City and rural childhoods: different risks
GREELEY ” The recent death of 4-year-old Sam Cockroft, last seen riding an all-terrain vehicle on his family’s dairy farm near Kersey a week ago, sparked debate about the disparity of lifestyles in rural and urban homes.
Rod and Darla Lohr of rural Galeton understand what the Cockrofts are facing. They lost their 10-year-old son, Riley Lohr, after a car crash on July 18, 1999. Riley drove a car to feed some horses. He was driving at a high speed and rolled the car.
The community supported the Lohrs as they were put under the spotlight. Rod Lohr was almost charged with child abuse, but charges were never filed.
The arguments used to support the Lohrs included the fact that Riley was doing chores on the farm, and he was in a situation children in urban areas do not face.
“Ag people grow up around equipment,” Rod Lohr said. “So, they learn how to work on it and how to respect it at an early age.”
Respect for and knowledge of farm equipment and vehicles is important at an early age before children think they are invincible. R
od Lohr said he was on a tractor when he was 5. His dad sat down and taught him about the machine and he explained each lever.
“I never put my kids on something I hadn’t tried,” Lohr said.
Darla Lohr grew up in the town of Kersey, and she had a hard time getting used to country life in the Galeton area.
Life in Kersey included Lohr’s parents getting off work about 5 p.m. and having the weekends to spend time with the family, she said.
When she moved to a farm she realized the work day didn’t end at 5 p.m. In fact, she learned it never ends.
After she became a parent, she and her husband still had work to do around the farm, and she was not about to leave her children home alone, so they tagged along. The amount of work on a farm is one of many differences between rural and urban lifestyles.
“You follow mom and dad,” Lohr said. “You idolize your parents at (a young) age, and you learn from them,” Lohr said. “The city people do the same thing, just with different things.”
Rebecca Albright of Johnstown said both urban and rural life involve dangers, albeit different ones.
“Urban, it seems to me, you need to worry about other people more,” Albright said. “Rural, it’s more about the freedoms we have.”
Albright said with the extra freedom there needs to be more supervision of children to help prevent some of the dangers. But even in urban areas, accidents can happen in quickly when a parent’s attention is on something else.
And with a high concentration of people in an urban area, it’s more difficult to prevent danger others might impose.
Albright’s daughter, Emily Albright, 13, said she would be more scared to ride her bicycle in a city that has a lot of traffic, and Albright said she would be more concerned, too.
Darci Panas of Evans said more people in one area increases dangers for children in the city. One of Panas’ concerns as a parent is “not being able to let your kids go outside without worrying about someone snatching them out of your own front yard.”
Though the Lohrs lost their child to an accident, their thoughts about rural life remain the same.
“As for now, I wouldn’t want to raise my kids in town compared to the country,” Darla Lohr said. “They can run around and play. I don’t have to worry if they’re in my yard and not trampling over the neighbors flowers.”
Undersheriff Margie Martinez said Sam Cockcroft’s mother, Nichol Cockroft, was in the house last Friday evening, giving her infant a bath, when Sam started the ATV and began riding it around.
By the time she finished inside, she checked the yard and her son was gone.
Volunteers discovered Sam’s body in the South Platte River downstream from his house north of Kersey. Sam had been on the ATV before, and his father watched him on it.
“The last time I saw him on the ATV, he was riding it around yelling ‘Watch me, Daddy! Watch me!’ He was glowing with excitement,” said Scott Cockroft, Sam’s father.
“It’s easy to figure out what you could have done after it’s happened,” he added. “There was nothing wrong with Sam being on that ATV. He’d been on it before.”
Colorado has no age restrictions for riding ATVs, and few states regulate the age of riders, particularly on private property.
“People don’t understand the lifestyle on a farm,” said another uncle, Brad Cockroft. “Farm kids are brought up on the tractors and ATVs and things they’d never see in the city. That afternoon I saw Sam having a great time on the ATV. If it looked like he was having any problems, I would have stopped him.”
Scott Cockroft talked about farm children’s knowledge, too.
“Farm kids know more about farm equipment than any other kids will ever know,” he said.
Greeley Tribune reporter Mike Peters contributed to this story.
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