SMITH: If you’re reading this, you survived your childhood

Published 10:25 pm Friday, January 17, 2014

By Dan Smith, TPRD Director

If you’re scared, say you’re scared.

Those are often the words of my wife Dianne, she of ice running through her veins, never one to blink in the face of danger, or any opportunity to make me look bad in the company of friends or family.

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A challenge is always fun among friends, and if you are reading this, then congratulations, as you survived the challenges and dares of your childhood.

Every mother expects her child to run to her and say, “Look mom, I lost a tooth!” but in my case, one of the first teeth I remember losing was at the instruction of my older sister Debbie, who had the grand idea of “Let’s Play Circus.”

Being that she and I were the only two playing in our backyard, Debbie informed me I was the man walking the high wire at this particular Circus, and since we had no high wire, I had to walk across the top of our swing set.

It was minutes later that I presented one tooth to my mother.

There is something to be said about children having no fear, or even people that gather in groups for that matter.

You could not pay me $100 to wade into Youngblood’s Lake today, not unless I was wearing rubber boots and waders, but there was a time when that was a happnin’ place.

Every weekend many people would gather at Youngblood’s to swim in the huge lake, where in addition to swimming there were lots of tire inner tubes used as flotation devices, and some even pulled behind a boat for the true daredevils.

Nope, you will not catch me walking into that lake today, nor the small catfish pond built for my grandmother back in the ’70’s that could not have been more than an acre, and was always mud red in color, but was a great swimming hole. I bet Marlin Perkins could have found all kind of critters beneath the water, or at least his worthy assistant Jim.

And nothing, nothing, rivaled the bicycle races down our dirt road, with emphasis on “down”.

The dirt road started at a slight slope, and grew into a great decline that meant you were going so fast when you reached the half-way mark your feet could not keep up with the pedals.

That was when the truly nasty bicycle wrecks would take place, with bikes and bodies flying everywhere, sliding down the hard-packed red-clay road, taking skin off literally from head to toe.

And we did not know catching snakes were bad. See the snake, grab the snake. No thank you, not today.

You see, just a few decade ago, there was less traveling, and we made our own adventures.

Playing in the yard, building a fort, playing Tarzan in the big tree, digging up arrowheads in mama’s garden, or just going for expeditions in the woods.

I kept a busy calendar as a kid during the summer, mostly with very important responsibilities, including but not limited to catching and or collecting lightning bugs, Catawba worms, baseball cards, ants, green snakes, arrowheads, railroad spikes, blackberries, plums and lizards that changed colors.

There is also something to be said for walking aimlessly in the woods. Today, I see too many pictures of 8-foot rattlesnakes, and I clearly remember coming up on one as a child, and it stretched from one side of the road to the other. He went one way and I went the next.

The ultimate indignation probably came when we had bottle-rocket wars with our friends and neighbors, the Gibson’s. Their children and my brothers and sisters would shoot across the road at each other with bottle rockets, but because they were about 50 feet higher than us due to the hill they lived on, hence the name “Gibson Hill,” we were always soundly defeated, as ours never made it up the hill and theirs rained on us like Scud missiles.

Yes, I survived my childhood, and hopefully am more seasoned for it.

We are all over-protective as parents to an extent, but maybe it is okay to give our kids a little free reign, as long as they do not want to catch snakes and shoot bottle rockets at the neighbors across the street.