Is technology destroying the minds and lives of America’s youth? It’s a reasonable assumption. Think about it. Can there be any possible benefit to spending every waking moment staring at a television screen, a computer screen, or the display on a cell phone, tablet or other handheld electronic? Take away their devices and it’s like someone cut their strings. They don’t know what to do with themselves. Well, here’s a thought. GO OUTSIDE! Get some exercise. At least pick up the phone and have a real conversation. Work those jaw muscles for something other than fast food and backtalk. But here’s the thing. I saw an old friend recently and we started reminiscing about some of our childhood activities. We didn’t have video games. We didn’t even have cable television. Our TV was small, black & white, and even when we upgraded to a color set, we only got one channel that wasn’t filled with static and ghosts. Most of the time it wasn’t worth watching. That meant we had to come up with other ways to entertain ourselves. To be perfectly blunt, we’re lucky to still be alive.
Have you ever wondered if chickens can swim? Well, you would if you had chickens, a pond, and a whole lot of nothing to do. Incidentally, it turns out they can swim but extensive research suggests they would really prefer not to. Here’s what else I learned by not devoting my wealth of free time to Pong, Pac-Man, or the best football game EVER, Tecmo Super Bowl
- You can repeatedly jump off an eight-foot porch roof into evergreen shrubs without risk of major bodily injury. The shrubs will not fare as well.
- You cannot flush an entire paper shopping bag down the toilet regardless of how hard you try. This is true even if the bag is on fire.
- Gasoline fires are difficult to extinguish.
- Model glue makes an excellent accelerant.
- Models are more fun to burn with a few well placed firecrackers.
- Bicycle racing should NOT be a contact sport.
- Although the laws of physics might suggest otherwise, it is possible to crash a toboggan into a garage roof, even with two people onboard.
- Maximum capacity for a homemade iceberg is three persons or roughly 300 pounds.
- Don’t play ball in the house. Specifically, don’t practice your fast ball by throwing against the back of a recliner, especially if said recliner is directly in front of a window. To take this a step further, when that window inevitably shatters, don’t tell your mother person or persons unknown threw a rock at the house. She may surprise you and call the police. Nothing good can come from that.
- Molotov cocktails are not toys.
A bit of clarification on that last point. I think it’s important to note that I never made, played with or otherwise utilized a real Molotov cocktail. I wouldn’t endorse the use of any type of flaming projectile. So why broach the subject at all? Well, I sort of learned that lesson the hard way. I’ll explain.
I spent a lot of time and did most of the things described above with the same two friends. They lived just up the road from me. One of them now writes text books for a living. The other gets his kicks jumping out of airplanes. He was the one behind most of our crazier and more dangerous stunts. You might not think you could do anything crazy or dangerous in the middle of a cornfield… and you’d be wrong.
Another disclaimer here. We didn’t do any damage to the cornfield. We weren’t vandals or thugs. We were just bored. In fact, during the summer months, we pretty much stayed out of the cornfield altogether. Our fun began after the harvest. Once all the corn cobs have been stripped, what’s left are plain, bare stalks. It may surprise you to learn that the base of a corn stalk is about as strong and rugged as bamboo. It makes an ideal handle. For what? Obviously, the big clod of dirt that’s still attached when you pull the stalk out of the ground. I don’t remember which of us pulled the first stalk. It doesn’t matter. We knew at once we’d struck gold and a new game quickly emerged.
We never came up with a name for this activity. Think of it as dodge ball on steroids. The problem with dodge ball is that there are always arguments about whether or not there was actually contact. There’s no such debate when you’ve just been struck by a high velocity dirt bomb. You’re either writhing in pain or you’ve got the evidence firmly lodged in your mouth, eyes, nose, ears, etc. We spent countless hours and inflicted many bumps and bruises with our primitive weaponry. Of course, with any weapon, there’s room for advancement. My crazier friend started booby trapping his dirt bombs. He tied prickers to the handles. OUCH! But when results were less than satisfactory, he took it up a notch, using string to attach nuts and bolts to the roots. In the air, it would all spread out like birdshot. No one lost an eye so he went back to the drawing board. How can you go wrong when you’ve got some tissue paper, a little gasoline and a pack of matches? Oh Lord Jesus it’s a fire! We usually played our game with one kid on the ground and two in an old tree stand in an even older tree. Flames and wood make for an entirely predictable combination. We damn near set the whole thing ablaze, briefly, and we were extremely lucky to get it under control before it spread. As I recall, that was the last time we ever threw any dirt bombs. Our parents bought us video game systems the next day. So, next time you catch your son or daughter staring dazedly at a screen, remember that it could be worse.
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