Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Last Wednesday, this newspaper ran a story about a confrontation between Mayor Carol Smith, Mike Lopez, and Chet and Wendy Hilgers. The dispute concerned kids at the Skate Park not using protective helmets while riding. Several comments appeared on the OVN Blog about who was responsible for monitoring the kids regarding helmet safety. One comment from our blog summed it up nicely, “Where are the parents of these kids?”
Thank you. Rather than depending upon the City Council, the police, Skate Park volunteers, the public, or random people riding by, here’s a radical thought — how about parents taking the responsibility for the safety of their own kids? Did I miss a Supreme Court ruling that absolves parents from monitoring their children? Was there a presidential decree that pardons parents from responsibility,- especially when it comes to their children’s safety? If not, then how about some parents stepping up to the plate?
All that said, I know that kids are going to take chances and test limits. My parents were attentive, loving and strict, but that did not make me immune from doing stupid things. As proof, I submit the following into evidence:
Blowing up jars with cherry bombs. The federal government outlawed the sale of cherry bombs in 1966 under the Child Protection Laws. For the uninitiated, cherry bombs were round red firecrackers with a green fuse that were five to 10 times more powerful than a standard firecracker. No amount of begging could convince my parents to allow me to buy them, but a grade school friend brought some to the house one afternoon and we shot off a few. That was fun enough, but a 9-year-old boy wants to blow something up. So I went into the basement and got one of my mother’s canning jars.
We lit the fuse, put the bomb under the glass jar, and ran. We were about 20 feet away when it exploded, and when it did, we were not disappointed. The jar was demolished, and it sent silvery shrapnel flying in all directions. I remember the exploding glass hurtling toward me, and turning my face away. Miraculously, most of the flying glass missed us, and we got by with just a few scratches.
Hopping a freight train. I was about 10 when my cousin and I walked to the Curb Mart a half mile from my house to get some groceries my aunt needed to make supper. She also gave us a little extra money for snacks. The store was next to the train tracks, and when we came out, a long freight train had stopped; blocking our path. We stood there in the hot Alabama sun and weighed our options. We grew impatient waiting. We wanted to drop off the groceries and go play ball. Even more critical, our chocolate bars were turning into liquid.
We could wait for the train to move, or we could walk around it, but the train stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, and it didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. That bought us to plan three. We would simply hop up into one of the open boxcars, walk through, and hop down on the other side. Since we both considered patience an over-rated virtue, it was a no-brainer. Our hearts raced as we placed the grocery bags in the doorway and swung up into the boxcar. We raced to the other side and jumped down, feeling clever and daring. We felt like James Bond.
When we finally got home, my aunt chided us, asking us why it took so long to run a simple errand. I told her about the stalled train, but my bucket-mouthed cousin had to add that we solved the dilemma by jumping on the train and going through the boxcar. I will never forget the look on my aunt’s face. I think she would have been less shocked and upset if he had told her the Russian army was invading Alabama. Of course, my aunt told our parents, and we both got a severe scolding, followed by a belt to the backside. I don’t know which burned more afterward, my ears or my rear.
But I did learn one valuable lesson about the danger of freight trains —- if you hop one, don’t tell your aunt.
I made it to adulthood in spite of myself, but I think the old saying is true: God looks out for fools and small children. But, just in case, kids, please wear your helmets.