Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere

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Those of us classified as baby boomers tend to boast about how wild and free our childhoods were.

Kids of our era romped through the woods and climbed trees unsupervised. We rode bikes without helmets and ice-skated without protective gear. We remember the days when cars didn’t have seatbelts. And we all survived unscathed — right?

Not always. This week I was reminded that not everyone escaped those carefree days of yore without lasting effects. Scrolling through Facebook I was startled to come across the obituary for a neighbor boy who broke his neck while diving into Silver Lake — our neighborhood swimming hole — one August day in 1970. The accident left him a quadriplegic. Keith had been a standout high school football player. He was in 4-H with me and my siblings; our families were good friends.

One of Keith’s younger sisters was in my class, and I remember her recalling decades after the accident how it had profoundly affected the family. In many ways they were never the same. Despite his disability, though, Keith persevered and went on to have a long career with the Small Business Administration. The Minnesota Jaycees recognized him as one of 10 Outstanding Young Minnesotans in 1981, and four years later the federal government recognized him as one of 10 outstanding federal employees nationwide.

I teared up as I read how he had married a woman with a disability, and how they had worked as a team to live independently. They adopted a son and Keith even began hunting deer with a disabled archers group.

I kept thinking about how his diving accident could have happened to any one of us who played in that murky Minnesota lake, taking chances with our daredevil stunts.

There were other neighborhood mishaps that now give me pause, too. Another neighbor boy was helping my dad with getting the chopped corn into the tall concrete silo next to our barn one fall during our teenage years.

Paul somehow got his leg caught in the auger and the sharp blade ripped through his groin. In those days before 911 and cellphones, it’s a miracle he didn’t bleed to death before help arrived.

What stands out most in my memories is Dad flagging us down as Mom and I drove home late that afternoon. It was the first time I’d ever seen my father cry as he told us what had happened.

Paul survived, and although he walked with a limp after that, he recovered fully and took over his family farm.

Yet another teenage boy in our community, who had just completed a successful performance as the lead in our high school musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” was killed when he was removing his loaded hunting rifle from his car’s back seat.

Accidents happen no matter what generation you’re from. It’s a good reminder not to take anything or anyone for granted. Walter Payton’s famous quote comes to mind: “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Hug those you love tightly today.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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