The other day I saw the strangest thing – a small child outside gently rocking on a backyard swing set.
Now this might not seem odd to many people, but to those of us who grew up in a time before smartphones, tablets, and computers, this is increasingly rare.
You see, I grew up in a world of danger. We rode our bikes without helmets, raced our Big Wheel trikes off plywood ramps, and heck, we even drank milkshakes with the spoon inside them.
Yes, life was different then.
Demographers like to attach terms to generations: Generation X, Generation Y, or Millennials just to name a few. Me, I like to think of myself as a member of the “Daredevil Generation.” We lived wild and comparatively dangerous childhood with very little adult supervision.
Granted, video games were something only written about in Popular Science magazine, but we still played first-person shooter games in the backyard — only we were armed with cap guns or spears carved from sticks found in the woods. No one ever really won and we usually just retired to the nearest house to drink from a garden hose.
And no, we didn’t have the Disovery Channel piping in through the television. Instead we had empty milk cartons filled with tadpoles we captured in a nearby creek and watched them grow into frogs before our very eyes. We even learned how to hunt crawfish – successfully using one hand to distract while the other captured him from behind.
We even learned how to scale rooftops – sitting on top of the spine of rooftops looking out across unseen landscapes like explorers. There we’d sit for hours peering into the horizon wondering who – or what – might be living the next block over.
Today it is common for parents to ‘issue’ a cellphone to children to keep tabs on them. Not saying this is wrong, but I remember my mom would order my brother and I out of the house on summer mornings with marching orders to only to return for lunch or dinner. Don’t get me wrong, its not that she didn’t like us – she just wanted us outside playing or riding our bikes.
Not even Mother Nature could slow us down. I remember how when flash floods would roll into town and all the neighborhood kids would meet down at the creek to ride the churning stream. Sure we picked up a few cuts and scratches, but we washed up afterwards and our parents never batted an eye beyond telling us to be careful.
Even the swing set – just like the one I mentioned earlier – proved to be a world of excitement for us. Lining up, we’d all take turns swinging and measuring who could fly the highest or jump the farthest (marked by dragging a stick across the dirt). Sometimes, in testosterone-filled competitions, we’d match up with partners to push us higher and higher in an attempt to set a new “world record”.
So yes, I’ll admit, I don’t see too much of this anymore. My own children, now pretty much grown, grew up in a much different world – one with more phone and social media drama than I think is healthy for anyone.
So next time you happen to be driving along and wonder where all the kids are, take solace in knowing you are probably from the last generation of genuine daredevils.
– 30 –