On any given weekend our family would jump in the white Ford station wagon and head out to visit our farm relatives. We had three sets of them about a half hours ride west of Rockford, Illinois. The closest towns were Pecatonica, and Seward. Seward wasn’t really a town. It did have a gas station and the Feed Mill Store, and the Dutch Reformed church. Those were idyllic settings and the late fifties, early sixties were wonderful times on those farms.
I remember this one winter weekend we were out at Hank and Rena’s. They had a pig farm about a half-mile north of Seward. It had snowed. It must have been getting on into spring, because it was particularly good packing. I had built a spectacular snow fort out in the yard between the lane and the old white clapboard farmhouse. I’d been working on it for some time, when my older sister Holly and our cousin Julie came out. The snow was such good packing that it just made you want to pack up a snowball. I think I might have built up quite a little pile of them like stacked canon balls inside the front wall of my snow fort, because when they started flying, I had a nice reserve pile to pick from. I was maybe about nine, or ten at the time – which would have put Holly and Julie at about twelve, or thirteen. She was still bigger than me, but I was gaining on her fast. I also had been playing baseball pretty regularly for the past few seasons, and had developed a pretty good arm. I could chuck a snowball thirty feet, and if it hit you anywhere up near the head, or maybe off a kneecap, it would sting. You can picture how this developed quickly into an inflamed little battle. I recall seeing a few of the adults begin to gather around the big front picture window that looked out from the house to watch.
Once my reserve stack was gone – which happened in no time – it was one against two in the pack it, and fling it, fight of my life. It didn’t take long for Holly to simply drop her snowball, and lower her head in a full frontal charge of my fort. She came in low like a bull, and blew the front wall down like it wasn’t even there. It was at that moment, when I saw what she was doing, that I made my big mistake. It enraged me so, that I instinctively wound up my best punch and gave it to her with all I had – right in the guts. I must have caught her square in the solar plexus, because she went down in the snow packed fort like a sack of potatoes, and started squealing like a stuck pig. I remember glancing up to see my dad shake his head. Then his smile turned to a frown, and he was moving away from the window.
These were no-win situations for a father, and he did the best he could to hear both sides of it. But, in the end, a man, or a big boy, never hits a woman. That was it. No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes about it. He didn’t care who started it. He wasn’t going to listen to any reason, or have any further discussions about it. Just a strong-arm grab, felt even under my heavy coat, and a quick jerk out of the fort and that was that. I was sent packing on my way. Then, he bent down to check on Holly, and she magically got better by the minute as he attended her.
Being grounded from Holly was often a relief back then, so in hindsight, I took the punishment gladly. I also recall that it was truly a triumphant moment in my short life. It was the first time that I had successfully stood up to her, and knocked her down. It wasn’t really a win though, as Holly had a way of evening up scores. But, for the moment, I had come out on top. Something I had never done before. It was the beginning of the end of her reign over me – at least physically. Lucky for her – her mind stayed razor, and trap like.