My friend Hilton grew up poor in South Alabama. He and his older brother didn’t have a lot of toys, but they did have one tricycle to share between them. Only Hilton’s brother wasn’t much of a sharer. He rarely gave five-year-old Hilton a turn, and when Hilton did get on the tricycle, his brother was likely as not to knock him off and ride it himself. Which made it hard to relax and enjoy any tricycle time he got. One day the two boys were playing at a creek not too far from the house when the older brother stepped on a leg trap–picture a snap-jawed bear trap from the cartoons, but smaller and without the teeth. Still plenty painful, though, on a little boy’s bare foot. The older brother howled in agony while Hilton sweated and grunted, trying to open the jaws of the trap enough to free the foot. But he was only five. He couldn’t do it. The two boys together, in fact, couldn’t open the trap. “Go get mama!” the brother bawled. “Get her quick!”


So Hilton lit out for the house, as fast as his little legs could carry him. He pushed through palmetto of the creek bottom and onto the sandy road, his brother’s howls ringing in his ears. “Got to get Mama,” he said to himself as he ran. “Mama can fix it.” He turned up the long drive that led to the house and kept running. He could feel a little stitch in his side and he couldn’t hear his brother’s howls so clearly now but he kept running. “Got to get Mama,” he said. “She can fix it.”

The house had just come into view when Hilton pulled up short. There, under the shade tree, sat the tricycle, unattended. There was no older brother. Nor was there any danger of anybody sneaking up from behind and knocking him off. For the first time in his life, the opportunity for a leisurely ride on the tricycle presented itself. So he hopped on. “I rode it three times around the house before I went in and got Mama,” he said. “Each time I came around the front, I could just hear my brother yelling down at the creek.”

  • Canaan Bound
    4:12 PM, 23 March 2011

    Awful. Just plain awful.

  • Jess
    6:48 PM, 23 March 2011

    I will not judge before I am able to discern what I would have done in his place… 😉

  • Jess
    6:50 PM, 23 March 2011

    Did I mean divine instead of discern? Or maybe decide? I am having a D-Day (in my case, a day in which I struggle with the meanings of two-syllable words starting with D).

  • Patrick
    1:53 PM, 24 March 2011

    deduce? derive? Those are some d-lightful words 😉 Given the circumstances I would likely have behaved the same Hilton. Now if the trap had teeth and there was blood involved, that would have been a different story- because I’d have passed out right there beside him and he’d have to find some other way to get mom’s attention. I love the ending though. I was expecting Hilton to try bribing his brother, “I’ll go get mom if you promise to let me ride the tricycle, and never ride it yourself again”. Now that’s more my style. Hilton was really sweet to just run off to find help. His passively taking advantage of the situation also seems kinder than the active direct manipulation I would have gone for. Eventually brother is freed either way. Back to being bullied off the bike? Or prepare for brother to get revenge? Maybe Hilton is a smarter little kid than I was. 😛

  • sally apokedak
    1:54 PM, 24 March 2011

    What a great story. Now that I have a son and I’ve studied him for eighteen years, I appreciate this kind of story. I had three older brothers, but I never understood how different boys and girls really are until I had a son. It’s clear that little Hilton wasn’t bearing a grudge. He wasn’t waiting for the day he could repay his older brother. An opportunity for trike-time just presented itself and he took it. Girls never act and react as quickly and with such uncluttered thinking.
    If this story had been about sisters, there would have been a half an hour’s worth of analyzation from every possible angle and another hour’s worth of justification while the trike sat empty and the older sister screamed for help. After the ride there would have been more time devoted to obfuscation as the younger sister told the mother where the older sister was and explained why she took an hour and a half to come seeking help. By the time the mother was actually fetched, the older sister would have gnawed off her own leg and crawled back to the shack dragging her useless stump behind her.

  • BuckBuck the Nordic Wonderduck
    3:06 PM, 24 March 2011

    Sally’s comment is killing me. Soooo funny.
    I love this story. I’m sort of disappointed in myself that I do.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    3:14 PM, 24 March 2011

    BuckBuck, if you’re disappointed in yourself for loving that story, how do you think I feel for publishing it?

  • EmmaJ
    5:17 AM, 25 March 2011

    That’s pretty hilarious.Although I myself am a (reformed) tyrant oldest sister, I suspect that many a younger sib has longed for such freedom from tyranny and would cherish those fleeting moments. Hey, at least he did eventually go in and get Mama.

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