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The Ditched Car and the Cinch Strap
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The Ditched Car and the Cinch Strap

People can say what they want about “Child Abuse” and the associated ill-effects of disciplining our children, and not to wax all political here, but looking around at the results of a society that raises their children largely free from the “excessive burdens” of discipline, I am even more grateful than I already was for those beatings I did receive as a child, even if they were not all so well deserved.

I am quite certain that I got away with quite enough as a child to merit those few occasions when I did receive what I deemed to be an un-merited whooping. When we were young, these occasional whoopings indicated to us that there were indeed very real consequences to the actions that we took. We learned that doing the wrong things would result in negative reactions that were decidedly not conducive to accomplishing good things.

We also learned that, from time to time, one had to face negative consequences in order to proceed and do the right thing … despite the ramifications of our actions.


I am not going to sit here and try to convince anyone about my “angelic” status as a youth, even in the very different world I grew up in. However, it should be noted that, in a more “natural” environment, the job of the child is to get away with as much as they can in order to grow as a human.

The job of the parent is to ensure that the child can get away with as much as possible, without putting the child directly in the way of harm or allowing the child to overly injure or otherwise create detrimental results for the child that may impair the ability of that child to function as a productive and contributing member of society.

In short, children should be free to be children, but when they do cross the proverbial line, they need to be held accountable for their actions. Sometimes however, even in the “real world”, it is necessary to cross that line for no other reason than to do what is ultimately, right and just.

For those that do not know what it is, a cinch strap is the strap that wraps from the saddle, around the belly of the horse, and back up to the saddle on the other side. The cinch strap is generally at least two inches wide and generally not less than a quarter of an inch thick.

Suffice it to say that when this is applied to the child’s “seat of knowledge” for the purposes of discipline, that it is not in any way a pleasurable experience. Again though, despite what may be common misconceptions in the world today, when we did receive our whoopins, they were generally administered in direct proportion to the offense committed.

Thus, an intentionally broken glass would not likely receive the same whoopin’ that a “borrowed” tractor would. There were varying degrees of offenses that merited punishment and there were varying degrees of punishment to fit the offense.

The Ditched Car and the Cinch StrapA tractor is a very highly valued and expensive piece of equipment and one whose use is highly frowned upon in all but the most dire of circumstances. To “abuse” the tractor through any unauthorized use is definitely among the worst of offenses and one which is going to create a great and grievous backlash … most likely to include a very long march out to a convenient spot behind the barn where a cinch strap would be utilized to apply the lesson for the person who had utilized the tractor in an unauthorized fashion.

However, there are again, times when people are not given any real choice, but are forced to make a decision, knowing full well what the consequences will be no matter which decision they will ultimately make … and the same is every bit as true today in the real world as it ever was in the mountains back home. Thus, it seems much better to make a decision when it is called for, and prepare yourself for the consequences you know will result from those actions when you are called to account for what you have done … just make sure that you reason it all out and make the right decision if you expect it all to be worthwhile in the end.

It was not uncommon for parents who worked on their farms to allow the kids to use the car or the truck to drive to school. Sometimes, we would ride together, chipping in on the costs so as to make things more convenient and easier for everyone involved.

On one such occasion, I had ridden back from school with a fellow who lived up the hollow from us. He had stopped to let me out and proceeded on his way home. I do not remember exactly where my parents were at the time, but they were not around.

Thus, when he came walking up to my house a few hours later, I suspected something was wrong, but did not know what at the time. It was a substantial walk from the main road (for whatever there was of an actual road there … limited to say the least) so I knew it had been traversed with a definitive cause in mind.

As noted, the road is less than adequate by most standards. During the winter months, when we were actually in school, it can be treacherous. As he did not have snow tires, and the road was quite lacking, I suppose it was not at all unexpected that his car had slid into the ditch.

No, of course it had not done this of its own accord, but sometimes, no matter how good the driver (and the driving) may be, snowy roads, fully of rocks and potholes and uneven surfaces will just get the better of the car and driver and send it off into a ditch.

The parents of my friend were not however, the forgiving or understanding type. To even think about calling a tow truck would have resulted in a bill for many hundreds of dollars just to get the tow truck on site, before any work at all had commenced to remove the car from the ditch. The results for my friend would have been most detrimental to his freedom, and likely to his health to a more limited degree, and I would definitely not be able to enjoy any of the benefits of riding to or from school with him for at least the rest of that school year.

Unfortunately, my parents had not been around and there was no way to ask their permission to use the tractor. However, the parents of my friend would be returning shortly, and a failure to act on our part would have resulted in truly tragic consequences for him. In our sense of the words, at that stage, we no longer had any choice and we would be forced to make a decision … so we did.

The tack hanging in the barn began swaying with the winter winds as I opened up the barn to get out the tractor. That tack swinging back and forth only served to remind me, in a very ominous fashion, clinking and clanging as it swayed to and fro, of the whooping I would be getting when my parents got home, but as was previously noted … sometimes you have to pay the price, even if you are just doing what is by all accounts, the right thing to do.

We got the tractor out, rode together back down to the main road and hooked up the chains. Just to be sure, I then followed him up to his house where he parked the car and … fearing someone may see something out of place, despite the fact that we had been very careful and not caused any damage, he rode back with me on the tractor to my house … where we arrived at about the same time my parents did … following the tractor back up to the house.

We were allowed back in the house to warm up, and my friend was allowed the chance to get a cup of coffee while my dad “lectured” me about using the tractor and why it was a punishable offense, and sprinkled in a healthy dose of more colorful language and epithets designed to put the fear of God into my heart … and it did indeed.

My friend looked knowingly at me as my dad called me out to the barn to fetch the cinch strap of my choice … but it had better not be the small one or he would “wear that one out” on my “hide” and then fetch up the biggest one to start again … something again worthy of its own story.

I went out and got the biggest cinch strap we had, knowing he would recognize it as such, and realize that I was indeed ready to pay the penalty I had already known would be coming. He was not overly kind as he snatched me up by the collar and half walked and half hauled me out behind the barn.

There is another funny aspect about the people that were “truly old school” as opposed to those of us who just wanted to be old school like our heroes and fathers and grandfathers. They never seemed to take any action without knowing all of the circumstances.

Much to my relief, my dad began querying me before he laid the proverbial “board of education” (or strap in that particular instance) against my very tender “seat of knowledge”. He knew that I had known I would be receiving a whooping for taking out the tractor and asked me first to explain why I felt so compelled to do so, knowing full well about the wrath that would befall me for such actions.

Knowing the parents of my friend as he did, he begrudgingly acknowledged that had he been in my shoes, he would have taken the very same actions as I had … but still … there was a price that had to be paid.

To this day, I am sure my friend still thinks I got a royal and world-class whooping for what we had done that day, though I wonder if he ever thought about why I never hacked on him about taking that whooping in his stead. If he did, he never mentioned it to me, and I certainly did not let him know that my dad had the consideration and fortitude to give me an opportunity to explain myself in full before “enlightening me” regarding my actions.

There were indeed times and occasions when I received a whooping that I did not feel that I personally merited, but this was not one of them. However, even in those cases, there was generally enough I had gotten away with wherein they were still, even if only tangentially, justifiable at the end of the day.

Despite all the talk about child abuse today, when everything is said and done, I am truly grateful for the whoopings I got as a kid … and occasionally, even for those that I did not receive … because someone else understood all about making a decision to do what was right, no matter the consequences.

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