The Safe Side of the Fence

I may have told this story before, or maybe a version of it at one time or another. Nevertheless, when I was a kid we had lived in a dusty little “one road” town an hour and a half south east of Oklahoma City. The house my mom rented was right on main street and two houses from the school and its playground. I remember fondly of all those dangerous playground items like the teeter totters and the big metal merry go round that several of us brave fools would see how fast we could get that thing moving and as we hung on for our dear lives our bodies would be pulled away from the ride and right at the stupidest moment we would take a leap of faith and let go as we crashed into the ground and rolled into whatever and whosoever was in the way. Yep … the so many fond memories of the carefree childhood life.

As my friends and I grew older we followed the steps of the kids before us and played baseball and basketball for the school with dreams of gaining a state title and some majestic banner that would be proudly draped from the rafters in the gymnasium for all to remember that at that time we were the greatest. We started in a miniature version of the little league and many years from junior varsity. However; for a small town, this was the beginning of stardom for us boys because if we could play these games and become good enough we could earn one of those banners and forever be deemed a local hero, well at least until someone else wins that title. At that time baseball was considered a National Pastime and the dreams we all had was the major leagues. Just imagine one having our faces on one of those baseball cards!

There were many days when we would go over to the ball field and seek out baseballs that had been hit by the Varsity team. They would always hit them out of the park and often they would land in the cattle field located 20 or so feet past the center field fence. For us this was much like a treasure hunt and I’m sure it seemed as if we were looking for Easter eggs. When it came to crossing the barbed wire fence and venturing into the field we always took a moment to try to understand what the cattle would do once we were in their territory. We had been to several rodeos and we knew how mean these bulls could be especially armed with three-foot horns on each side of their head. The last thing we wanted was to be gorged by one of these bulls and flung back over the fence like a rag doll.

We would stand at that fence and the pack of cattle would often be far enough away to make the attempt to seek out these precious baseballs worth the risk. Many times, we would see the white of a ball through the green grass and most of the time it was only 15 or 20 feet away from the fence holding in the cattle. I remember looking into the eyes of one of those bulls and I would try to communicate with it and ask it what kind of mood he was in today. On this particular day, I felt a bit braver and a bit faster than the last time I made this attempt. The bull seemed to be farther away and not too interested in us. Maybe today he was too hungry to bully us and chase us out of the field. Maybe today he had far better things to do. I looked and saw the treasured baseball just within that 15 to 20-foot area that they normally hid in. This ball seemed to be sitting on top of the grass just waiting for me to snatch it up.

I stood there on the safe side of that barbed wire fence contemplating what to do. I put together all of my childhood might and imagination in hopes that I could speak telepathically to this bull that most certainly would threaten me. The ball was half way between he and I; there was a possibility that I could be faster than he. I watched this bull and the pack of cattle for quite some time and felt assured that they had no interest in chasing me. My courage was building rather quickly yet the images of these beast tossing around a full-grown cowboy began to flash through my mind. I felt I had been warned time and time again of what would happen if that bull caught me. But not today, today I think he was taking a day off from terrorizing us kids.

I reached down and grabbed the cold steel wire of the lower run of the barbed wire fence and slipped my scrawny body through keeping a keen eye for any movement from the cattle before me. It was strange that on the cattle side of the fence the distance between them and the baseball seemed to have been drastically reduced. I was watching them and I know they didn’t move but that ball certainly was further away from me than it was from the danger zone. I tried to be as cautious as possible as I crept closer to the ball. The beast guarding it kept eating the grass and then looking over to me as I trespassed upon them. It seemed as if they were friendly that day and they didn’t mind me being within their comfort zone. Maybe they weren’t as scary as they had seemed to be. Maybe they want me to be successful in retrieving this baseball. Just maybe they were kind and charitable and actually want to see my take that ball out of their area and find joy with it.

The fear that had been weighing on me began to dissipate and I felt a whole lot more confident in rescuing this baseball from the muck of this cattle field. It almost seemed as if I was granted permission to do so and with that I approached the ball and reached down to grab it. The cattle and their guardian bull had watched me and gave no impression of their intention. I felt the warm joy of success as I began walking back to the safety of the ball field. I was so proud that I held up the ball so my little brother could see how brave and successful I had become and the look on his face when from a cheerful smile to one that sent chills through my bones. He was no longer looking at me he was definitely looking past me and I could feel the tremors from the ground resonate through my legs.

I was deep within the danger zone and closer to the beast than I was to the safety of the fence. I could hear the grunts and snorts of the bull as the stomping of the hooves began to thunder. I turned to see all the beast coming toward me as a stampede was quickly beginning. I ran like the wind and I focused on the opening between the two rows of barb wire and tried not to think about all the western movies where the cowboy was trampled on by an out of control stampede of cattle. I was so scared that fear pushed me faster than I had ever run before or even since. As I closed on the fence I could feel the heat of the anger coming off from the beast behind me. I took one last leap and sailed through that fence as if it wasn’t there. I laid on the ground feeling like I just escaped from hell and I look back at the fence and those beasts had stopped three feet from the wire. My heart was ready to explode and I could feel the pain from my right hand and knuckles as I proudly held fast to that wonderful baseball.

My shirt was torn and I had a few cuts and scrapes but I survived and I had the prize to prove it. I looked at those bulls and they just stared at me with a calm look as if nothing happened. These beasts really do look rather harmless because they do not expose any facial feature relating to any type of intention other than grinding grass. I was quite scared and had to convince myself to make this move and I felt certain that the beast was going to allow me to do what it was that I needed to do. As it turned out they waited for me to turn away from them and then they attacked. The ending of this memory could have been much worse and all it would have taken was for me to hesitate or stumble and fall. These massive beasts would have run me down and tossed and tore my scrawny body to pieces. I misplaced my trust into a beast I know very little about. I tried to accomplish something on my own that would have been smarter to have done with the help of others. Maybe I really didn’t need that baseball after all, especially seeing how we had found two more walking back around right field.

There are so many times in our lives where we think we need something and feel that whatever it is we feel we need is worth the risk. Often, we will look at all the possible options and even rely on and trust others to make these life changing decisions. unfortunately, there are many who only have their interest in mind when they act as if they are supporting you and there are also those whom seem trustworthy and more than helpful when in reality they are only waiting to take advantage of you and the situation. There are some who act as if they want you to succeed and when the moment fits them they turn on you to force you to fail. They act as if they are helping you up when they are really just trying to hold you deeper below the water. Sometimes you can access every scenario of a situation and feel you have the perfect way to find success but you failed to count on the people you really didn’t know anything about to begin with. Not all risk will leave you laying on the safe side of terror still holding the thing you were seeking for. There is always a risk of failure and being trampled on by a force greater than you had anticipated.

Trust is one of those things that is needed, it is earned, and it is misused. Often trust is lost and becomes difficult to offer back. When it comes to our success we need to understand that sometimes a stranger is a stranger and to trust him can be a higher risk than the attempt to grasp success at all. At such an early age, we were taught not to talk to strangers yet we do so all the time and take their words as if it were the truth. How many times have you gone to a car dealer and been talked into buying a car that certainly wasn’t as great as the salesman had praised it to be? How often have you listened to someone wanting something from you make promises they never keep? How often have you relied on the help of a stranger who claimed to want to see you succeed just to have them take everything you have left and try to push you out on the street?

I most certainly am not saying to trust no one; I am saying that honest intentions and pure charity are blurred by ones free will and worldly influence. If a man sells a car he does so with intentions far from wanting you to drive a reliable car. He wants to make as much money on that sale as possible and to sell it as quickly as he can, no matter what it takes. This same thing goes for many other things bought and sold. It gets even more crooked when this car being sold is at one of those buy here pay here type of places because that man expects you to put a down payment on it and knows that there is a high risk that you won’t be able to pay the car off so he will be able to repossess the car and sell it again.

Say you buy a house and the owner finances it. You pay 20 thousand dollars down and agree to make payments every month for a certain number of years. The seller wants to sell the house so he refrains from disclosing any negative information about the area or the house. He carefully picks a person who can come up with the down payment yet he knows it may be difficult for these people to keep up with the payments. After a while he waits for times to be rough and then he pounces threating to take everything away. He keeps pushing until you have no other option and you will have to give him the house back.

He seemed so friendly and almost too kind and loving at first; willing to do anything for you and made you feel as he was sent from heaven above. In the end, you may not end up with a few cuts and scrapes holding proudly to the prized ball you sought out for. In the end, you just may find that the intentions of you new found friend was to find someone to take advantage of and force them out so that he can find someone else to do the same thing to and then do it again and again.

Sometime our ambitions become so inflated that we forget that there are evil beast out there just waiting for us to turn our backs. Sure, there are times that you will get out still holding the ball but more often than not you may just find yourself toss around and torn apart. We need to be so careful in who we instill our trust into because there are so many people out there who are only in it for themselves and even though they say they care about you in reality they expect you to fail. We need to listen carefully to the voice within us because that will help guide you and show you what others are trying to hide.

I don’t know what ever happened to that baseball from all those years ago. Surely it has long been lost or even hit back into the field with those beasts. What I do still remember is the feeling of fear and knowing that the choice I made to trust what those beasts where showing me almost cost me more than I could possibly have paid. There are a lot of trust worthy people out there and I encourage you to surround yourself with them. Just keep this in mind if it looks like a bull, smells like a bull, and sound like a bull then you just may be running with the bulls praying that you will make it to the safe side of the fence.

I never trespassed on those fields again for I learned not to place my trust in that beast ever again. I also know that that was only one of the many stupid choices I made in life where the lesson was painful to learn. I really wished I had kept that baseball because now I feel as if I came out of that experience empty handed.

 

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