It’s a wonder those of my generation and older are alive today.
Somehow, we’re still here despite our reckless ways.
As a young tike I usually stood in the front seat of my mom’s car or my dad’s pickup as they barreled down the road. Seatbelts, if we had them at all in the car, were never used. The few rare souls I saw using them I thought of as pretty odd. Back in the day wearing a seatbelt said more about your confidence in the driver’s ability than it did in an actual concern for personal safety.
Car seats these days are a fixture for years in young families’ vehicles. I grew up inside the protective walls of a wicker bassinet. It was probably painted with lead paint, too.
We got pocketknives and BB guns for Christmas when we were little and amazingly enough I still have both my eyes and all my fingers.
I rode in the back of an open pickup bed on the farm and highway. I rode the fender of every tractor on the farm and used a propane bottle to pump up bicycle tires, climbed water towers and jumped ramps with my bike. The list of ill-advised activity will probably someday fill the pages of a book, but I survived.
Oh sure, I knew a few kids who suffered broken noses while attempting to surf the front seat of their old man’s Buick. We eventually learned the hard way Never-leak was a better alternative to propane in your tires.
Just watching your little brother bounce once then fly out of the back of the pickup as dad crossed a ditch border was a wonderful education. I suppose having a cousin run over me with the tractor after I lost my seat on its fender should have been a wake-up for us all.
Years later I still hadn’t learned the lesson of safety as I remember vividly watching the front wheel of my Stingray bike separate mid-air from my bike on that ramp jump. Without bike helmets in those days our only safety measure when you found yourself flying over the handlebars was the tuck-and-roll, which I fortunately executed perfectly that day. Others weren’t as lucky or as agile.
Back to the time I climbed the city water tower: It was probably the flock of pigeons that poured off the top of the tower into the dark Portales sky that finally put my life on a course of safety. On the way home that night I think I buckled my seatbelt and used a turn signal at every corner.
These days disaster and death could be waiting with every paper cut, every drive-thru cup of coffee and each partially chewed pretzel.