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Front Page » September 6, 2005 » Opinion » Lessons learned as a kid are pertinent
Published 3,270 days ago

Lessons learned as a kid are pertinent


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

There are lessons we all learn as children that stick with us the rest of our lives. Hopefully some of those experiences of a young age will save our life some day.

For instance I learned at the age of nine that playing with fire is a very scary thing to do. A number of times I used to get in to the gasoline supply around the farm I lived on and fill up squeeze bottles with the smelly liquid. Today I am not proud of it, but I would then pretend I had a flame thrower (like in the movies) and would squirt gas on large red ant beds around the farm, light matches to them and watch the residents of those piles of dirt scurry around trying to get out of the way.

In-human, yes. Stupid, definitely.

I found out how stupid when one day I didn't put enough gasoline on a bed to keep it burning right, so I decided to squirt a little more on. Suddenly the flames were coming up the stream I was spraying and just before they reached the bottle I tossed it on the bed where it exploded.

No, nothing burned down, nor did I get caught. But it was the last time I played with fire.

Once I built a tree hut in an apple tree on the farm too. It had all the amenities a 12 year old kid could want. It had a little cable car that came up to it from the ground that I had constructed out of an old American Flyer wagon bed and a crank winch off a discarded boat trailer. It had a transistor radio hanging the main level with speakers I had salvaged out of old radios attached via the earphone plug in all five stories (yes five) of the tree house. The structure even had running water, via an old milk can I had put on the top story that I filled periodically with a long hose from the milk barn. Life was good.

However, one day I was reading a comic book on the main level of the tree house, while eating one of the main luscious green apples that grew on the tree when I heard a creaking sound. That sound was above me so I started to climb up through the trap doors to see what was making the racket.

On the third level I had a pop out porch, so I walked out on it. Just then I heard a crash. The milk can, which I had just filled that morning passed me by as it traveled through each succeeding story on it's way to the ground, making gaping holes in floors below as gravity drew it toward the earth. When it hit the ground it's lid came off and the water spilled all over. I looked down to the first story and there was my comic book laying by a hold in the floor, right where I had been sitting.

I learned then that when you build something, you make sure it will carry the weight of whatever is placed on it.

In another hut building instance I found that you don't build a six foot deep underground hut at the end of your dads garden tomato garden. Water runs downhill and tends to fill in low places very quickly. One day I built a hideaway, the next day I had a mud swimming pool.

I learned from these lessons and of course many more dumb things I did over the years. However, I still continue to make mistakes on things, but hopefully not the same ones.

That's why I find the situation in New Orleans so perplexing. When you build 80 percent of a city below sea level and it is surrounded by the biggest river in North America to the south, and a huge lake to the north, doesn't it follow that someday something will happen that will cause a lot of water to go where it isn't wanted?

But then I guess it is not any different than building your house on the bottom of an old lake bed in an earthquake zone (Salt Lake Valley) which will turn to mud when it gets shaken up enough. Nor is it different than living in the desert and not expecting a drought to shake up your life, and kill off your yard every few years.

Some disasters are fast, others are slow. But mother nature and the laws of physics can't be denied when factors come together.

Some areas of the gulf coast have some of the highest realty prices in the United States, despite the fact that those places see a hurricane come through them almost every year. Yet the property values continue to rise, because most people really believe they can dodge the bullet.

Human beings are a funny race. We often live, and even thrive in the shadow of almost certain death and destruction. We just want to believe it can never happen to us. But there are lessons to be learned and one of those is that you just can't keep playing the odds forever.

Just ask the people of New Orleans about it. They will tell you, sooner or later it will catch up with you.


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September 6, 2005
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