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The size of the prairie became more and more apparent as we rose higher and higher. Directly in front of us, the vastness of the land overtook my young brain, even once the road came into view. The prairie morphed into forest to the left and was lined by the long, wide driveway on the right. The driveway was followed by three buildings. My grandpa lived in one. He was the caretaker of the prairie. My grandpa worked for Bill, the owner of the property and resident of the second building.
Earlier in the day, my dad and I had taken a walk through that same prarie; we were staying on the property visiting my grandpa. The walk was serene. The prairie grasses were tall above our heads. We could see nothing but the bright flowers, full seed packets, and swaying grasses ahead along with the vast blue sky above.
Near the end of our walk we heard voices from the barn. We heard my grandpa in addition to my aunt, uncle, and two young cousins (who were all also staying on the property). Once past the tall grasses, with my family in view, I split from my dad. I ran down a small hill to the group, the wind in my hair, practically flying. If I had tripped on one of the many rocks that made up the gravel road, or even just traveled a bit faster, I would have fallen flat on my face.
I reached my family and stopped short, with my dad not far behind. He not only had much longer legs, but picked up a jogging pace once he saw me running. I had to crane my neck to look up at the large piece of machinery that my family was gathered around, which I later learned was a variety of tractor known as a front end loader. I don’t remember how it was explained to me, but I was informed that while my dad and I were walking through the prairie, my grandpa was giving rides in the bucket of the front end loader. I was then asked if I wanted to try. The ride consisted of climbing into the bucket, which, mind you, was not intended for human inhabitation. The bucket was attached to a lift arm, which my grandpa would control from inside the cab. He could raise the bucket vertically more feet than I could grasp at my young age.
I was weary of the bucket ride. I trusted my grandpa and my family, I just wasn't much of a daredevil. However, after strenuous convincing from my aunt, I agreed to try going up in the bucket..on the condition that my aunt ride beside me. We climbed into the snow-plow-shaped bucket as my grandpa slowly stepped into the cab of the front end loader, cautious of his bumm knee.
The size of the prairie became more and more apparent as we rose higher and higher. Directly in front of us, the vastness of the land overtook my young brain, even once the road came into view. The prairie morphed into forest to the left and was lined by the long, wide driveway on the right.
Suddenly all I could see was the ground coming fast at my face. I hit the gravel and I couldn’t breath. My dad lunged forward and swept me off the ground onto his knee. He looked me over quickly then fully picked me up and speed-walked into the bathroom in the barn. I looked over his shoulder as he carried me inside. My aunt was laying on the ground, motionless, with her leg bent at an unusual angle.
After sitting in the bathroom for a few minutes with my dad, I had regained most of my breathing capacity. My reflection had showed a cut on my lip, which was promptly washed out by my dad. When I questioned my dad about my inability to breath for multiple minutes, he explained that the “wind” had been “knocked out of me.” When I had hit the ground, my small body somewhat bounced, causing only the temporary breath-less-ness and lip cut. We, then, had left the barn bathroom.
The first thing I saw was my aunt, whose body was not so lucky as to bounce like mine had upon hitting the ground. She was still in the same position as when I had last seen her. That image is vividly burned into my brain; her jeans dusty from the gravel, her face pale, her chest rising and falling at an irregular rhythm and pace.
I later questioned why the bucket had tipped. It was built to support weight much heavier than my aunt and me, and had many times before. Unaware of how this idea came about, likely my grandpa, it was explained that my cousin Theo had ended up in the cab with my grandpa. Theo was around three years old at the time, and, without knowing better, had pressed the “dump” button. This forced the bucket to immediately turn towards the ground as if it was snapped like a wrist, dumping out both me and my aunt.
Theo was just a little kid who saw a big red button. His brain wasn’t developed enough to process that his actions would have consequences..let alone the immense ones to follow. My aunt went through years of struggle and pain. She needed multiple surgeries on her leg, which still causes her pain and a limp to this day..7 years later. My whole family can recount this event. Everyone who was there has the memory vivid in their minds, myself included. Anyone who wasn’t there has heard this story enough times that they can now recite the tale themselves. Theo even claims he remembers pressing the button that sent both myself and my aunt, Theo’s mother, to the unforgiving gravel below.