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Kid with an axe cut down to size

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One time I hit my sister Dallas in the head with an axe. It was an accident, of course. Let me explain.

Our family was living in Grandpa's house in Bissett. Two wood-burning stoves were the only means of heating the place. There was always a lot of wood to cut so everyone chopped, including me once I was about 13.

One rainy fall day, Dallas and I were hanging out in the yard looking for something to do. Back then we didn't have computers, Internet or PlayStation, and we lived way out in "the sticks."

I'd become good at swinging an axe and sometimes thought up ways to make chopping wood more entertaining. One trick I had was to try splitting a knee-high log in half with one chop.

I figured I'd try the one-chop trick with an especially large log and show off my skills to my little sister, who was around eight at the time.

"Watch this!" I yelled as I wound up and slammed the old axe down on the log with what I thought was fierce ninja-like precision.

Dallas leaned in for a closer look at the log just as I was swinging down.

Then in slow motion, it happened: the heavy axe head bounced off the wet circle of log without even making a dent. Then the dull back end of the axe rebounded up towards Dallas's face. I think I screamed a little, but Dallas didn't make a noise.

I dropped the axe.

"Are you OK?" I said.

My eyes were as big as navel oranges.

"I'm OK," she said, blinking as she turned towards me.

But no -- it wasn't so OK.

Dallas looked like a unicorn. Except instead of a pretty white horn in the middle of her forehead, there was a big goose-egg that resembled a purple potato.

"Oh, my God, Dally!" I gasped.

I couldn't help myself. I knew I should keep calm but really I felt like screaming, crying, tearing out my hair and running into the bush to live the life of a hermit forever.

My Mom was going to kill me! Dallas was her favourite kid ever since she was a sickly little baby.

I tried not to look at my sister's head too closely because I was afraid she'd see how afraid I was.

I went into the house and pulled something out of the freezer to make a cold compress. Then I grabbed one of my Dad's flashlights and stared at her pupils. They looked OK to me; I didn't think a two-hour trip to the hospital was necessary yet.

"Stay cool, Colleen. Stay cool," I told myself. It was one of the only times I can remember referring to myself in the third person. That's how scared I was.

When I was sure Dallas was indeed going to be OK, I started the process of trying to save myself. I never begged so hard in my life. I begged with a passion that would outdo the saints of the Vatican.

I asked Dallas not to tell our parents what happened. I used the only bartering power I had.

I offered her $20 of my babysitting money as compensation so she could buy as much candy as she wanted. Dallas was big on candy back then. She thought about it for a while, and then raised the stakes. The price of silence went up to 50 bucks.

That was a lot of money, but after a few more glances at her forehead I decided not to quibble.

Soon, both our parents got home from work. We were still outside, and Dallas's goose egg still looked pretty bad. I watched from a distance, waiting for her to spill the beans.

To my utter relief, Dallas lied for me.

She told our parents the story we cooked up, that she'd banged her head by accident -- with no axe involvement. I still got heck for not watching out for my sister, but it wasn't nearly close to what I expected.

That's what sisters do sometimes; they lie for each other, especially when facing a royal arse-tanning.

Dallas recovered quickly, helped along with a steady diet of chocolate bars, candy and pop for at least a month, as well as my undying affection.


Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 J6

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