With age comes wisdom, or so they say. But as I near my mid-50s, I look back on things I did as a teenager that I’d never do again, nor would I allow my kids or grandkids to do such things.
These weren’t inherently bad things. I never drank alcohol or did drugs. Simply put, these were actions I did without fully evaluating the risks involved while either exploring, fishing, or in travel. Of course, most teens take life for granted and often think we’re invincible.
For instance, my stepfather used to let me and his nephew ride on the toolbox against the cab of his Ford Ranger. In most states, this is now illegal, but as a kid, it was nice to ride with the wind blowing against the back of your head and roaring in your ears. However, after decades of driving and seeing automobile accidents, having people run stop signs and pull out in front of me, or having a sudden flat tire, I realize that we had gambled our lives during our trips riding on the toolbox. The least swerve off a back road could have caused the truck to lose traction and slide off the road. It also didn’t help that often my stepdad lacked sufficient sleep from his midnight shift job, especially on the weekend, and if the trip we made was to the county line, he’d drink one or two on the way home.
As a kid, and especially after my parents’ divorce, I was granted a great deal of freedom to explore the forests, bluffs, and fields for miles around Pleasant Hill. These treks allowed me to think through life’s situations and what I hoped one day I’d become.
Another example during my unsupervised explorations was using Mr. Mears’ canoe to fish in his pine-surrounded pond. With all the pines lining the bank, it was almost impossible to find a clear place to cast a lure without snagging a pine branch. Mr. Mears had given me permission to use his canoe, but I didn’t know how to swim. As careful as I’d been not to tip the canoe over, the possibility had still been there that while reeling in a bass, I might have tipped too far to one side and caused the canoe to fill with water and sink. It frightens me now to think about it, but back then, I never gave it a second thought.
I used to explore the bluffs along the edge of Sand Mountain, looking for caves and arrowheads. But often, I was alone. Once, I had climbed up the side of a steep rock face and couldn’t find a place for leverage to pull myself up any higher. Unlike the jutted sections of the face near the bottom, the upper side of the sand rock was smooth. I learned that climbing down was much harder than climbing up, and when I glanced down, I was much higher than I thought. The tedious climb back down wasn’t easy, but I somehow managed not to fall.
After I became a parent, I thought about the liberty I had of walking long distances from the time I was ten years of age, and then I found myself worrisome about my children’s well-being and safety. I was 90% closer to my children than my parents ever were toward me. I never gave them the freedom I had been given. Had the world and the people in it grown so terrible that I disallowed my children to explore the same areas I had unsupervised? Perhaps. Or perhaps, it was I realized the dangers I had placed myself into and feared they might do the same.
Sadly, however, the world has become more populated with worse perverseness than when I was young. At least, the media informs us constantly and as parents and grandparents, we must be vigilant when it comes to our children.
In looking back to when I took those foolish risks, I wouldn’t repeat them again.
Until next time …