Boys Who Played on a Gallows – November 1900

As we all know, children through ignorance are in constant danger of injuring themselves, even of losing their lives. Unfortunately, also, the average child has an imperfect knowledge of the meaning of obedience. If you say, “Don’t do that for you will hurt yourself, ” he will obey at the moment but you have not the least guarantee that he will not do the very same thing, the moment your back is turned.

I remember getting a fright with two little boys who were staying with us. I went into the barn and found them enjoying themselves with a sort of gallows. They had got a long strong rope, climbed up the hay moo, thrown the rope over the beam and made a knot and a running noose. The ploy was to put their arms through the rope, throw themselves from the moo and swing a foot or so from the floor.

They were not my boys or, after gravely explaining the horrible danger, I would have whipped them with a rope’s end. As it was, I was limited to a gentle rebuke. “Oh, but cousin,” I was told, “we were very careful. Nothing could go wrong.” Fortunately at that moment one of them fell sideways out of the noose and dunted his head and had to lie all afternoon with a sore head.

There was an interval of peace till the other spied a gun high up on a wall. He was forbidden to touch it, of course, but the expression of longing in his eye did not diminish. Next day, I found him on tip toes on a chair, trying to reach it. There was nothing for it after that but to hide it again.

I am led to these thoughts by a paragraph in the papers about a small boy of nine who hanged himself accidentally on a roller towel. He was in the habit of putting his head through it and turning himself round and round till the towel was twisted into a string. He had been forbidden to do it repeatedly, evidently to no purpose for one day he was found quite dead. Ought not a mother in such a situation to have whipped the child to have caused him a little pain in order to save his life?

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