On Being a Free Range Kid in 1964

Utah passes a law legalizing free range kids.

What a great idea. In Utah, you can let your child go to the park alone and various pantywaists won’t be able to sic the police and other state organs on you, the parent.

From the article linked above:

“We’ve become so helicopter-ish as parents, and as society expecting parents to be that way, that we are kind of robbing children of some of the joys of childhood,” he said.

Some question whether the measure is needed. Utah authorities don’t want to micromanage parents, but leaving kids to fend for themselves is sometimes dangerous, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

“Right now, parents have pretty much all the liberty they need to parent as they see fit,” he said. If such a law isn’t worded carefully, it could become a defense for parents in child abuse cases, he said. “We want to be careful this … doesn’t comprise our ability as prosecutors to hold abusive parents accountable.”

Fillmore said his proposal addresses those concerns by specifying that kids must be mature enough to take on the activities without hurting themselves. The bill doesn’t give specific ages, which would allow police and prosecutors to handle things on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Parents have been investigated and some saw their children temporarily removed after people reported children doing things like playing basketball in their yards or walking to school alone, he said. Fillmore wasn’t aware of any similar cases in Utah.

Think on that a bit. Walking to school alone is enough to get you arrested and your child given to the state.

imagesWell, I am sure glad things were a bit looser in 1964. You see, my parents were getting dressed to go to a party. A party where only adults were allowed and children were not even considered. Cigarettes, alcohol, dancing were central to the event. Our father left to pick up the baby sitter while my mother was preparing. We boys were doing whatever boys did back then. But the youngest brother, aged approximately 2 1/2, wanted to go with Daddy to pick up Florence, the baby sitter.

That was not Dad’s plan. But youngest brother was determined and so he left the house to catch up with Dad’s car.

Alone, and dressed only in his diapers, he departed the house, went to the corner, turned and proceeded to cross two intersections on his way to Florence’s house. He was now in the commercial part of town, in the early evening.

One of my friends, and his father, were on the way to pick up their baby sitter. Apparently, he was invited to accompany his dad. As my brother trotted up the main drag, my friend said to his father: “Hey, isn’t that D***** *****? Unsure, but aware that a 2 1/2 year old baby, dressed only in his diaper, really shouldn’t be out alone, they pulled over and asked my brother  his name. The reply was unintelligible. The next step was to call our house. I answered the phone only to be queried by my friend’s father. My only answer was, “I don’t know, but he’s not here. Maybe he’s with Dad”.

Five minutes later, my little brother was delivered to our house. Mom was still getting dressed, and Dad hadn’t made it back with the baby sitter. No one was the wiser about my brother’s walkabout.

The point is not that my parents were terrible parents, but that my brother got as far as he did even with city traffic and people on the sidewalks. It did not seem too strange.

Of course, in 2018 there would have been quite a stink. Police, child protection services, concerned citizens. All busy deciding that they know best.

The parents were the subject of a few jokes, and our grandmother was a little taken aback, but we all survived. Nobody was bruised, no long term issues were created, and my brother remains the same determined fella that he demonstrated in 1964.

A free range kid.




Reality Bites

lawn mower

Dreams do come true. At least some of the time. One of my dreams, when I was an itinerant manager for one of my employers, was to live in a house with a yard. I wanted to cut the grass, fertilize the grass, water the grass, and enjoy the calming power of a well tended lawn. Fast forward 20 years. The dream has become a reality, and sadly the reality is not an exact copy of the dream.

Not being mechanically inclined, I have always relied on the kindness of strangers to help keep electro-mechanical devices functional. My lawnmower is such a device. Every couple of years I do something stupid which results in a trip to the lawnmower repair guy. I gladly pay the premium.

Last weekend, in the midst of a lawn manicure, the machine abruptly died. After a minute or two of confusion, I diagnosed the problem as a torn throttle cable. This has happened before. I knew that a professional would be required.

So, bright this Saturday, I and the lawnmower travelled to our repair guy. Down Folly Road, in the company of the thousands headed to the beach. The trip was fruitless; the hardware store had eliminated small engine repairs from their income statement. But, I was told, their other store, on Johns Island, still provided the service. Off we went.

The young man working the counter seemed disinterested in my arrival. I told him what I needed and he said they might have the part in stock. Where was my machine? Did I want him to do the work? What kind of machine was it? Patiently, I explained that I had left the machine in my car, and yes I wanted him to perform the miracle. As to the machine, all I could recall was that the engine is a 6.5 HP Briggs & Stratton. He pointed to the shiny display of machines for sale and observed that the name was written on the chassis (inferring, of course, that my stupid self ought to be able to read and recall such facts). The cross examination, the haughty demeanor of the pimply faced teenager, and my apparent inability to exchange such technical information, all combined to force me into a state of mind that I rarely encounter. I departed the store, telling the manager that I would never darken their door.

But, the grass remains uncut. Not a dream, but reality.

The White Album in Perspective


While checking out at my local grocery store today, I found myself in the slowest line. It was too late to change lanes, as everyone seemed to be getting ready for the Super Bowl. The gent in front of me was no exception, as his buggy was filled with beer, wine, snacks, and the rest of it. The only notable thing about him was that he looked a little old for most of his shopping items, having the hunched back, baggy jeans, and strap-on shoes that tend to mark our senior citizens. My opinion was confirmed when the clerk advised him of the total and he whipped out his check book. I sighed deeply, annoyed that he wasn’t availing himself of a debit card, and irritated that he didn’t start writing the check until he had a total. Typical, my inner voice pouted.

old man writing a check

Finally paid, he said a cheery good-bye to the clerk and everyone else in the vicinity and shuffled off to the exit. My order was quickly scanned, debit card payment accepted, and everything bagged.

As I exited the grocery and parked my cart, I heard the melodious strains of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da coming from a nearby car. Looking around, I saw an elderly woman sitting in a new Subaru Outback, windows down, stereo cranking. It struck me strange. Looking further, who should be putting groceries in the back but the old man slowpoke from the check-out lane? My smile was quick and involuntary, as I started to hum along. As I passed her window, I said. “The White Album – what a great set of songs!”

“What”, she hollered, trying to turn down the volume. “Great song”, I said, smiling.

The White Album is 45 years old. You do the math……..

A Lawn-Mover For The 21st Century

As some may know, PediCab Man has begun his mega-crosscountry bike ride. He says he will post a report every day, and so far he has kept his word.

He attaches a photo that is just too good not to share as widely as possible. As a husband currently enduring the Wrath of God as directed by the wife, due to our gasoline-powered mower being currently under repair at our favorite hardware store (going into the 4th week), this discovery seems to augur a future that is a little more sensitive to my carbon footprint….

Environmental Behavior

There is a story, yet to be told in its entirety, about a man I know. As a tyke, in the grasp of loving parents who had not yet mastered the intricacies of child raising, some developmental issues presented themselves. Put plainly, at the age of 12 months, the man-child was fat and had not yet learned to walk. The pediatrician suggested that problems loomed if a change in circumstances did not occur. The poor parents, bewildered but inventive, and profoundly American (therefore ingenious), created their very own mechanical solution to a physical problem.

In a flash of inspiration, they took the husband’s skateboard and with a roll of duct tape attached their child to the mobility device. The problem was solved. Until J. either lost weight or learned to walk, whichever came first, he would, in the meantime, be able to move himself around the home. The increased mobility would, undoubtedly, lead to both weight loss and an increase desire to walk. Unfortunately, photographic evidence of this event has not yet been uncovered; know the search continues.

I will leave it for you, gentle reader, to calculate the possible existence of any long-term psychological issues.

Thus, it comes as no surprise to see this photo in the e-mail; a beautiful baby, dressed as a lobster, placed in the pot (any boiling water?), ready to be cooked and eaten. See for yourself:


I guess we could not expect anything more from “Skateboard Baby”.