Childhood will either kill you or make you stronger. Considering my age, it apparently made me stronger, ‘cause I’m still ‘akickin’ and stirring up trouble.

I was a good little girl but I did some stupid things that, as I look back, could have been devastating to my family and to me. I’ve always believed that the Lord takes care of fools. Can I get an Amen?

When I was just a kitten I became enraptured with matches. Of course, they were forbidden to me, as well as hidden away from prying little hands. 

We had a fireplace so matches were used a lot. When Granddaddy would light up that old stack of wood, I would sit in front of the fire and listen to the crackle and watch the hungry, orange flames as they warmed and soothed me.

The day I found a dropped match on the side of the fireplace I became a four-year-old pyromaniac. I secreted the two-inch torch away for further use. I was sure I could find a use for it because I was a creative little squirt.

An opportunity came about the next day. You might say the match was burning a hole in my pocket.

I was in the living room playing with my dolls when I spotted a big old spider crawling up the curtain beside me.

Little girls do not like spiders and bugs. Hmmm. I wondered what it would be like to set that bad old spider on fire?

So, I did.  

Unfortunately, I also set the curtains on fire. I sat there in shock as the curtains were engulfed with flame, terrified, not knowing what to do.

Finally, I did what all children do when threatened ... “Mo-ther, Mo-ther, Mo-ther!”

She was in the kitchen ironing.  

The parents, grandparents and great grandmother all came rushing in with broom, mop, water buckets.

I was in so much trouble. I don’t even remember if I got a spanking or not. But I did have to apologize to my grandparents (it was their house). That act of having to apologize made such an impression on me. I swore off matches then and there. I was cured.

A couple of years later I began to lose teeth. I was all about that age-old tale involving the tooth fairy and her love of children’s teeth.

When my first tooth worked itself loose, I did what I was supposed to do and put it under my pillow. 

Voila! There was a big, shiny quarter. I was so happy. Back then a quarter was like a five dollar bill is now. I could start earning my black belt in shopping.

I had my own little pouch to carry my prize. I would take it out frequently and finger it lovingly.

It was the day before I was to go to the “store” and spend my cash when stupid hit me upside the head again. I put the quarter in my mouth.

Yeah. I swallowed it. 

It lodged in my windpipe, standing on end. 

My dad grabbed me, turned me upside down and shook me. Didn’t work.

I remember the pain. It was hard to breathe and my throat was so sore. ‘Course, I was rushed to the doctor - who immediately put me in the hospital. X-rays showed the culprit in its nesting place. But the thing was, at that time, the Tupelo hospital didn’t have any instruments that could extract the quarter because of how and where it was located.

My doctor put my parents and myself on a train headed to Memphis and the “big” hospital.

I was put to sleep and the quarter was safely removed. 

Doc told Dad I was “lucky” that I could have smothered to death had that quarter flipped at any time. Not lucky ... Lord’s just taking care of fools.

Of course, young people don’t have a corner on the stupidity market. It’s just that when adults do dumb stuff and the results lead to discoveries, we call it genius. In 1752, Ben Franklin, on a quest to prove that lightning was a massive form of static electricity, flew a kite into a storm cloud and then accidentally touched the metal key inside the Leyden jar (a primitive capacitor) he was holding. Owie. In the 1890s, Marie Curie exposed herself to more gamma radiation than it took Bruce Banner to transform into The Incredible Hulk. Her exposure eventually killed her and her daughter/collaborator, Irene Curie, but not before Curie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, in 1911.

 DALE LILLY is Lifestyles Editor and can be contacted at

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