Growing up in rural america in the late 60’s and 70’s (no, wiseacre, not the 1860’s) was a fairly carefree existence. We had to work and such, but there wasn’t much going on to be afraid of. Our parents tried to put the fear in us, but lets face it; “the moonies are going to kidnap you if you stay out after dark,” isn’t exactly a terrorizing comment to a kid. What the hell is a moonie would’ve been the only appropriate response, but responses were passed over in a rush to get out of the house.
The country is a lot different than the city. In the city if you wish to go for a swim you go to one of the parks and swim with several hundred other people. Many of whom are not exactly fastidious about there bathing practices, and I don’t even want to contemplate the whole bodily functions issue. I lived near a creek. It was the fun in the sun summer hangout. Whether it was swimming, fishing, digging for clams, or creative attempts at drowning, thats where the kids went when the thermometer rose.
The swimming holes were creatively named “the crick” (it was a creek), “big falls” (they were big), and “killer cliffs” (three kids died there while I was in high school. The water wasn’t deep enough to handle all of the “hey y’all watch this” moments that occurred there), creativity not being nearly as important as strong backs in those parts. Where you went depended on which locale you were from, and if you had someone to provide transportation. Yes, mooching rides is a universal teen thing.
These places were our meeting halls, our ceremonial lodges, and arena’s. It’s where we learned about such diverse topics as hitting a bong, which girls put out, and which boys were still virgins. I say diverse because drugs, and sex were about as diverse as it got in the way of entertainment.
We used them as places to transmit information about where the party was this Saturday, what happened at the party last Saturday, and who was gonna kick whose ass in the homecoming game. One of those should probably be “whom,” but we never discussed who and whom in those days. What we did discuss was so and so’s butt, whether a dodge monaco with a police interceptor engine could beat a 900 kawasaki in the quarter mile (that day it couldn’t, but it saw 160mph), and whether burger kings fries were better than McDonalds.
The ceremonies held there were generally funerals. I’m not sure why we had to have our own, but something not in a church, and with no parents just always seemed appropriate. Oh wait, beer and pot were the reasons. The four year totals were the three diving deaths, one guy gored to death by a bull, 6 car accidents resulting in 11 deaths (one was a late night chicken event that nobody was chicken in…they never turned on their lights), and two suicides, both female. Yes, teen pregnancy was an issue even then. Grief, booze, and weed, don’t really mic so its a wonder that the death toll wasn’t higher as a result of all the impromptu funerals. 17 dead in 4 years. That seems so unbearable looking back, but at the time maybe because of our youth it was just another fact of daily life. In order to do anything fun you had to do something stupid, dangerous, or sexual. Sometimes all three.
Most of us were devirginized, experienced our first drunken stupor, and hadfights there. There was no such thing as that much testosterone, that many girls, and a fight free afternoon. Sooner or later two shirtless teen gladiators would be slugging it out for the favor of which ever of the young ladies present ws the object of their affections. These fights often ended with broken bones and blood, but never with gunfire or a knife. It was a simpler time.
I think probably the most important thing that happened their on those summer days so long ago were the discussions about what was “out there.” Many of us had never left the state, but we all intended to. We talked about far away places and how we would get out. Most of us that left took the military route. A few went to college, and the rest may or may not have left. That part of my life was left behind when I hopped on the plane to go to Marine Corps recruit Depot San Diego. When I returned from that 4 month trip the quantum leap in the maturity process that had occurred made picking up old friendships impossible, and by the time I returned again the people were lost except for the memories. the world was rapidly changing everywhere else, but with the exception of the behaviours of the kids, there wasn’t much to be afraid of there.