Something scared my mom, and that is why she is alive to tell the tale.
It was an afternoon in the mid-1960s. The sun hung high in the sky, shining its rays over the acres of fields, and the endlessly flat stretches of road that pervade the landscape of rural America. Towns don't come more rural than Jamestown, Pennsylvania, a tiny dot on the map ninety miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where my grandfather's family had owned and operated a dairy farm for generations.
My mom was just a girl, not older than ten, and she was lonely. Her two older sisters were off again on some mysterious teenage pursuit. There weren't any kids to play with. Each and every week my grandma would take my mom to the neighboring towns for synagogue youth group activities, and that was where she met all of her friends. But they didn't live in Jamestown. Hardly any kids did.
Jamestown was not a place for kids. It was a place for the rough and tumble farming life. For faces ruddy from the sun, and palms rough from hours of manual labor. For worries about weather and crops. A place where minutes seemed liked hours for an inquisitive ten year old girl, just desperate for some entertainment.
On those long and lonely afternoons, my mom would sometimes play at the store at the edge of the farm where employees of my grandfather sold milk, ice cream, and assorted other dairy products out of a small window. She would get an ice cream cone, talk to the farm workers, and watch the customers coming and going.
My grandfather used to tell her never to go play by the store, especially by herself. But she never listened. To this day, she wishes that she had.
On that day, my mom ran down for her habitual ice cream cone. As she ate it, she explored the side of the store, where large freezer trucks were parked that would soon drive dairy products from the farm all over the county. These trucks held particular interest for my mom. She was fascinated by the large doors in the back that would swing open large enough for a whole person to walk right through for loading and unloading.
As she waited for the workers to come out of the store bearing pallets of milk to load into the trucks, she noticed that the back door to one of the trucks was hanging slightly open. Thinking that my grandfather would prefer the door to be closed when no one was around, she sneaked around the back of the truck, and hoisted herself up onto the back bumper towards the door.
As she reached out for the handle to shove the door closed, she saw something inside the truck. She didn't know what it was, but something was in there, and it scared the wits out of her. Heart racing, palms sweating, she all but flew off the bumper, and raced back towards the store and the relative safety of the long line of customers. She never touched the handle.
When she turned back towards the truck, she saw one of the farm-hands from the store headed towards the open door. He was a massive, grizzly-bear of a man with no neck, and legs like tree-trunks. When he reached the truck, he lifted up his arm to close the door. Whatever was inside that scared my mom, the man didn't see. The minute his hands touched the metal door handle, his whole body was lifted up, and he was thrown back to the ground, unresponsive.
They said there was a short in the truck. That the man was electrocuted.
He survived, but the current that hurt him surely would have killed a tiny ten year old.
My mom never told my grandfather what happened, but she knows. She knows that whatever scared her inside that truck was warning her away. Telling her it wasn't her time.
That thing that scared her saved her life.
And she has never forgotten.