Author John Starley Allen shares a gripping and true story about how his mother’s intuition and the obedience of her sons to her words of caution most likely saved their lives. This story reflects the need for trust between parents and their children.
The following is a true story about an incident from my childhood. After the story, I offer a few words of commentary.
“Wait up!” I ran as fast as I could to catch up to Sam.
My brother and I lived on a big farm in the country with our mother and grandfather. We loved the fresh air, the open space, and the green fields that turned gold in the fall. But most of all, we loved the silo. To me, it looked like a giant soup can without the label.
As we got closer to the silo, I could see its rusty patches, dents, and cracks. I once asked Sam about them. He explained, “You know how Grandpa’s face is kind of wrinkled and how he has brown spots on his hands? It’s because he’s old. Well, that’s how it is with the silo. I bet it was shiny and smooth when it was new.”
For two boys with active imaginations, the silo represented all sorts of things. Some days it was an ancient castle. Sometimes we pretended it was a tall skyscraper or a pirate ship. I especially enjoyed standing in the center of it and yelling as loud as I could, then hearing my echo bounce off the curved walls.
When we reached the silo, Sam said, “Let’s play spaceship.” For the next twenty minutes, we pretended to soar through space and discover new planets.
We took turns climbing to the top of the steel ladder rungs welded inside and outside the silo, pretending that we were on the spaceship’s observation deck. Just as I had spotted a new planet, Mother’s voice brought both would-be space explorers back to earth.
“John! Sam! Time for supper.”
During supper, Grandpa asked us what we had been up to.
“We were playing spaceship in the silo,” Sam said.
“You boys sure enjoy that old silo, don’t you?”
“You bet,” I said. “Grandpa, can I ask you a question? Back in the old days, what was the silo used for?”
My eyes grew big. “You mean you filled the whole silo with just feed? You must have had a lot of cattle!”
“We did. I remember when my papa had the silo built. I was just about your age. It was new and shiny, and one of the tallest things I’d ever seen.”
After supper, I cleared the table, and Sam helped Mother wash the dishes. When the dishes were done, Sam asked if we could go out and play.
“No,” Mother said. “I want to talk to you both. Let’s go into the front room.”
From the look on Mother’s face, we knew that she had something serious on her mind. We followed her into the front room and sat down.
“I know how much you enjoy playing in the silo,” she began, “but today I had a strong feeling. Right before I called you in for dinner, I felt that you shouldn’t play in it anymore.”
“But Mom, that’s our favorite place to play!” Sam cried.
“Yeah, Mom!” John frowned.
“I know you like playing there. But I can’t deny what I felt. I had a strong impression—call it intuition–that you shouldn’t play there anymore.”
“So that’s how you feel about the silo?” Sam asked.
“That’s right. I can’t give you any other reason except that I strongly feel you shouldn’t play there anymore.”
Later that night, when we were both in bed, I asked Sam, “Do you really believe what Mom said about the silo?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“I’ve never told anyone this, but do you know Bobby Morrison?”
“The tall kid with red hair?”
“That’s the one. Well, last year he and I planned how to cheat on a history test. I’m not going to tell you what the plan was, because I don’t want you trying a dumb stunt like that.”
“If it’s so dumb, why did you do it?”
“Well, I’m getting to that part. When the test started, I remembered what mom had once told me. She said, ‘You know it’s wrong to cheat.’ After that, I just couldn’t go through with it.”
“So what’s the big deal?” I asked.
“The big deal is that Bobby Morrison got caught cheating…and he got into a lot of trouble.”
I thought about what Sam had said for a moment, then asked “So you’re not even going to sneak over to the silo?”
“Well,” I said reluctantly, “I guess I won’t either.”
The next few days were hard for us. We had to think of new games to play that didn’t involve the silo. One afternoon Sam said, “Let’s put a puzzle together.”
“Aw, who wants to do that?” I groaned.
“Do you have any better ideas?”
Since I didn’t, we set up a table on the back porch and started working on a puzzle. But I had a hard time concentrating—my eyes kept wandering in the direction of the silo. The good old silo. “Too bad we can’t play there anymore,” I thought miserably.
“Hey, stop daydreaming,” Sam said.
Before I could reply, Mother came out with a pitcher of cool lemonade.
As the three of us drank from frosty glasses, we heard a low rumble. The ground trembled, and the puzzle pieces on the table started doing a crazy dance.
“Look!” I pointed at the silo.
It wobbled and leaned to one side. The rumble grew louder while another sound filled the air—the sound of metal scraping, grinding, and ripping. A great cloud of dust rose up as the silo crashed to the ground.
Grandpa came running out of the house. “What in the world?” Then he saw the silo. “Oh! Oh, my!”
That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I kept thinking about my mom and the silo. And I realized my mom was a person I could trust.
Building trust is a huge part of being a parent. If you can earn your children’s trust, many other things will fall into place.
In my mom’s case, she had a feeling—an intuition— that she trusted concerning the silo. And because she trusted her impression, she passed it along to my brother and myself. The fact that we abided her counsel—albeit not without some grumbling—shows that because of past experiences, we already trusted her.
She was not one who issued frivolous commands or who let her current temperament—frustrated or sanguine–dictate the kind of punishment she meted out. Her punishments were measured, consistent, and always “fit the crime.”
(On a side note, I have a friend who recalls his father regularly administering belt whippings. The father would come home after work, tired and frustrated, hear from him wife about some infraction—major or minor—committed by my friend, and a belt whipping would ensue. Even at a young age, my friend instinctively knew that something wasn’t right about regular whippings. It was more about his dad relieving frustrations than about teaching his son how to live a better life. And the sad result of this was that my friend lost any kind of trust in his dad.)
When I witnessed the silo overturn and crumble, that forever “sealed the deal” on the issue of trusting my mom.
So later on, when she would tell me of the dangers of drugs, or the pitfalls of hanging out with the wrong kind of friends, I believed her. I distinctly remember going to a particular party as a teenager.
As I was heading out the door, I think she must have had one of her impressions and realized the kind of party I was going to attend. She said to me very simply, “Don’t do anything you know I wouldn’t approve of.”
Her words rang through my head for the rest of the night. And so when I was offered a joint of marijuana, a can of beer, or a swig of vodka someone had appropriated from his father’s liquor supply, I declined. I wasn’t the life of the party, but I felt at peace knowing that I hadn’t let my mom down.
Through the years I knew that if my mom offered advice, it was heartfelt, well-thought out, and something that merited my attention.
My mom wasn’t the kind of person who constantly offered advice on any and every subject. But when she did, you knew that she honestly felt it was important for her to express her viewpoint.
And whenever she did, in my mind I would see the image of the buckling, crumbling silo… ###