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Front Page » October 1, 2002 » Opinion » Times were fun despite our ignorance
Published 4,756 days ago

Times were fun despite our ignorance

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I fly periodically to see my sons in Montana, friends in Oregon or Idaho and to my corporate offices in California. As a reader, I love to scan the airplane magazines. I am forever tearing pages and tucking them in my suitcase. Sometimes these give me ideas to write about later. I recently ran across a tattered sheet written by Robb Moretti, tucked away in the side pocket of one of my carry-ons.

I have to admit that a few of these thoughts or memories are my own but Mr. Moretti summed up several points about today's standards of safety that make me wonder how I ever survived as a child. My generation, right in the middle of the baby boomers, came before seat belts, bike helmets, life jackets and all things plastic that protect children from the hazards of everyday life.

I know that many of today's protective gadgets prevent kids from getting seriously injured. Without these I do believe we experienced a kind of freedom that children who came after us have do not. But as a strong advocate of child safety I cringe to think how many of us made it through these times, without the protection of some of these devices

I was born in February of 1951 in a very small rural hospital on the Canadian prairies. I was taken home to the ranch, not in a car seat but in my mother's arms. Since the old Ford truck not only didn't have seat belts, neither did most of the vehicles have shocks and driving off the snow-covered roadway often meant blazing your own trail through the coulees and hills.

As a baby, I was tucked into my crib without a padded bumper guard or a machine that soothed me to sleep with amplified sounds of the ocean. All three of us kids have pictures showing our big grins with our heads through the wooden bars of the crib. Those cribs are now banned.

Once I learned to walk I was free to roam around the house and later, the farm yard, often under the watchful eye of my mother. My mother has told horror stories of finding me wading in the river, throwing rocks at rattlesnakes near the woodpile and getting stuck in the well, where we bailed water for daily cooking and drinking.

I remember the big old cook stove and can't imagine the number of times I burned my fingers on the hot pans and I also recall the story of sticking a fork in the electric outlet. I don't even want to remember how bad it hurt when I stuck my tongue on the side of the large barrel of water in the middle of the winter and the process they must of gone through to get it un-stuck. We had no high chairs, no hand rails in the house and no locks on the doors.

As we were growing up I loved to ride in the back of the pickup as my brothers (much too young to be driving legally) raced over the dirt roads and prairie trails. Even when I was in the front seat looking around it was my mother's arm that would fling out in front of me to stop me from hitting the dash when the pickup came to a sudden stop.

When we went to the city about 60 miles away I would sit in the truck with the motor running, doors unlocked patiently waiting for my folks to finish shopping. The city had about 2000 people and I remember how big it seemed, but town with more than two grain elevators seemed large to me at that time.

As I grew up I remember swimming and boating at the local reservoir having never heard of a life jacket as we explored the coves along the dam or learned how to water ski. I remember my first bike and the thought of a safety helmet never crossed my mind. When school was released every afternoon we didn't have safety officers to help us cross the street. I grew up playing hockey and the only player to get a helmet was the goalie, a position I never liked.

I remember many of the winter games like sleighing and tobogganing down steep hills, going way too fast for safety's sake and crashing into a hand built snow drift, which served as a backdrop to keep us from running into the river.

I ponder in my mind today, how we baby boomers, having never weathered the depression or stormed the beaches of Normandy are still the last generation to live on the edge, not having a clue how unsafe we were and still having a lot of fun in the process.

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