2017-08-02 / Editorials

Mike Reese

“I was just thinking”

When you read this, school bells will be ringing in only a day or two. Summer vacations are a month shorter now versus my student summers. Kids today have to pack their summers in quickly before Back to School sales begin to scroll across their TV, phone, laptop, and tablet screens.

At the hardware store, and elsewhere, I see children, age six and up, coming in with their parents, and more and more frequently they never look up from their phones or tablets. They walk through the aisles bumping into stuff. And when they leave I see them clumsily getting into cars still totally focused on their devices. Back in my WI-FI less days I went to the hardware store with Daddy and I learned stuff, not bumped into stuff. Walking the aisles at Neal Hardware made an impression on my young mind, with no addictive devices to turn my mind to mush. There may be debate on that. But, what happened to our old summers when kids created their own screens, not on a device, but in their brains?

Here’s what would be on my You Tube screen if my summer activities had been recorded on a device back then.

Every one of my childhood summers revolved around my bicycle, jazzing it up, or just getting me around the town, wherever I wanted to go, mostly without my parent’s knowledge. In addition to good physical exercise, we grew our brains building complicated ramps where we’d perform less than safe stunts. And my parents and my friend’s parents knew what we were doing. Daddy might glance at us and say, over his shoulder, as he walked away, “Ya’ll be careful.” And we all, of course, chanted back, “Yes sir.” Yea, right.

Or, we’d go to the woods (behind the city water tower) and dam up the canal to make a pretty good swimming hole. I doubt my parents were ever aware of this skill we had. And there was always time to catch fireflies at night. One friend even put a firefly in his mouth so we could see his closed mouth light up in the dark.

In football season there were enough neighborhood boys to throw together two ragtag teams to play at the Community House. It got rough at times, no pads, but there were never any parental warnings against playing, just, “Ya’ll be careful.”

One of our favorite summer things was digging holes, big holes for potential backyard mud swimming pools, or trying to dig to China. As it turned out, that was always more difficult than we’d anticipated.

I was never glued to a screen, except on Saturday mornings when I watched cartoons, Tarzan, or The Three Stooges. I learned how not to be stupid by watching the coyote on The Roadrunner, how to swing on a vine and wrestle an alligator by watching Tarzan, and how to get hit over the head with a 2X4 and not cry or bleed, by watching The Three Stooges. I had good teachers even in the summers.

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