To a 5-year-old, the barn was huge. But a lot of things are huge to a 5-year-old. Adults, dogs, kitchen appliances and hypodermic needles.

But the barn was a different kind of huge. It was Bible story huge.

Standing in the cattle lot looking at the abandoned structure Mom and Dad told me never to play around, I thought the barn wouldn’t be fun to play around. It would be fun to play in.

Cows milled around the old barn that had lost part of its roof for reasons that made a kindergartner’s mind think of tornadoes or angry space aliens instead of old age. Dad had put up panels to keep the cows out of the barn. Or maybe to keep the aliens in.

The cows didn’t seem to notice me as I walked around them and climbed over the wobbly fence Dad had nailed over the spot where a barn door had been.

“Hey, stupid cows,” I yelled, showing my superiority as a biped. Cows were pretty dumb, but if they knew you were there, they wouldn’t step on you.

As I dropped to the dusty concrete floor, I saw why Mom and Dad told me to stay away from the barn. A pile of straw taller than my sisters sat right beneath a trap door in the roof. I knew what I had to do.

I climbed to the top of a ladder and onto the roof. I could see my dad’s tractor moving up and down a field, and I could see the laundry Mom had just put on the line. I just hoped they didn’t see me.

I smiled and pitched myself into the trap door and landed softy on a big pile of dusty straw. I giggled, and got up to do it again.

But a sudden pain stabbed my foot.

I looked down and saw a nail sticking an inch out of the top of my Keds. I brushed some straw away from my foot to see a board nailed to my foot.

Oh, no, I realized. Mom was going to find out.

My foot started bleeding.

“Mom,” I yelled, not caring about whatever punishment I’d get for playing in the alien barn or for ruining my tennis shoes.

My sock started to get wet.


“Moo,” came from a cow staring at me from outside the fence.

Stupid cow.


I screamed for five or 10 minutes before I gave up and hopped to the house, dragging the board with me.

Mom yelled at me as she drove to the emergency room. She yelled at me for playing in the barn. She yelled at me for stepping on a nail. She yelled at me for stuff I don’t remember doing. She apologized for yelling at me. Then she yelled at me some more.

But she didn’t really need to yell at me. I knew I’d done something wrong and my punishment would come when I got to the hospital and the doctor gave me a tetanus shot.

He did.

The needle was huge.