2017-08-30 / Editorials

Mike Reese

“I was just thinking”

It was the third grade, I think. I fell through the monkey bars, from the top to the ground, bouncing from one steel bar to the next, until I thudded onto Georgia clay packed harder than concrete and covered in those tiny pebbles God made to instill toughness in children. I don’t think children today would even know what I’m writing about. They stay inside too long and seldom go barefoot to experience falling on or sliding on hard Georgia clay with those torturous little stones.

Those monkey bars I tumbled through are never going to be seen on a playground again. That monkey structure must have been twelve feet tall, too. You could survey the entire playground from your kingly perch atop this structure, a height I’m sure is not allowed these days. You want to do something really scary? Try playing King of the Mountain from on top of those bars. Remarkably, there were few injuries, mostly band aid cuts and scrapes, maybe a snapped bone occasionally. But today, there’s very little risk in being an exterior child with all the safety devices and precautions we take. Helmets and padding for every body part.

Old time playground slides were always lots of fun. You could fry an egg on those slides during summer. Put some sand on it and you could slide like a rocket. Our school slide had a jagged tear in the lower metal frame. We knew to avoid that side. Today there’d be crime scene tape draped across the frame with a security guard. Kids today have wimpy, six foot plastic slides, slow as Christmas and with no heat to pink your behind up to encourage a fast descent. To move somewhat fast on the plastic you had to use your heels to pull you forward to get up to tortoise speed.

There was Red Rover, remember? Clotheslining someone’s Adams Apple always taught your opponent to never attempt to break the chain where you and a friend stood arms locked. Can you remember the sting of that red dodge ball? And there was nothing like spiking a volleyball onto your opponent’s head. No safety devices around.

I remember being on my bike one day, flying like the wind, and in an instant my handle bars completely detached themselves from the rest of my bike, me with no helmet, no nothing, and most relevant, no cup to help prevent that “special” boys’ injury. You know that bar on boys’ bikes that extends from your bike seat to the handle bars? Well, I involuntarily straddled that bar feeling like the grim reaper had just tapped me on my shoulder and he had more than just tapped me “elsewhere.” I wondered in a flash, “Would I ever be called Daddy now?” From what I was feeling in my nether regions the answer was no. Forget the pads and helmets, I wished I had that cup. Maybe those safety devices could be useful after all.

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