Out in the country, regular trash pick-up is a rarity. Instead, burning piles or barrels with grate covers are used. Lift the grate, put in the trash bag, and lower the grate. A little lighter fluid and boom! Instant bonfire.

After a while, the barrel fills up with ashes and remnants, so the trash must be burned on the ground, outside the barrel. There one would stand, iron rake in the left hand and a water nozzle in the right. Standing back a little ways was always a good idea, just in case momma’s empty hair spray can got into the trash. A little too much heat and one could find themself eating through a straw. Hence, the rake and the water hose.

One Saturday afternoon, Dad was cleaning up around the burn pile with Matt. I was on the tractor, brush-hogging the side pasture. That section had a lot of trees, low water areas, and brush.

Matt found some old darts lying near the barrel and decided to “practice” throwing darts. The garage was to his north and fairly close by, making it an easy target. Growing tired of hitting the “broad side of the barn,” he sought out more challenging distractions. What could be harder to hit with a hand thrown dart than someone sitting on a moving tractor, thirty yards away, with several large oak and holly trees, complete with limbs, twigs, and leaves?

Somehow… Someway… he found his mark. Through all of these obstacles the dart landed in the top of my head! Well, actually it landed in the metal stay in the center of my ball cap, preventing it from doing any more damage than drawing a few drops of blood. That, and infuriating his much larger and older brother who bore a short fuse.

In one fell swoop, I threw the tractor into neutral, locked the brake, and flew off the tractor. Matt ducked behind Dad for safety, his only real option. Across the narrow pasture I ran with every intention of doing bodily harm to my dear, baby brother.

Dad hadn’t seen what had happened. He only heard the tractor stop suddenly and saw me tearing through the light brush, coming in his direction. When I told him about the dart hitting me in the head, he calmly turned to Matt and asked for his side to the story.

Matt pointed across the back pasture, in the opposite direction of the tractor, and quietly said, “I threw it that way. The wind must have caught it.”

I never did get even with him for that one.