You Can’t Get Killed This Way Anymore

17 Feb


You Can’t Get Killed This Way Anymore

or, Losing Touch With What It Means to Be a Kid

by L. Stewart Marsden

At dinner recently I had to demand that my youngest children and grandchildren hand over their electronic gadgets from iPhones to iPads to Kindles and Nooks — innocuous-sounding replacements for true interactions and outdoor exercise.

Am I not right?

Outdoor exercise. Hmmm. Today that’s the process of going from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to the air conditioned school — and repeat that the other way, often spiced up with an air conditioned mall or air conditioned movie theater.

Kids today don’t know what outdoor play means. They don’t know what it means to survive and thrive for a full 12 hours in the neighborhood — wading down creeks to catch crayfish, or stealing those smudge pots street workers used to put out and light to warn motorists of roadwork.

Or climbing trees to build really great tree houses 50 feet in the air.

Or blowing up coke bottles with M80’s and cherry bombs.

Or swiping playing cards and clothespins from your house and fastening them to the spokes of your bicycle! Two or three bikes equipped like that sounded like Hell’s Angels.

THAT was being a kid!

Nobody had allergies. Nobody cried or whimpered at the sight of blood. Or mud.

We didn’t have Wii controllers, we had Mattel Fanner 50 pistols, and plastic machine guns with full military combat clothing.

We hurled Dixie cups filled with flour to mimic grenades.

We played all over the neighborhood until the sun had set for 30 minutes and our moms had to come out looking for us.

We could be entertained by a box of stick matches and a can of lighter fluid.

Okay, that might have been extreme.

Comedian Bill Cosby said he knew adults were trying to kill the kids. His proof? Whirligigs, jungle gyms, and see-saws.

He left one out: the Flexi Flier. Not the sled, but the steel-wheeled running board vehicle, shaped like a bullet and designed for death.

This crazy craft was great for areas like a flat, concrete paved parking area where there were no cars. Problem was, there were no concrete paved parking areas with no cars in my neighborhood.

In my neighborhood, the street was paved, but with that rocky pebbly stuff — not asphalt. You know the kind: if you skated on it with your key skates (if you don’t know what these are, you will not understand anything else in this blog), and you tried to sing the word “buh” it would come out bubbabubbabubbabubbabubba.

Sidewalks — a concept that escapes current city planners — ran parallel to either side of the street. Sidewalks were constructed in squares of roughly three to four feet. Trees planted next to these sidewalks grew their roots under these squares, and pushed the units out of kilter. This is an important thing to note, and, if you were a Flexi rider, to remember.

The Two Ways to Ride a Flexi Flier:

One knee
You positioned one knee on the bed of the flier, and bent over forward to grab the steering handles with each hand. This position was ideal on those nonexistent flat, carless parking lots. You would propel yourself with the other leg, hung out over one side. It was kind of like a huge skateboard with front wheels that turned.

Stomach position
Flat on your stomach with your hands on the steering handles, and if you were a short kid, your legs extended over the back end of the Flexi. If you were tall, you bent your knees and rode with your feet in the air. Like a snow sled.

The wheels of the Flexi were steel disks with a hard rubber rim about a half-inch thick. On the steering handles were metal nubs that extended out over the front wheels. If you twisted the handles forward, the idea was that those nubs would rub the upper edge of the wheels against the rubber rim, and the Flexi would eventually stop. After maybe half a mile.

There was no way to quickly stop a Flexi that had built up momentum. Well, other than a bush hedge, tree, or brick wall.

And one other way: uneven sidewalks.

If you sped down a sidewalk and had built your speed up to maybe 15 to 20 mph — remember, you are about six inches above ground level — and you hit an uneven place in the sidewalk? Well, the Flexi would pretty much stop dead, and you would fly on — Flexiless.

Face, chin, chest, stomach, knees — pretty much any clothing on your front side — was rubbed away as your body slowed to a stop.

It wasn’t unusual to have a full body scab from head to toe from a Flexi mishap. Badges of pride.

So, Flexible Fliers pretty much went the way of whirligigs and jungle gyms and see-saws, and kids today are woosies. If you don’t know that term, you probably didn’t understand anything above.

Keep your iPads and iEverythings. It’s your loss.


5 Responses to “You Can’t Get Killed This Way Anymore”

  1. Cat Talks February 18, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    I asked my youngest son yesterday, what his plans were for this half-term holiday and he replied: “Meeting up with my mates–on Xbox”. Communication and interaction has changed so much. He is only 5 years younger than his brother, but only recently we had a conversation, over this Sunday lunch infact, a ‘Do-You-Remember-When’ in which we talked of the many stuck-in-tree moments the others had experienced, the when-we-got-chased-by-those-cows-that-time, the A&E trips, broken arm, glued back together head, even things I didn’t know about–the dreaded BB guns! But that is only in that short space of time between brothers, childish things didn’t seem to change for ages then boom, nothing is the same. I think a lot of it is a good thing, but not all. The allergies, you are right, there is an epidemic of sickness among children, who are lacking in Vitamins usually processed from the sun– coupled with the sunscreen paranoia and their now hermit lifestyles– poor things are all so pale and inhibited in speech!

  2. daviddrawsandpaints February 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Greetings from Scotland!
    We called them “geggies” and made them ourselves from old pram wheels and tin baths and definitely no brakes – skint knees and elbows were just part of growing up.
    I’ve just found your blog and am enjoying your writing very much.

    • skipmars February 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Thank you, David. My family has roots in the Grant clan. Visited Scotland several years ago, but never built up enough courage to try haggis. Scotland is an unbelievably beautiful country, and I very much enjoyed the sense of history.

      Thanks for your compliment and visiting my blog.

  3. Airstream Nancy February 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Great post!! Kids these days have no idea how to go out and play and have adventures and take risks!

    • skipmars February 23, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      My youngest was recently invited to a birthday party to be held at a fun park that featured trampolines. I had to bring a gift to school for her to give the birthday girl, as they were going to leave straightaway after school.

      Her teacher happened to be in the front office, and took me to task for allowing my girl to attend such a dangerous activity.

      I bit back the urge to tell the teacher what I thought about such a cautious concern.

      To be honest, though, she seeded enough doubt that I did not feel completely at ease until my daughter reconnected with me a day later.

      “How was the trampoline party?” I asked her.

      “Fantastic!!!!” she replied by text.

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