I once thought that forcing children to do household or farm chores was despicable. Childhood, so I was lead by grown-ups to believe, was supposed to be a time of carefree play and freedom. My exile to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia reinforced this belief as everything was done for us by the staff except that we had to make our beds.
In july of 1965, my family visited my mom’s sister’s husband’s farm. Since the adults were all busy with chores and my older sister was helping care for my baby sister, I became restless. Consequently, I found myself getting into trouble. From my <i>Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)</i> memoir, here’s what happened.
As I never spent any length of time on a farm, the experience was new and exciting. Doubtless, it was that factor which kept me in continual trouble. One day I wandered into the barn and saw the cream separator. I yielded to temptation and sipped both the milk and cream streams.
Uncle Herman came in at the moment I held my head over the spouts. “Have you been drinking from that?” he accused. When I admitted that I had, he stormed out of the barn without a word.
“You ruined his days milk production you know that?” Mom lectured. “Because you had to pull a stupid stunt like that, he can’t sell his milk. You got germs in it. Now he’ll have to throw it all out.”
I felt mortified that I cost our host so much in lost money.
The next morning I found a wooden pallet near the house. Thinking it was junk, because it was lying in the grass doing nothing, I stomped it to pieces.
“Why did you have to break that pallet, huh?” Mom demanded. When I told her, she exploded. “That wasn’t yours to break. Why can’t you think about other people and leave things alone? Can’t you do a damn thing right?”
Since I seemed to get in everybody’s way, I spent most of my time alone. That was the safest course of action as I appeared to upset adults no matter what I did. One morning, I found a pond near the farmhouse with cattails growing along the edges. Their bushy brown tops reminded me of microphones which I had seen television news reporters use. I pulled up a cattail and strutted around, making up imaginary interviews. That helped to pass the time on that sodden vacation.
<i>Deliverance from Jericho</i> contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. <a href=”http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com”>Click here</a> to read more about this book or to order it.