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    My sister sent a cute video of my twelve-year-old nephew—aka, Super Nephew—riding a tube being towed behind a boat on a lake. I harkened back to my own youth of careless abandon on the water, until l noticed a few things. Let’s start with a look at the tube:

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    Yes, those are professional models riding a tube that seemed to be the same style in the Super Nephew video. You can tell they are professional because their hair is dry. Super Nephew’s was wet. Amateur.

    What I really noticed, though, were the various handles. HANDLES. A person actually has something to grip to prevent being launched into the stratosphere. What’s the fun in that?

    We didn’t have such things. Oh, no, the tubes we used were basic, round tire tubes of rubber. No handles. When they got wet, which they tended to do in a lake, they became as slick as greased pigs. Even if you have never touched a greased pig—and I am neither confirming nor denying that detail—you can imagine the difficulty. You had as much chance staying with the tube as winning a rigged game at the county fair. I will confirm losing entirely too much money trying to knock over blasted milk bottles.

    If you did manage to hold on to a tube long enough to flop back down on top of it rather than sinking into the depths of the lake, you impaled yourself yourself on the valve stem strategically placed to maximize bodily damage. Some silly safety regulation against maiming minors probably removed that fun for today’s kids.

    I continued watching the video of him laughing and hanging on to the handles—no blood or flying bodies involved—and realized the boat driver was not trying to wreak havoc. I remember motors opened full throttle while the boat did figure eights to maximize launch velocity wakes. Well, I mostly remember that. Some memory loss may have been involved. But it was fun. Except for the bruises and mangled body parts.

    I think of these things as I walk around our neighborhood. Kids bounce on trampolines with safety nets. Skateboarders wear knee and elbow pads and safety helmets. Swing sets don’t have exposed, rusty bolts. Trust me, when you launched yourself from the height of a swing to see how far through the air you could hurdle your body, you didn’t want to find one of those bolts. Bandaids don’t fix that.

    Around the corner from my house, I saw a group of boys ramping their bicycles. Finally, I thought, games I remember. We loved to see who could fly the furtherest, leap the highest, and crash the loudest. Bonus points for the last one.

    Then I saw their ramp:

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    This wasn’t some wooden ramp cobbled together with purloined nails and scrap lumber with the carpentry skills of ten-year-olds. Of course, anyone who has seen one of more recent attempts to pretend I understand tools knows that might have been the height of my skills.

    No rotted piece of plywood served as the base, ready to crack under the weight of a tire, for these kids. No, they used solid ramps which could be trusted to remain in place. Again I ask—where is the fun?

    Plus they were ramping over soft dirt, not the hard asphalt of a cul-de-sac. When you lost in our game, you lost. Painfully.

    Ah, yes, the good old days. Before safety softened a generation. Wait until I see Super Nephew again. I’ll tell him about walking to school…in the snow…uphill…both ways…while fighting off hungry wolves. If my memory is accurate.

    P.S.—Long-time readers may remember I’ve written about the bicycle ramp before. And how my sister, mother of Super Nephew, got me in trouble because of it. I don’t hold a grudge, but if you would like to read about her treachery, check out Long Distance Trouble.

    Books I’m Reading

    After his wife, Michelle, left seven years ago, Jeffy Coltrane does his best to raise his eleven-year-old daughter, Amity. Their quiet life is shattered when a genial homeless man leaves a package with them with the warning to hide it and never open it. When they accidentally activate it, they discover the device allows them to travel to alternate universes. As they search for the missing Michelle—or, at least, her alter ego—evil forces pursue them to steal the device. Unless Amity and Jeffy can outwit them, the place they call home may never be safe again.

    Interesting Link

    In what might be the funniest mix up I’ve ever heard of in TV news, an Argentinian news station became confused in reporting the death after an 81-year-old British man. Sad news, but the man was famous because he was the second person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID vaccine, though his death had nothing to do with it since it occurred five months later. So what’s the gaffe? The man’s real name was Bill Shakespeare—aka, William—and the report seemed to confuse his death with a certain famous writer. Yes, that station actually reported the death of one of the most famous writers in history, despite the fact he had been dead for just a few years already. Read the Guardian’s account.

    Gratuitous Dog Picture


    Frankie Suave is unimpressed with my essay on kids today. He suggests I pay more attention to the younger dogs in our household and how spoiled they are while he has it so rough. Also, he would like a belly rub. It’s tough being dog-in-charge.

    Background title image courtesy Aravind Kumer

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    1. Jean Burkhardt on June 7, 2021 at 7:38 am

      Hu-Dad LOVED your story about the things kids have today to have fun. Myself a child of the 1950’s had what you described. Tubes that were castoffs from real tires complete with valve stem that was a real ouchie too. My children in the 1970’s rode skateboards with NO safety equipment and on and on. It’s a wonder all of us are STILL here.

      Frankie boy-I’m sure you received that belly rub from Hu-Dad but know since you ARE the dog in charge you must conend with the youngsters!! Have a greatr day.

    2. Debbie and Ruby on June 7, 2021 at 8:15 am

      I agree with everything Jean said!! How we survived the 50’s is beyond me… We all remember the kid with no chain on the bike that went down the steep hill – that was an ouch for him. Loved the story..

    3. Claudia Williams on June 7, 2021 at 9:46 am

      Oh, I have a good one. My father-in-law used to tow my husband and his best friend behind a truck in the snow and they were in one of those old round metal Coca-Cola signs. And how about riding in the back of a pick-up with the gate down with your feet dangling off the back

      We played on monkey bars and merry-go-rounds and we even played in the streets. And we survived it all.

      The generation before mine played ball with sticks and sometimes rocks and they survived too.

      I roll my eyes when I watch those HGTV shows where people are looking for homes and they are so worried about their children needing to go down two steps because they might get hurt. Get a grip people.

    4. chris on June 7, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      My husband says with safety equipment, they are not allowing nature to weed out the stupid people. The smart ones made it through with no safety equipment.

      • Julie on June 12, 2021 at 5:26 pm

        Your husband sounds like mine; he calls it “natural selection”. ?

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