith would surely be able to answer that one.

What is it like to ride the rusting skeletal remains of an old partly dismantled hay rake down a hill, with nothing more to sit on than an axle between two huge iron hoop wheels? How does it feel to share such a wild ride with your brother as you shriek and giggle in ever lengthier rides each time you push it back up the hill, until finally you have landed at the edge of the run-off pond surrounding the manure pile after a heavy rain? Well, it is unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my life, or anything I expect to experience ever again, especially now that I am a  paranoid germaphobe! But Keith, being far more of a thrill seeker than I ever was, might answer otherwise.

What is it like to take a ride in a unique kind of trolley car—one that is attached to an overhead line with two trolleys wheels, one that runs straight from the barn to its outside destination? What if that destination happens to be the top of a big, dry-crusted, old manure pile where you are unceremoniously dumped out, when the car hits a trip lock on the line? Would you run back to your original launching point just as speedily as  the car magically rolling back in overhead?

Would you giggle and squeal as you and your brother climb up on the milking stool to get in again, just before he pushes his bare foot against a beam to get the car moving for another ride or two? You bet! If you were a child growing up in a big family on a small general farm in Ontario more than 50 years ago, you very well might have done the same thing on a day when your mother was off having a baby and your dad had brought in a neighbour girl to baby-sit who didn’t have “eyes in the back of her head” like your mom did.

When your eyes, and your younger brother’s eyes are burning like fire, from whatever the trolley bucket you were riding in had been cleaned with, would you own up to what you had been doing? Or would you just let your Dad think that two of his children were really missing their mother and crying so hard all day that their eyes were red and their eye lids puffy?

Yes, if it moved we were on it! But after that day we decided we would never take that particular trolley line again!

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