Of smart phones and slingshots

first_imgDear Editor:As I walk around town when schools are letting out, I see lots of kids with phones, holding them to their ears. Haven’t we heard that something in those phones, held close to the ear, are not good for young developing brains? Parents give them phones so they can be in nearly constant touch, hovering over them like “helicopters”, fearful some harm might come to them. There is even a company in Israel which, in our Age of Fear, manufactures bulletproof backpacks.When our kids grew up without phones on these streets we didn’t worry about them. They came and went and played on the street a lot. You hardly see kids on the streets nowadays except at annual block parties. No, nowadays kids have “play dates” at each others houses, such play consisting mainly of games on mobile devices. Strenuous exercise, which kids need to be healthy? They aren’t getting it.We got it when I was growing up in the ’40’s. We were outdoors all the time, only coming in at night when our mothers, standing on their porches, called us. We went barefoot most of the year and before being sent to bed had to stand in the bathtub and wash our feet, overseen by our mother or older sister. Oh, and before coming into the house, we would relieve ourselves, directing the stream a few feet in front of us to write as much of our names as we could in the dust of our unpaved street. My name only had four letters. Those with long names were out of luck.No phones or tablets but some older boys had B.B. guns which they aimed at birds in trees and occasionally hit one, to watch it fluttering down to be grabbed by our cat. But not having ready-made stuff required us to be inventive. We spent a lot of time making slingshots, which we innocently called a name that would be deemed a racial slur today. To make them we found a mesquite bush with a suitable grip and appropriate fork, cut it out with a saw, then from an old prewar inner-tube, made of rubber that stretched, not the postwar synthetic kind, we cut two strips about a half inch wide and a foot long. On each fork of the mesquite we tied the rubber tight with string, and for the pouch to hold the rock or marble we used the tongue of an old leather shoe, punching holes on both ends and threading and tying the rubber in each. With this weapon we tried to shoot birds and sometimes actually hit one!We were inventive, with no phones or computers. In vacant lots we built “clubhouses” out of scrap lumber and tin where we’d sit, quite cozy, and smoke cedar bark rolled in newspaper which we called cigarettes.We also, I am sorry to say, climbed trees and robbed bird’s nests of their beautiful speckled eggs the size of marbles, and once, I remember, we took away three or four baby birds, which, when our mother saw them, she ordered us to take back.A boy today may be able to sit at a keyboard and hack into the Pentagon, but growing up poor, and outdoors, with nothing to play with but what we found or made, I suggest we had a freer, more interesting, more stimulating, life than city kids today.T. Weedlast_img

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