The Dirt — On Dirt

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By Tank Hoover

Our Editor, Rocket Launchin’ Roy, does it again, while displaying his adolescent side — at my expense! He winds up and propels a perfectly packed, tightly formed mud ball striking me right between the peepers. Stunned, I pluck and pick the splattered dirt clod from my furrowed brow and swipe away all the secondary cascading crud from my laptop with my hand. It’s not for naught, though. The impact kick starts my brain, jarring loose ancient thoughts locked in my cranial vault.

I know Roy’s laughing at me with this direct hit, via computer screen. How’d he do that? Wishing I were near some mud myself, I want to return fire at my chuckling chieftain, but instead, I read his Email.

“Today’s three-year old can turn on a laptop computer and open their favorite apps. Me? When I was three, I ate mud,” and shows a picture of a cute three-year old with mud all over his face. It made me laugh as I reminisce, because I grew up munching mud — how’d Roy know? Feeling paranoid, I start typing.

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Dirt! The Ultimate Toy?

When I was a kid, there was nothing as simple and basic as dirt. It was, um, well … everywhere. Dirt-infested kids were evidence we were playing outside. Just as sown seeds need dirt to thrive, kids do as well I think.

We played in dirt, dug in dirt, rolled in and buried things in dirt. Heck, it was the main ingredient for mud pies and dirt-balls. They were the original “just add water” commodity. We sculpted, shaped and made things in dirt. We built highways for our trucks, dug holes for forts and made dirt angels.

Clean kids in my neighborhood were eyed suspiciously. If you didn’t play outside, you were considered sickly and weak. Our summer uniform back then consisted of cut-off shorts, sans-shoes, socks or shirt. We were out from sun-up to sundown. To be caged inside was the worst form of torture imaginable. Outside was where all the action was.

Remember those lever action “pop” guns that propelled corks with puffs of air? Once the cork was lost, usually in a day or so, it didn’t take long for our mischievous minds to figure out mud made a dandy dirt-clod cartridge. It left a nice mark on a white T-shirt and a string didn’t restrain its trajectory. All you had to do was jam the barrel in an inch or so of mud, work the lever and you were loaded. Who needs paintball guns?

Heck, we didn’t care. With the crowd I hung around, it was sorta’ our badge of honor to be dirty. Guess we were the original “Dirty Dozen?”

Fishin’ was another dirty deed sure to get us in the dirt. Diggin’ for worms, bugs and beetles for bait was mandatory. Who bought worms? Bottom line, we weren’t scart’ of dirt or getting ourselves dirty. I think playin’ in dirt strengthened and developed our immune systems, just my dirty opinion.

Today’s Spic-And-Span Spindly Kid

Today, dirt is treated, well, like dirt! Parents scoff and scream at dirty kids. Fear and risk from dirt-borne diseases, looking like haggardly hobos and having to wash those soil-stained clothes are enough for parents to keep kids inside (a bubble perhaps?). Once the spirit is broken, the battle is won.

Now kids are gobbling up gigabytes on smart phones, laptops and iPads, as they open up games, rather than taking mega bites out of mud pies and dodging mud balls. Electronic games have taken over the great outdoors, sadly. You want proof? When we ‘wuz’ kids, how did our parent punish us?

We were sent to our rooms, in solitary confinement, nothing worse than that! Today? Today’s parent pries their prodigal son from his room, to kick him outside for punishment! Think about that one for a moment. Nothing worse than being forced to play outside while all your electronic enjoyment and entertainment is inside. Todays punishment was yesterdays reward.

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No Ned Ludd Here

I admit to being in my 40’s before I ever flipped a switch to fire up an Internet Interceptor. I was resistant, but my cop job made me go to In-Service training to learn how to do email. Eeh-gad! Now they want us to be computer geeks? It wasn’t so bad, and I quickly learned I had a library of sorts at my fingertips.

It wasn’t long before I was surfing the web and researching pertinent stuff like guns, loads, biographies and shooting forums. I’m just glad this thing we call the World Wide Web never came into being when I was a kid! I got to enjoy the world’s biggest playground, playing, exploring, hunting, fishing and shooting for real, in the outdoors, not through some computer animated game.

Sadly, you cannot miss what you’ve never known. Today’s kids are missing out on the freedoms, imagination and ingenuity we experienced everyday during our dirt-infested childhoods. We need to do our best to have today’s kids experience a slice of the mud pie every now and then. Get them outdoors! Let them get dirty and live for once. For those who do and understand, here’s to “mud in yer eye!”

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5 thoughts on “The Dirt — On Dirt

  1. Capn Jack

    MUD !! Road tar and Le Page’s paste were the staples of my childhood.
    Must not have hurt too much. I’ll ring the bell at 77 in September.

    Reply
  2. left coast chuck

    There is no place where a kid can just be a kid any more. When I was growing up, long, long ago and far, far away there was always a vacant lot or an open field where kids could dig forts and have dirt ball fights and shoot our bb guns. Even in Philadelphia where my cousin lived there was an empty lot next door to his house where we could shoot our bb guns at grasshoppers. When we first moved to this house when my kids were small the developer had run out of money and so half the tract was unbuilt. That left a large open field for my kids to catch lizards and build forts and run and play. The developer finally got the financing and finished out the tract and today there is no place for kids to dig and catch lizards. The grade school has a large grassy area but unsupervised kids aren’t allowed there when school is not in session and they certainly couldn’t dig a fort there. My grandkids live in a “townhouse” development. While there is a small swimming pool there is no place for kids to be kids. They certainly can’t dig in the carefully maintained landscaping without incurring the wrath of the HOA and threats of lawsuits against their parents. I’m not even sure CPS would allow the parents to let their kids roam without supervision. Sure there are parks but to get to them the kids have to walk a couple of miles and cross a couple of cross-town expressways. Again, here in the Peepuls Republik there have been cases of CPS getting involved where parents allowed their kids to walk to a nearby park unsupervised. Even if they managed to dodge CPS’s scrutiny, once they get to the park the ball diamond is reserved for the senior slowpitch softball league; the grassy area is taken up by the senior bocce ball league and the tennis courts are reserved for city sponsored tennis lessons. Dig a fort at the park? That will get your kid a trip to juvenile hall where he will be represented by a lawyer from the public defender’s office who will explain his rights to him while the whole matter is handled as if he were an adult felon. It used to be if a kid did something out of line he got a stern talking to by the local cop and a boot in the ass if he was a smartass to the cop. The only thing really left is the cheap babysitter, the boob tube or one of the electronic games or a play date at Chuckie Cheese.

    Reply
  3. Tom T

    I grew up on a cattle ranch. My yard consisted of several thousand acres of dirt, granite boulder piles, hills, mesas and mountains. My playmates were dogs, horses and calves. I was grudgingly indoors for meals and bed. When kids from school came to visit and play, we usually went rock climbing (biiiiiig rocks) or rabbit, dove or quail hunting (and yes we used real guns). On days it was just too nasty to go outside, I read books. Real honest to goodness books, with covers and everything and loved every one of them. Terrific way to grow up. There aren’t many ranches left so today’s youth and those in the future will never get know what growing up like that is like. As far as electronic gadgets went, we were far enough out that we didn’t even get TV until I was 15.

    Reply
  4. Clifton

    If you want this article’s ideas expanded upon, read the book “Let them eat dirt”. I found it at my library; it was a fascinating and fun read.

    Reply
  5. Charles Moore

    Wow. . . . . I need to see a picture of you — I think I’ve found my Doppleganger!! Your entire life/attitude (including the being-drug-into-the-internet-thing-as-a-40ish-cop) perfectly mirrors mine!

    Reply

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