Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 1-31-11
January 31, 2011
There’s a window of time which people seem oblivious to fear or danger – the teenage years. Scientists have demonstrated this phenomenon on adolescent lab rats that exhibit a much lower activity in the two areas of the brain usually associated with processing fear – the basal amygdale and the hippocampus. But tolerance for risk is necessary for young adults. Otherwise, they might be too afraid to strike out on their own when the time came.
In the meantime, we adults have to manage that risk-taking urge to keep it from killing them. No one has more hands-on opportunities with this than the local ag teachers. I don’t know what they pay our high school ag teacher, Mr. Randolph, but it’s not enough. With all the extra hours he spends getting animals and mechanic projects ready for stock shows, his wife would never see him at all if she didn’t work at the school. But what really makes him deserve combat pay is that he has to put up with teenagers who don’t understand what dangers lurk in the ag shop. That’s why each year he gives his classes the same lectures about kids and adults he’s known personally who’ve been seriously hurt or killed when they were careless about routine safety measures.
One of the main battles he faces is getting students to wear safety goggles. Caitlyn, my daughter’s best friend, came in the other evening with a dark red streak where a metal fleck had barely missed going into her right eye. Mr. Randolph hadn’t noticed her using the chop saw without safety goggles or he would have told her about his buddy who’d gotten a tiny metal chip in his eye and permanently lost sight in it.
Even when they’re being careful, and even when their teacher is supervising the students, accidents can happen. Like the other day, when my son Landon was welding. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots like he normally does. As part of a drug awareness program, it was superhero day, so he was wearing tennis shoes to go with his Batman outfit that I had made him. And they weren’t just any tennis shoes, either. They were his black $80 Nike™ shoes he wears to train for cross-country running.
He pulled his welding helmet over his face and began to work. Like all the ag students here, Landon is fanatical about pleasing his teacher, so he always seems to put forth his best effort. He was really concentrating on doing an excellent job; so much so that he didn’t notice a little extra warmth around his feet and ankles. Nor did he notice the smoldering cotton or the smell of burning rubber. Finally, when the heat on his feet became blistering hot, he switched off the welder and lifted up the visor on his helmet. That’s when he realized that his britches were on fire. Apparently a few stray sparks had escaped the tip of the welder and bounced onto the edges of his frayed cotton jeans that were dragging the ground.
He stomped around a moment before someone sprayed him with a fire extinguisher. By that time, most of his buddies were laughing too hard to be of much assistance. I hope they would have moved out of the way if he had burst into flames and needed to “stop, drop and roll.” Other than a few holes in his socks and jeans and a few melted spots on his expensive shoes, he escaped the incident unscathed. The other kids teased him a lot that day and the next, but finally Mr. Randolph admitted that he himself had the same thing happen to him – after he was grown. Maybe this little incident will stimulate that part of my son’s teenage brain to help him realize that the world is a dangerous place. Maybe he won’t have to wait until he’s 30 or becomes a father himself to realize that’s he’s not bullet-proof. If so, I guess I’ll have to write an article for a medical journal because he’d be the first teenage boy to make that realization.