@ 2017 Bill Murphy
In our home state of Mississippi, DHS stood for the Department of Human Services, which was once tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting innocent children from neglect, abuse, and sorry parents. Today that agency is the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Carol and I somehow missed their attention on numerous occasions. Whew!
Our 4 girls are rather close in age, averaging 20 months between birth dates, so ‘big sisters‘ were never all that big, nor helpful. It was often like having quadruplets.
Our first parental semi-catastrophe occurred in 1970 when Lois was around 6 months. Carol and I attended Southside Baptist Church in Jackson, and were Sunday School teachers for high schoolers. Down the hill behind the church, was a softball field. We’d planned an after church picnic and ball games for the class. The teenage girls clamored over who would ‘take care of’ baby Lois.
This day, in the hectic rush to change clothes, transport food and equipment to the field, etc., Lois somehow ‘fell by the wayside.’ At the ball field, a full 15 minutes later, someone asked, “Where’s the baby?” She was just where we’d inadvertently left her, in her carrier, on the back steps of the church! Oops.
Several years later, it was Molly’s turn to be abandoned.
We were then attending First Pentecostal Church. Sunday night service was ‘the’ service of the week. We were present and accounted for at 6 PM, and considered it a ‘short service’ if the final amen came by 10. Sunday nights didn’t end there. It was either a late meal at Shoney’s, or else 3 or 4 families gathered at someone’s home for coffee and sandwiches. That particular night, we were the host. Molly as about 3 or 4 at the time.
All of our girls had friends from church, so they often as not rode to the after-church gathering with another family. We’d been home several minutes before anyone counted noses – are realized that Molly was not accounted for! The last time we knew where she was, she was fast asleep under the pew. Oops again.
A quick call to the church, and the person locking up for the night made a dash to the already locked sanctuary. Molly was none the wiser – still sleeping peacefully under the pew. Poor neglected child.
Some time after this, we were on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. See the photo above. The kids loved to hike, and we found a trail. Earlier, it had rained rather heavily, but we braved the soggy path anyway.
Shortly, we came to an ‘obstacle.’ The trail crossed a brook, with no bridge. A large, round log, perhaps 12 to 15’ long spanned the water. And what had once been a picturesque babbling brook, now, because of the heavy rain, was a mighty torrent rushing down the mountain side. Yes, we did. One by one, Carol and I walked our precious children across the wet log, several feet above these mighty rapids. If we’d slipped and fallen, our bodies would not have been found for days – and then, many miles away. Yes, we all made it. And no, we never told our parents about this foolhardy adventure.
We also lost Liz in crowded New Orleans in the French Quarter, for a long, long 2 or 3 minutes – when she turned left at an intersection and we walked straight. She was around 12 at the time. That was a heart stopper!
I’ll save the best (or should I say worst) example of our parenting decisions for last.
I can’t remember the exact year, but Tricia and Liz must have been around junior high age. Carol’s sister, Mary Ellen, and her family lived in Humble, Texas. We made the 450 mile trip several times each year, often leaving after 5 PM of Fridays and returning home in the wee hours of the following Monday. It was during this period that Carol developed her NASCAR/Indianapolis driving skills.
We left Mary Ellen’s late in the afternoon on our way home. This was in the days before cell phones and mobile internet. We had a CB RADIO! It was fun talking with the truckers.
While still inside Texas, we happened upon a trucker going our way… his destination that night was Jackson, MS! He was driving at a good, steady, speedy clip, so we stayed in his dust, chatting away continually. Soon we knew all about his kids and family. We even stopped for coffee, and met him face to face. I think he enjoyed our human company a few yards behind his rig. He had his dog beside him as a traveling companion.
Somewhere along the way, one of the kids made the remark that they wanted to RIDE WITH THE TRUCKER. You see where this is going.
It was finally decided that this utterly foolish idea was, perhaps, plausible. At the next truck stop, we pulled in, and exchanged two of our children for his dog. Looking back, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – WHAT WERE WE THINKING?
At the time, it really did seem like an educational adventure for the kids. I’ve never ridden in an 18 wheeler myself! But my 4 daughters have. Oh, we did have his license tag number!
After Liz and Tricia had their turn, and were safely returned to us, Lois and Molly had their turn in the big rig! The story doesn’t end there.
Sometime just before midnight, we arrived in Jackson. We followed him to the truck stop, not far from where we lived at the time, and brought him home with us, where Carol made a hot breakfast for everyone. Then we returned him back to his truck.
Amazingly, all 4 girls turned out amazingly well, in spite of their ding-a-ling parents … and without assistance from DHS.