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How did we survive? - a geezer's wondering

Another 4th of July has gone by and I did not set off a single firecracker. And I remember what fun we as kids in the 50's and 60's had with our M80s, Black Cats, and pop bottle rockets. Riley, in the YouTube video below, demonstrates one of the tricks we enjoyed - the firecracker in a can:

We also enjoyed the ball-shaped caps that came in triangular packages of 10 that sold for a nickel. Meant to be thrown on the pavement to get the pop, we instead loaded these pea-sized explosives in our slingshots and used each other as targets. (We also shot each other with arrows and BB guns.) Sparklers were far too tame, but Roman candles were fun.

Not only did we play with fireworks, we all:

  • Rode in the back of pickup trucks standing up at highway speeds
  • Never owned, let alone used, a bike helmet and rode on real roads, never bike paths
  • Swam in ditches that also contained dumped barb wire, household trash, and who-knows-what kind of farm chemicals (and ate the fish we caught from them as well)
  • Drove tractors beginning about age 9
  • Played with BB guns, bows and arrows, and slingshots.
  • Never wore seat belts in cars and would nap in the ledge beneath the rear window
  • Swung from ropes in the haymows of the barns
  • Freely used all the power tools in the machine shed
  • Rode horses bareback and without bits
  • Ate Twinkies and drank sugared sodas
  • Spend the majority of our summer days unsupervised by any adult
  • Got kicked off the school bus and walked home in sub zero weather
  • Read books from the adult section of the public library

The funny thing is that I don't remember anyone personally who died or was even seriously injured as a result of our unsafe pastimes. It wasn't just the tough or lucky who survived - even on the primative prairies of Iowa.

I am certainly glad my grandsons have enjoyed a safer childhood than I experienced. But I am not sure they have as much fun as I did back in the day. Perhaps in 50 years, they will wonder how the children of their generation survived, not being encased in Kevlar suits with air filters each time they left their homes.

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