In the news these days, there’s a lot of talk about kids spending too much time in front of television and computer screens, and not enough on physical activity.
The truth is what it is.
In my youth, physical activity was as regular as rain. If my brother and I weren’t digging huge forts out of the mountains of snow piled along our driveway in the winter, we were bag-lunching it across the field or the creek every day of the summer with our cousins.
If boredom set in, netting cabbage butterflies from the garden earned us five cents apiece, or we could pick dandelions—the arch-enemy of my dad’s well-manicured lawn.
The insect pursuit would land us 10 or 15 cents before the winged creatures figured us out, or we lost interest.
As a kid, the stalk of the dandelion lasted only as long as it took to pick a handful of the yellow dander and run it in to my mother who, like all mothers, would accept the bouquet of weeds with a smile.
I was just shy of being a teenager when the audio visual entertainment industry became a household commodity called a TV in my parents’ home and computers existed nowhere that I knew about except on the starship “Enterprise.”
My parents’ decision to wait to buy a television was kin to an old western gunfight at the O.K. Corral. They were one of the last hold-outs.
In hindsight, given the statistics that some kids today are watching TV or playing video games up to 12 hours a week (and getting fatter by the minute), parents like mine had made the best decision of all.
Until the early 1970s, if anybody in my family wanted to watch television, we had to go next door to my grandparents’ farm house, where we’d get to sit in on watching whatever the older folks had in mind. “The Wonderful World of Disney,” “Lawrence Welk,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Bonanza” ruled the coop.
If I could be a kid again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I have a storybook of fantastic childhood memories built on country living, outdoor play with my cousins, and farm yard fun. Yet, I loved the novelty of television, too, just about as much as I did playing with kittens and baby chicks.
And I’m still a big fan of all three.
Once TV came to my house, the way things were didn’t change a whole lot. The only show I really was interested in was a spooky black-and-white series called “Creature Features,” and it started at midnight on Friday nights.
Of course, the middle of the night was way past my bedtime and I only remember seeing the show once—after tiptoeing downstairs as everyone slept.
I remember my dad had two weekly television series favourites—“The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour” and “Hockey Night in Canada.”
Back then, I wouldn’t have thought twice about knocking my little brother over and into a sewing basket on the way to the couch when my dad sat down to watch the Loony Tunes.
They still rock.
On the other hand, I dreaded Saturday night and sitting through the “the good ol’ hockey game.”
If I could have managed to slapshot that hour of television into outer space where Captain Kirk voyaged, I’d have done so.
And with all due respect to hockey fans, I’m still not among you—though I am very familiar with the terms “offensive zone,” “poke checks,” and “clearing” as they frequently apply to the disaster on Pete’s side of the bed.
I also know the meaning of goalkeeper (though I must admit I rarely stay on my side of the centre red line).
These half-cooked meandering thoughts of my youth, television, cartoons, and hockey were going round in my brain as I looked back at all the dandelion stalks popping back up in place in the cut grass of my entire yard after a four-hour elimination mission with the master tractor “Big John,” and the push mower, and the cordless weed eater.
I wondered if a short-tempered attitude approach, like that of Yosemite Sam, would make a difference. But for every clump of dandelions I hammered back into the ground by jumping up and down, another 300 of them popped up three feet away.
Maybe the neighborhood kids could pick them all.
But I couldn’t think of anybody under the age of 15 who lives around here—and if there were any, they probably were watching TV or playing video games.
Maybe I could pull the “good ol’ hockey game” out of my bag of hat tricks and slapshot dandelion heads into outer space with my baseball bat. Maybe I could just wish them away like I did the wart on my big toe when I was 10 (my dad had told me to do that back then and it worked).
I convinced myself that the lawn still looked well-manicured despite the stalk of the dandelion, and then went inside to put on a pot of java for the lone ranger who’d often stop by for coffee at 3 p.m.
We were sitting at the kitchen table talking about this and that when he looked out the front window at the green grass and said, “With all the dandelions out there, it looks like you need to cut the grass again.”
The truth is what it is.
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