I didn’t have a sterile childhood. I witnessed death and birth. I was fluent in many of the more colorful phrases said by wizened old coots who didn’t give two shits how many little ears were around. My siblings could recite those phrases in both English and Spanish. Spanish didn’t stick to my brain noodle as well so I am not as fortunate. I was raised by a rancher and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

One of the best perks to ranch life was Spring time. That’s lambing season and it’s all hands on deck…meaning the minis need to stay out of the way and only help when told to. Cussing free for all, yo! My sister, brother, and I would wander the property – sometimes together, sometimes not – discovering new rusted out treasures, bits of broken relics from bygone eras, and interesting shiny things that we would re-purpose for our entertainment. We would muck through swampy spots and catch frogs or tadpoles. We would climb tall haystacks and find some rope to swing down from. We would catch lizards, rescue kittens, and poke dead things with sticks. We would ride the back of custom made sleighs to help gather up the slimy newborn lambs and their mothers then sneak into the cookhouse to grab a sandwich cookie, neglecting to wash up in between. Life. Was. Good. There were fist fights and tea parties, magical straw tunnels to secret caves, and a pony. Don’t get all jealous. This pony was an asshole, but that’s another story. There were so many opportunities for us to die, or at least get seriously maimed, that it’s a wonder we survived with a few broken teeth and some hurt feelings. As I said, life was good.

Part of growing up like this is getting hurt. Part of growing up in general is getting hurt, but I had extra opportunities for pain. My dad isn’t one to put up with lots of whining. He had shit to do and couldn’t stop everything to coddle a kid just because of a few bumps and bruises. He also has a killer sense of humor (not always recognized when I was small). I’d go running to him with a plan to tattle or garner sympathy for some misfortune or another and he would dismiss it with a joke or a job. He rarely offered much in sympathy but he usually offered to help with a hammer. A theory of his – If you want something to stop hurting, smash your thumb with a hammer and you’ll forget all about the other thing entirely. As I said, I didn’t always clue in on his humor. I also never took him up on his offer to smash my thumb. The logic is sound though.

I’m not the only person that does this. I know I’m not. Hurting comes in all sorts of forms and everybody has their own hammer. Some folks eat when they hurt, mad at themselves for gorging on comfort food that will take ages to work off (if you even bother to try), but for a short while you forget why you were hurting in the first place. Some folks refuse to eat all together so at least they have some control. Some folks cut themselves. Some folks use alcohol, drugs, or anonymous sex. Some folks hurt other people so they aren’t so alone. Everyone has their thing I suppose. Mine isn’t the hammer (although I tried it once, and it does work). I won’t say what I do or don’t do. That’s for me to work through in my own time. I also won’t judge others too harshly for their hammers. I just hope those folks know that the hammer isn’t really a solution. Hurting another part of you for temporary relief just compounds the problem. Most people know this but knowing this and KNOWING this are different beasts entirely. Most smokers know that they are risking their health for the habit and they still light up when the fancy strikes. Only they can make the choice to stop. I hope you stop if you’re ready. Stop smashing that thumb with your hammer. You’ll just end up with all of your problems and a sore thumb to boot.

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