Morgan Mandell's backyard episode reminded me of a time long, long ago when my kids were small enough to carry. It was a summer much like this with the corn surrounding our house on all sides. We had no air conditioning in those days so all our windows and doors were thrown open. My husband was at a meeting, the kids were in bed and I was folding laundry watching TV when the phone rang. It was about 10:00p.m. The phone ringing was not unusual and I picked up. What surprised me was hearing from our elderly neighbors so late in the evening. Ben and Marge live on the highway just a quarter mile north of our house, but I couldn't see their farm due to the corn. I couldn't see their barnyard light either.
Now Ben is a gentle soul and talks in a hushed raspy voice and I strained to hear what he had to say. "I wanted to tell you about the police cars," he said.
I gripped the phone hoping they hadn't been hurt. "What about the police cars?"
"Guess they lost two convicts and they saw them head into the corn. They think one went north and the other is headed your way."
"Ben? What do you mean headed my way?" I couldn't breathe. I stood by the patio door only able to reach so far due to the phone cord attached to the wall. Three doors yawned open, the screens not locked.
"They're gonna check our buildings first and if they don't find the convicts, they'll spread out. Just wanted you to know what's going on, in case you saw all the police lights flashing."
Lights? The kitchen light was on, the livingroom, plus the hall light. I knew I was more visible than anyone lurking in the dark. My children slept under open windows. I swallowed hard. "Come get us, Ben. Kurt's not home and ..." I couldn't finish what I wanted to say. "Just come get us."
In the few minutes it took Ben to arrive, I skittered to the front door, slammed it shut and locked it, then scurried to the back door and did the same, all the while wondering if someone was trying to climb in a window where my children slept.
I was trying not to hyperventilate, wondering how to carry three children to safety. And how to keep the knife in my hand. How it got there I'm still not sure.
Rousing children is like carrying fifty pounds of limp noodles. It's just not that easy. I scooped up my son, all twenty-nine pounds of him and then my preschooler I literally dragged up from her armpit. In a hushed demand I told my seven year old she had to help mommy. Now!
We made our way to the back door and as we stood there waiting for Ben, I realized I needed to leave a note for my husband. That meant turning the lights back on and I didn't want to do that, but I sucumbed. My daughter very carefully wrote a note as I told her how to spell the words - We're at Marge's. We taped it to the door. Headlights pulled in the drive and we headed out meeting Ben in the middle of the sidewalk.
Five police cars filled the highway in front of Ben's house, their lights swirling, distorting my vision. I was angry at them. How dare they lose two convicts! In my backyard!
After awhile, the police cars moved away as their search widened. My husband called about 11:30. I was still at the neighbors. "I just got Margie George out of bed," he said. "She said you hadn't been there." Margie is a good friend of mine and she lives on the other side of town. It was an easy mistake for him to make. He came home to an empty house with a scribbled message planted on the door. I told him about the convicts and that he should come retrieve us.
"Did they get them?" he asked.
"I don't know, they moved up the gravel road east of here. You didn't see the police lights?"
"I figured they had some kids pulled over or something." Then, "The back door wasn't locked. I better check the house before I come get you."
With golf club in hand, my husband searched our home, found it convict free and came and rescued us. Our kids never did realize the danger they were in and for that I'm glad. It's only in retelling the story years later did they understand how vulnerable we had been.
And the convicts? They were caught about two miles north of our house, disoriented and cut up pretty bad from the corn leaves. Running through large plants is not recommended.
I thought I'd be freaked out and keep all the doors and windows locked up after that. But I didn't. Yet in years when the corn surrounds our house and buildings I think of those convicts. And I thank the Lord they stayed in the corn.
Til next time ~