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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