Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt...and that's how it should be.

Driving in to work today, I found myself stopped at a light next to a large step van belonging to TotTurf, which purports to supply "playground safety surfacing."  What. The. Fuck.  Have we come to a point where we've become so wussiefied that we have to cover the world with foam rubber to protect "the children"??

Warning!  Geezer rant sequence initiating in 3, 2, 1...

When I was growing up, we had playgrounds and those playgrounds were made of galvanized steel pipe and surfaced variously with concrete, asphalt, gravel, or just plain dirt.  By today's standards these places were safety nightmares.  Kids fell down and they bled, kids jumped, fell, or were pushed off these abominations and they broke bones, bruises and lacerations were so common we didn't even think about them...and note:  We usually only played at these playgrounds under adult supervision.  Why, you may ask?  Quite simply, by our standards of "fun," playgrounds were just plain boring.  Left to our own devices, we had far better ways of entertaining playing with fire.  This was back in the days when people burned their garbage and everyone had a "incinerator" (generally, an old oil drum) in their back yard.  Burning garbage was one of my brother's and my "chores."  Heh.  Little did our parents know that we would have burned all that stuff, and more, without being told.  But trust me, we were absolutely zealous about getting every last bit of combustion out of every last bit of garbage.  Poking the fire with sticks was required, flames leaping 10 feet in the air, a goal, and showers of sparks, a source of joy.  Setting parts of the garden on fire in our zeal only added to our entertainment as it required a scramble to get the hose to put the fire out.  Good times.  As I type this, I am looking down at a scar the size of a quarter, acquired when my brother flung a flaming, molten piece of plastic at me in one attempt of ours to maximize the spark generation rate.

The town I grew up in was in a transition from rural to suburban and our house backed up to a cattle ranch...and not just any cattle, it was a Brahma bull ranch that raised bulls for the rodeo.  The primary fixture in the pasture behind our house was Black Dempsey, an enormous, retired rodeo bull who, it was rumored, had actually killed a few rodeo clowns, or so the story went.  Black Dempsey presided over a harem of a few dozen cows, who exceeded even him in bad temper when calves were around.  Of course, the pasture was strictly off-limits and the penalties for disobeying parental dictates were threatened to be particularly fearsome - this, in a day and age when corporal punishment was a daily occurrence.  Naturally, we never passed up a chance to climb the fence and mingle with the livestock.  I suspect my brother and I escaped goring and/or stomping solely for two reasons:  1) Small boys can easily hide in 3 foot high field grass and 2) Our half springer spaniel/half cocker spaniel dog was an absolutely fearless cow chaser, in spite of his ridiculously short legs.  Good times.

Within walking distance of our house, there was a landlocked piece of undeveloped and wooded property that was bounded on one side by Little Cottonwood Creek (known simply as "the Crick" in the local lexicon).  Of course, there were as many parental edicts against going anywhere near "the Crick" as there there were involving the bull pasture.  So what to do with 4 acres or so of forest?  BB guns wars, of course.  These were highly organized, if infrequent, events with pre-chosen teams and agreed upon starting times and starting points.  I marvel even now that several dozen 12 year old boys were able to put these events together in complete secrecy.  A BB gun war involved, as one might expect, showing up with a BB gun - I had to borrow one - with whatever protective gear you might deem necessary and running about "the Grove" as it was called, shooting the other team.  No rules and we didn't keep score.  We would fight until we ran out of ammunition or were completely exhausted, which generally didn't take too long as a heavy winter coat was standard body armor and these wars were always in the summer.  In retrospect, this was all appallingly dangerous, but we never had any injuries outside of returning home sporting a few telltale round bruises.  Good times.

I really feel sorry for the kids whose concept of "fun" involves a foam rubber covered swingset.


  1. Ahhh, the memories!! Do you remember the time your little sister wandered into said bull pasture and your dad had to run balls-out to "save" her??

  2. I remember playing on the gravel playground at CRS. I suppose gravel was the height of safety in the 80s because at least it has some "give" to it. Being the risk-averse child that I was, I rarely experienced any discomfort beyond a few rocks in my shoes, but I witnessed some grisly accidents resulting in handfuls of gravel embedded in skin. I bet that never happens at the McDonald's Playland.