November 30, 2004


We had an abandoned quarry not far from where I grew up. When I was 14 or so, a bunch of us pooled our cash and bought an old dirt bike so that we might enjoy concussions and fractures in this perfect venue. None of our parents seemed to mind; in fact, some wondered if we weren't acting a little girly, what with our wearing advanced safety equipment like "helmets" and "shoes".

As Joanne Jacobs reports, times have changed:

Children learn to cope with the world through outdoor activities, writes a British educator. But adult fears are restricting children's ability to explore the world. And they're not any safer as a result.

Please discuss, parents: are you more safety-inclined than were your parents? And what insane risks did you take as kids that would now induce rage and fear if repeated by your children?

UPDATE. Disabled veteran Mike Weatherford tells his harrowing (and charming) childhood story:

I've fallen out of trees, cut my foot on broken glass, carved my own fingers while whittling, and even once jammed a piece of barbed wire completely through my bare foot. I've been stung by scorpions and just about every kind of bee and wasp that lives in Louisiana. I stepped into a yellow jacket nest when I was sixteen, and was stung so many times my parents were afraid I'd go into shock ...

Through all the wildness, the craziness, the escape from adult supervision, and 'learning the hard way', I lived, and lived well, as a child.

Posted by Tim Blair at November 30, 2004 02:27 AM

I didn't own a bicycle helmet until I was in my mid-20s, and I bicycled often to work and school, and just for fun as a kid. I was a pretty tame kid, but had quite a few spills (no head injuries, as far as I know.) But now I think it would be stupid for my kids to ride around without helmets.

Posted by: Dave Himrich at November 30, 2004 at 02:34 AM

Bicycle helmets? What are those? :)

And then there were the many, many hours of skating at roller-rinks on waxed floors. No helmet, no knee pads, no elbow pads. The managers would throw you out if you tried anything too wacky, but otherwise your bones were at the mercy of your skating skills. Great fun.

Posted by: Kimberly at November 30, 2004 at 02:38 AM

My kids are too young for this to be an issue, but I anticipate the following problem:

My kids will want to do something similar to plenty of things I did as a kid which was acceptable at the time. (Such as climbing very tall trees.)

However, this activity will now be considered by society as too risky and unacceptable.

I will be forced to choose between being either forbidding my kid to participate in said activity or be branded by society as an irresponsible parent. Sometimes society will have a point, and sometimes society will be overreacting.

I'm planning on playing it by ear...

Posted by: Ash at November 30, 2004 at 02:39 AM

I'm in my early fifties, I never saw or heard of a bicycle helmet when I was a kid. If they did exist, I am sure wearing one would have made a kid less safe (due to the the fight after the accusation of being a pussy).

I also don't remember any kids in the neighborhood being seriously injured in biking accidents (although I did intentionally run down my younger sister one day).

Posted by: daniel at November 30, 2004 at 02:53 AM

It's a wonder any adult who grew up prior to the 1990s has both eyes, all limbs, etc. But here we are. I think this is indicative of the overall trend within society to completely remove all aspects of fun and spontaneity, and therefore learning by doing, from childhood.

Case in point: while planning a company picnic, we had developed several games that the children could play while the adults were drinking and eating barbecue. One person asked if we would get some small trinkets for the kids who won the game, as prizes. Horrified looks all round: the kids certainly shouldn't be rewarded for winning the game. There were to be no winners or losers- it was just for fun. I sarcastically wondered aloud if the costs of winning and losing may prove a valuable lesson for children, but they didn't get it.

Perhaps it's a little off topic, but the fact remains that adult busybodies will always attempt to bureaucritize any unpleasantness out of childhood. Kids don't find out consequences for doing stupid things, so they grow up and do really stupid things.

Posted by: Rob at November 30, 2004 at 03:00 AM

Wearing a bike helmet is, it seems to me, a very small deal; I wear one now (though I never did one I was 10) and don't notice it 98% of the time. So I'm not especially concerned about that.

Where I notice it is:

1) A sense that I would be irresponsible in the extreme to let my kids out of my sight for one second or the child-snatchers will snatch him, compared to being allowed to roam freely as a child all over town.

2) Playground equipment that has been dumbed down to the point of being no fun. Teeter-totters (aka seesaws) are wrapped in rubber at all points and are allowed to bounce approximately two degrees in either direction off parallel to the ground. Climbing is considerably restricted as well.

Posted by: Mike G at November 30, 2004 at 03:02 AM

You don't see kids today firing marbles deep into tree trunks from cannons made from pipe and hefty fireworks. Light and back off a safe distance, was our rule.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at November 30, 2004 at 03:05 AM

On the fourth of July, we'd light ladyfinger firecrackers and stick them in the crevices of tree trunks to amplify the pop when they exploded. My daughter isn't allowed to light a match, let alone a firecracker.

Posted by: NJ Sue at November 30, 2004 at 03:17 AM

Tackle football...on iceskates. No where else was a cross-body block so effective.

Posted by: Steve B at November 30, 2004 at 03:19 AM

As a child I bicycled everywhere, including across busy city streets. But the idea of wearing anything weighty, heat-causing, and clammy like a plastic helmet and kneepads and things like that would have induced me to give up the bike rather than subject myself to such torture. Also we roamed all over our neighborhood, and even farther, but we had been taught to avoid weird neighbors (everyone knew who the Weird Neighbor was), as well as to not approach strangers in cars and so on. I suppose disasters did happen but never to me.

Also, our family car, a '63 Chevy station wagon, had no seat belts -- they were optional then -- as well as a rusted-out floor that you could see the road through. My grandmother's '63 Plymouth Valiant was a stick shift and she used to turn it off and coast down the mountain roads where she lived in the summer. It didn't have seat belts either. And lest I forget -- we used to play with cap guns, which had (fairly) harmless explosives in them. But my parents refused to buy me a chemistry set, but that was probably because they were slightly more expensive.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 30, 2004 at 03:26 AM

When I was a child, maybe 12, we would get up on weekends and ride our bikes 10 miles each way on main roads to an abandon limestone quarry to dive off the cliffs. No helmits, no adults, no life vests, no cell phones. We'd pass by the no trespassing signs and through the hole in the fence without even a passing thought about getting hurt or illegally being on someone elses property. Our parents, not even knowing where the quarry was, would just tell us to be careful and to be home for dinner.

Things have changed alot here in the States: now kids rarely have the opportunity to be out of sight of a parent long enough to have any of that type fun.

I think there is another cause that brought on this change in addition to parents just being over protective because of the stories they read in the msm: Liability law suits have gotten way out of hand. I expect if anyone was to even get some bruises at an abandon quarry the courts would run the land owner bankrupt. Even when your child has someone over to spend the night the liability issue is there and the risk if little Johnny gets hurt while in your care could financially destroy a family.

Posted by: Tej at November 30, 2004 at 03:27 AM

There's some indication that children encased in protective armour may actually act in a more risky manner than they normally would because they feel safe.

It's called risk compensation.

BACKGROUND: The intent of protective equipment (PE) in sports and leisure activities is to reduce injuries. However, some postulate that any safety measure prompts riskier behaviour, a phenomenon known as ‘risk homeostasis’ or ‘risk compensation.’

Posted by: Keith at November 30, 2004 at 03:41 AM

I also grew up in the era of little or no safety features on bicycles, cars, or much of anything else for that matter. I recall that when Ford came out with seatbelts in the 1950s some dealerships used razor blades to cut them out; the implication was that the public might come to believe that driving a Ford with seatbelts meant they were unsafe.

Later, when I entered the Air Force and started flight training (considered then to be very dangerous) I was introduced to safety equipment of all kinds: helmets, seatbelts, parachutes, oxygen masks, and the like. Some of the really old time civilian fliers, even in the early '60s, regarded things like oxygen at higher altitudes to be for sissies. Still, in my personal life, much of any safety considerations, beyond seatbelts, was not even a consideration. Safety goggles while working with power tools? Who needs them. Ear plugs working around operating jet engines? What's that you say?

If I had a bicycle these days I probably would be disinclined to wear a helmet, even though my bicycle cop wears one every day he's on his bike. Of course, he has the occasion to ride down flights of stairs and take some cross-country rides to catch perps. Having been hit in the face enough times, I finally chose to wear eye protection while operating power tools, even lawn mowers. It's a matter of realizing that even seemingly innocuous undertakings can result in some serious injuries. It doesn't happen all that often, but if it does, the results can be catastrophic.

I wish I would have done more to protect my hearing several decades ago. I might not have this constant ringing in my ears now if I had.

Posted by: George at November 30, 2004 at 03:41 AM

Isn't it better for children to make small mistakes and learn from them, than to not know consequences and grow up to commit very large mistakes?
Besides, I chafe at the notion that the police can ticket parents for their child not wearing a bicycle helmet. Social engineering at its most granular.
I'd like to say that most of these small lessons are "victimless", but now with the lawyer lexicon of "shared costs", everyone wants to control your actions. Blech!

Posted by: Dave at November 30, 2004 at 03:45 AM

I was driving about 40mph (~65km/h) with my buddy inthe passenger seat. We switched places. He stayed on the inside of the car, I went over the roof. Dumbest thing...

My oldest just got his drivers license. If he EVER...!

From the big perspective, letting kids have more freedom ("protecting them less") will result in kids that are more comfortable moving around in the world. But it will also mean more injuries and death and no parent wants that to happen to their kids. And given the choice between the big picture "good for society" and the immediate "don't let anything happen to my kids", the latter almost always wins.

Posted by: JAB at November 30, 2004 at 03:49 AM

crusader and i used to ride on the hood or the trunk of tree hugging sister's ford fairlane while she barrelled down dirt roads and tried to throw us off. that was fun. especially when she turned on the windshield wipers.

as was riding big wheels down the steep, winding road we lived on...amazing how much those plastic wheels would slide while trying to avoid oncoming traffic.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 30, 2004 at 03:50 AM

I lived by a lake when I was growing up. Playing on thin ice and swimming to the opposite side were just a couple of the water-based activities my parents gave up lecturing me about. I rode my bike without any brakes all one summer and had an unhealthy attraction for bridges, train tracks, powerlines and anything that could be weaponized. We always had a pack of smokes hidden in our tree-fort too (just in case we escaped accidental death).

Now my daughter complains because I make her wear hockey pads when she plays video games.... if she only knew what she was putting me through.

Posted by: Arty at November 30, 2004 at 03:53 AM

I was good kid properly exposed to a helluva lot of dangerous things, and the result is generally good judgment today. There were many casualties, but I turned out fine.

My kids will be properly trained in all the Western arts, including reasonable and judicious use of motorized vehicles, firearms, cards, dice and liquor (only one at a time, thank you). To shelter children from "dangerous" things is to ensure that your children's introduction to them will be unsupervised.

Want to know what happens to sheltered kids when they hit the real world? Take a look at binge drinking experiences for college students. Poor kids, it's their first time on their own in their whole lives and they just lose control because they've never exercised it. They are like domesticated animals released into the wild.

Posted by: Matt in Denver at November 30, 2004 at 03:56 AM

I am 73, and remember my grandfather describing firing toy cannons, (yes, toy CANNONS) for 4th of July...but did he let us have sparklers? and I worry when my grandkids have them is the nature of being an elder.......

Posted by: k heck at November 30, 2004 at 04:08 AM

I wonder where we'll be in 30 years at the rate we are going.

I think I spent 6 hours (sleeping) per day in my room and another 3 hours eating and watching tv in the house as a child and now my kids with tv's, numerous computer games and the internet probably spend 12-15 hours indoors.

Now days more and more people work from home, like myself, so I wonder how all this will progress. Seems like we're evolving to stay within the safety zones of our homes and maybe 30 years from now we'll only leave a couple times a year on holiday or to go through the local drive-through for dinner out.

Speaking of tool safety, I was in construction for 20 years and decided to retire due to safety issues. Not my safety but it got to the point my workers couldn't even do a simple task within the bounds of OSHA regulations. It got to the point that it took them half of each day to set up safety cables, put on the body harnesses, hard hats, goggles, gloves, ear protection, respirators, elbow pads, knee pads, lombard supports, SPF 15 etc etc. By the time they were done that they had to have a safety tool box meeting and then it was break time.

Posted by: Tej at November 30, 2004 at 04:19 AM

I roamed everywhere as a kid (having been properly warned to scream and run if somebody I didn't know tried to entice me into a car). No one I knew ever wore helmets or pads when biking or skating (did they even have those things back then?).

I raised my kids the same way I was raised, but now my daughter won't let her children walk two blocks to school by themselves, and my son's wife homeschools, so their kids don't even get out of the house half the time. I blame the MSM.

Posted by: Rebecca at November 30, 2004 at 04:21 AM

I'm in my mid-20s, and I remember "street luging" on skateboards down a really steep street where there was no way to know whether or not cars were coming until a turn was made, and by that point it would take a desperate turn (and fall) to avoid the car. I also remember trying a trick on my bike with one foot on the frame and the other on the handlebars, with no hands. And neither of these things were without a helmet! It's actually illegal now (at least in California) for people under 18 to ride a bike without a helmet, which has made it so it's not just the nerdy kids who wear them. Another side benefit is that it's forced the manufacturers to make them not quite so dorky-looking.

Posted by: Jay at November 30, 2004 at 04:26 AM

We had our fascination with petrol phase. It lasted about two weeks and culminated in a 5 kilometer trip down a storm drain to test out our flame throwers and medieval torches. Things were going cool until we tipped over a 20 litre jerry can of super which proceeded to burn profusely requiring a 5 km retreat in pitch blackness choking on fumes all the way. Thus endeth the petrol fascination and the lesson.

Posted by: Rob at November 30, 2004 at 04:39 AM

Oh boy, I can think of several but here are the highlights.

Seat-belt laws suck!! We loved to ride in the back of our neighbor's pick-up truck. There'd probably be about 20-25 kids stuffed back there. We could also stuff about 9-10 people in a Vega (plus 2 or 3 in the trunk if we were sneaking into the drive-in).

There was a free-way off-ramp near our home that was fairly deserted especially right after school. So we would put a spotter at the top of the hill and the bottom, then we would ride skateboards, go-carts and shopping carts down the ramp. No brakes. You stopped when you ran out of speed or crashed into something soft. Rolling down a hill in a tire is overrated. That was more dizzying than fun- IMHO.

We would jump on the backs of laundry trucks, mail trucks etc. and sneak rides down the street or as far as we could go. As all things in life, it was easier getting on than off.

Fireworks!!! Everybody had fireworks and there were no major injuries. My fave- we were in our teens and setting off fireworks. My brother was trying to launch a rocket, it had too short a fuse or something. He dropped it and it launched. Not up but to the side-- straight across the street into the bushes under the windows of our neighbors. It was hysterical- the sparkles, the reds, blues, greens as the rocket went thru every colorful phase whistling all the way. My brother hosed down the bushes afterwards, no harm done.

I find it best not to actually WATCH the kids play-- just be within screaming distance if something goes wrong. I did stop my nephews (age 8-9) and their friends one time. They had set up an old board and apple crate as a ramp and were jumping their bikes over it. I didn't mind the jumps, but each boy had to lie down with their head beside the crate (under the ramp). Uh, no bikes to the head please but I allowed them to continue jumping. They survived.

Posted by: BlackRedneck at November 30, 2004 at 04:46 AM

"Please discuss, parents: are you more safety-inclined than were your parents?" Yes, absolutely.

"And what insane risks did you take as kids that would now induce rage and fear if repeated by your children?" Oh, God, where to begin? The Chicago of my day had many ways that a kid could kill or maim himself; and my parents just let us run around and try them all.

We kids would climb onto the roofs of local the local factory that manufactured washing-machine parts, and play in the dumpster filled with tailings and other associated sharp metal objects.

We'd sneak into the streetcar barns nearby, and playing while the streetcars zoomed in and out. Later, the streetcars were replaced with garbage trucks - more aromatic, but no less dangerous.

We'd cut across the Chicago and Northwestern railroad tracks, to save having to walk all the way to a viaduct. It was considered a lark to dodge an express train.

We'd play on the ice on Lake Michigan in the winter. I broke through once and avoided drowning by pure luck.

We played with fire - burning leaves in the autumn, or trash in the alley in the summer. Of course, we'd toss in a few aerosol cans to add zest to the proceedings.

We would ride our bikes everywhere, even on the shoulders of expressways. One drunk driver could have wiped us all out. Helmets? Those were for football.

And of course we had fireworks: M-80s, cherry bombs, strings of zebras and ladyfingers, sparklers, bottle rockets, all guaranteed to render one blind or dismembered if handled incorrectly.

But most dangerous of all were the nuns in our grammar school: cross them, and they'd hand you your lunch. There were 50 boys in my grammar school class; our teacher had to rule by fear, or none of us would have learned a thing. She taught us all how to read, write, and reckon, so I guess she was doing something right.

Would I let my kids do any of that stuff? Hell no. Am I glad I did it? Of course. Maybe that's why my boys went into the Marines - they wanted to do some of the stuff I did when I was growing up.

Posted by: Brown Line at November 30, 2004 at 04:48 AM

When I was a kid we did stuff that would cause heart failure in any responsible parent of today. We rode our bikes dangerously, flirting with traffic and disobeying most of the rules. We played in areas (such as flooded creekbeds) that would be considered too hazardous today. We played games (such as "see how close you can come to hitting me with that dart without actually hitting me") that were stupidly dangerous. Still, no one in our crowd ever got serious hurt. My brother broke his arm, but he just fell out of a tree - climbing trees was, in those days, completely normal kid behavior for both sexes.

By junior high, I was free to ride my bike anywhere I had the muscle to take myself. I rode all over town - often more than ten miles from home, sometimes nearly twenty - and was sometimes gone for six or eight hours at a stretch.

I even had a friend who liked blowing things up. He would often make bombs and we would go out in the woods and set them off (safely, I guess, since no one was ever hurt). He eventually moved up to a full-scale pipe bomb, which we set off underground in the storm drains, so no one would be hurt by shrapnel. The only fallout from that was that I was a little hard of hearing for a few hours.

I think that kids who never do any dangerous stuff don't develop the instincts for staying safe. We blew things up, true, but we took elaborate safety precautions. We rode our bikes like crazy, but we became very good at it. We played hardball at a young age, but also developed the reflexes to keep a line drive from putting a dent in our skulls.

I feel sorry for today's youth. Imagine this same conversation twenty years from now: Dude! Once, I played my Nintendo, during a freaking thunderstorm, man! There was, like, lightening outside and everything!

Posted by: Rob at November 30, 2004 at 04:49 AM

I also grew up in the days when we rode our bikes everywhere, sans helmet or protective gear. We would have beat up any kid who wore a helmet or kneepads. One of my best memories is riding up on the back window deck of our old chevy coupe. Or seating 9 kids in the back seat, triple high on each other's laps. And what was a seat belt? Nobody got killed as far as I can remember, but sudden stops or sharp swerves caused a toppling dominoes effect that left kids scattered everywhere in the back seat. Great fun for the driver and passengers and I would do it all again.

Posted by: fullchoketubes at November 30, 2004 at 05:00 AM

My brothers used to pile snow up at the side of the house and we would jump off the porch roof into it. They also made an ice slide from the back balcony so we could skate down it directly into the back yard rink the momentum achieved dumping one into a snow bank on the other side. Then there was ski-ing across a small creek. The idea was that you would get up enough speed so that you could jump the creek bank. The problem then was how to get back to the other side. Needless to say our parents knew very little of what was going on except for the ice slide!

Posted by: Millie Woods at November 30, 2004 at 05:07 AM

I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin in the 1980s. Let me catalogue some of our favorite activities which will surely be verbotten to my daughter:

--Horseback riding
--Cow riding
--Indoor shotgunning
--Dry ice bomb making
--Hatchet throwing
--Goat wrestling
--Snapping turtle baiting
--Zip line-manship
--Bottle rocketry
--Leech husbandry

to name a few.

Posted by: Greg Taylor at November 30, 2004 at 05:15 AM

These are just a few that I remember...

"Bottle Rocket Fights", which really involved any sort of fireworks we could get our hands on. They are legal here in Missouri for a few weeks each year. We'd split into two teams and simply launch fireworks at each other. Eye protection? Well, if you wore glasses then I guess you had some. The goal was to light the other side's stash off. Usually this involved a covert mission behind enemy lines. A carefully-tossed spark-spewing item usually did the trick. Chaos would ensue.

Once I tied my sister to a tree and launched bottle rockets at her. She got mad. I may have been punished for that one.

We would build ramps for our bicycles to jump. The only time I can remember wearing protective equipment was when undertaking particularly dangerous jumps. I would put on a football helmet and shoulder pads and launch myself, usually breaking something either on the bike or on my body.

Two words: Lawn Darts. Possibly the first banned toy I can remember and one that we played quite often (usually just to see how far we could toss a dart and whether they would stick in asphalt, concrete, tree trunks, etc...) I distinctly remember sharpening one.

Assorted homemade "cannons", which were really small shotguns that used a firecracker as a charge and shot a variety of items such as tacks, small nails, BB's, and rocks.

Pyrotechic displays involving a whole host of nasty stuff including aerosol paint, gasoline, kerosine, paint thinner. Whatever. We would light a pile of these things and run. I'm quite sure that wasn't safe or environmentally sound.

Well, you get the idea. :D

Posted by: Brent at November 30, 2004 at 05:30 AM

This reminds me of the Simpsons episode that was on last night. Marge made Bart put on all his safety gear before riding his skateboard and the next scene shows him getting beaten up for looking like a dork.

I think anybody over the age of say, 25, has similiar stories of doing crazy shite. We would ride down the corragated (sp) roof of a barn on a rug into a pile of hay, or innertube down an irrigation ditch with leaches in it. My brother set a wheat field on fire. I don't remember it, but apparently when I was three, I wandered off to the park where a cop found me and brought me home. Mom says I was STANDING next to him - not strapped in.

I don't have kids, but if my nephews were seen doing something crazy, I'd usually just mutter a "be careful and watch out for cars." A slight different standard for my niece, though. But not much. :)

Posted by: Lydia at November 30, 2004 at 05:37 AM

Okay, here goes:
1. Standing on seat, no hands, downhill circa 1970. Ouch
2. Skating on thin ice. Cold, wet.
3. Grabbing bumpers on passing cars for free rides on bikes, or long distance skating in winter. Luckily not killed, just grounded
4. Various brainless Evel Knievel manuevers
5. "Roof surfing", drunk, Interstate 5 near San Diego 1982. Launched into pavement. Also ouch with complimentary DWI and threatened Courts Martial.
6. Marriage. 1988
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Right?

Posted by: Doc at November 30, 2004 at 05:38 AM

Here is what you do when the protective police go after you and tell YOU how to raise and protect your own child.

Go out into the desert of forest away from all the lefties and let them climb, shoot, set on non safe and sane fireworks, ride in the back of trucks, drive on dry lake beds, eat sugary/fat laden food and get dirty to their heart's content.

25-30 years ago you only wore protective gear on a bike if you were doing BMX. Nobody wore helmets skating. If riding a motorcycle, we put helmets and boots on because it was common sense, not because it had to be a damned law!

My daughter is much more cautious than I ever was because of all these weird messages that tell a kid that it's cool to to a hip-hop thug; a vacuous, drugged ex-playboy model or a violent basketball player but not cool to ride in a car without a seatbelt.

Damn! I tell people that I taught my 10 year old how to shoot a .22 and they look at me like I'm the parent from hell. Meanwhile, their kids are hiring hookers and steeling cars daily in video games.

Posted by: Catracks at November 30, 2004 at 05:39 AM

I was born in 1947 and by 1967 should have:
-drowned once
-died from a head injury after experimenting with riding the hood of a '32 Ford down a snowy slope and hitting a tree
-been paralyzed from a horse accident
-blown myself and a couple of friends up while melting together potassium nitrate and sugar for rocket fuel
-been neutered by a kick in the hemingways from a bull calf I was injecting with penicillin
-been murdered by a motorcycle guy with whose girlfriend I was nearly caught necking
And this is only the stuff I'm not ashamed to admit to, even to myself.
Consequently, I was always the nervous one about our daughter when we were raising her.

Posted by: Person of Choler at November 30, 2004 at 05:40 AM

Person: When I have a son, will you be his role model?

Tragically, I'm young enough that I'm missing most of those good stories, although I do remember a bare fisted brawl in a drainage ditch, and "entertaining" my boss' granddaughter when I was working at an airfield at 16.

I didn't have a bad youth, come to think of it.

Posted by: Aaron at November 30, 2004 at 06:02 AM

well, since the exceedingly lovely njsue mentioned explosives...we used to wrap the firecrackers in playdoh, to create shrapnel that would wipe out large units of army men. and we'd take many, many m-80s and recreate pearl harbor with model ships in a nearby swamp.

and i also remember one time getting exceedingly drunk (not hard to do, considering that i was probably all of 11) at the house of one of my older brother's friends who worked at the schaefer beer plant. anyhow, they 'knew' that one could make a rocket if one took a 12oz bottle (such as the conviently just-emptied schaefer bottles we had lying about) and fill it with gasoline, stopper the top with a chlorine tablet (from their swimming pool), turn it upside down and ignite. based on the ensuing explosion i can only imagine that this fellow went on to work at morton thiokol...

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 30, 2004 at 06:04 AM

"are you more safety-inclined than were your parents?"

Well I couldn't imagine doing what my dad did some thirty something years ago, I'd be locked up for sure. It was magpie season and my sister got pecked on top of the head a beauty, blood pissing out. Next thing I know, I've been volunteered to walk down the road wearing a hat stuffed with newspaper. All the neighbours are leaning on their fences watching me as I casually stroll along some distance from our house. Then there's a single loud bang. Dad's shot the maggie dead with his .303 as its swooped down towards me. All the neighbours are cheering and clapping. Do it now and see what the response is!

Posted by: Lofty at November 30, 2004 at 06:04 AM

Greg Taylor: how do you wrestle a goat?

Posted by: Annalucia at November 30, 2004 at 06:10 AM

When it comes to raising my kids in a safe environment, I generally use my parents as a template. For instance, I'll occasionally let the kids sit in my lap to steer the car, but no shifting, and I'll always have my non-beer-holding hand ready in case they jerk the wheel into oncoming traffic.

Posted by: iowahawk at November 30, 2004 at 06:13 AM

In the woods near our house we tied a rope to a tall tree and swung on it out over a stream. No, no loop to stick a foot in, no safety net; just hold on and swing, egged on by other dare-devil, wreckless kids. Besides the risk of the branch (or the rope) breaking, if you didn't keep you wits about you, on the return swing you would slam into the tree. The local geek kid did. And, yes, the branch did eventually break, with my brother at full swing over the stream. He simply landed on the other side. I don't think my mother ever knew about the swing, she certainly didn't know about it breaking.

Not only did we climb any tree tall enough to be a challenge, my father helped build the tree fort. Not content with a fort, we made it a two story job by using the roof more than we used the interior. Must have been about twenty-five feet off the ground.

Basketball, outdoors, on a concrete surface, on roller-skates, anyone?

By today's lights we might have been stupid but we weren't wimps.

Posted by: Retread at November 30, 2004 at 06:17 AM

I love it! Your dad sent you out as bait!

My friends had goats. I used to wrestle with them by grabing thier horns and trying to push them backwards in a sort of reverse tug-o-war. Some goats like the game. Others get pissed a rear up and charge.

It was my revenge on all the goats who butted me in the ass while I wasn't looking.

Posted by: Catracks at November 30, 2004 at 06:18 AM

1. Hitching rides behind vehicles on icy streets by grabbing bumper, squatting down (wouldn't want the driver to see us, would we?) and sliding on our boots. Watch those man hole covers!
2. Ice/snowball fights - with rocks in the center for added distance.
3. Two cars driving in adjoining lanes while drivers match speed, then change passengers while cars still moving.
4. Sneaking beer into high school.
5. Shopping cart drags!

Posted by: timks at November 30, 2004 at 06:18 AM

Annalucia: you first insult the goat, and then wait for him to defend his honor.


Posted by: Greg Taylor at November 30, 2004 at 06:21 AM

Actually, the amusing part of this is, so many of you seem to believe doing stupid and dangerous things is "cool". I have a sneaking suspicion we won't see many posts from the kids who killed themselves.

I don't like to play the heavy, but thanks to those sorts of beliefs I'm blind in one eye and have pretty significant facial scarring. Wasn't my doing; some high-school student in chem lab thought it'd be "cool" to play with HF in a sealed glass (not Pyrex, glass) container. I just walked in at the wrong time.

I'm not looking for sympathy. In some ways it was a very valuable, but rather expensive, learning experience: "shit happens". And I'm doing extremely well in life, so I don't have any complaints. I'm just pointing out the flip side of "wow, we used to do all sorts of stupid shit every day and never got a scratch so it must be a good thing and everyone these days is just too nannyish".

I was also in a pretty serious bike accident as a child. I would've been far better off if I were wearing a helmet (I had a severe concussion and was unconscious for a day), but helmets weren't "cool" so I didn't have one. Maybe I'm just unlucky or clumsy or something, but these days I don't ride without a helmet. It can't hurt.

Safety precautions such as bike helmets are funny that way: they're utterly unnecessary... until you need them. And, people doing stupid things really do get hurt and killed, and sometimes hurt other people too.

As for the padded jungle gyms and such? In the US, that's mainly a response to the legal liability issues. Anybody running a playground can get their asses sued off by some kid's parents when the kid repeatedly jumps off the 10-foot-high tower onto the top of his head. Padding and such is almost certainly excessive, but the only certain long-term fix is to address the legal stuff.

Actually, this phenomenon is easy to understand--at least in the US. We've become a society where in many cases both parents work, so the kids are being left to the mercies of everyone else (more or less). Anyone who provides a service like a playground is expected to be parents-in-proxy, so to speak, and they're increasingly being held responsible for the kids' behavior and safety. Increased padding, lack of high places to jump from, barbed-wire fences, etc... it's all about avoiding that little three-letter word. I'd guess it's a natural evolution of things in a capitalist society.

There's a flip side to that too. I doubt many folks here are "The Simpsons" comic book readers, but in one issue the local mob (and Krusty) was runninng a somewhat "unsafe" day care center. Prolly doesn't take much imagination to guess what that would be like :) Then there was Marge's response, which was to make the most utterly bland and namby-pamby day care on the planet.

I suspect the media are mostly responsible for the whole "my kid's gonna get abducted" madness, but I haven't seriously looked at the statistics. It gets a little weird because there are some gray-area issues which are being counted as "abductions", like one of the separated parents running off with the child; that's a relatively new phenomenon and including this sort of crap makes comparisons difficult.

Posted by: 42nd SSD at November 30, 2004 at 06:25 AM

Okay. I'd love to hear a goat insult.

Oh wait. Got one.

"You are the love slave of the Mujahideen."

Posted by: Catracks at November 30, 2004 at 06:27 AM

We were military brats-RAF- raised on the island of Cyprus. All the adults were sailing freaks and every weekend they would go off to their regattas and leave all the little kids alone on the beaches. As soon as they sailed off we would swim past the concertina wire to the forbidden Turkish part of the beach and start picking through the cool stuff in the bunkers. This was until the soldiers caught us and started firing into the air. Of course they loved children and never would have hurt any of us, and it was all good fun. We also used to enjoy looking for WWII debris that used to wash up after a storm, and the minesweepers were frequent visitors to our shores.
Oh yes right, bike helmets? never wore one myself.
But I understand that my sister never lets my nieces leave the driveway without theirs. It seems a funny thing.

Posted by: diana at November 30, 2004 at 06:30 AM

Sailing, jumping bikes (learning to abandon said bike and let it go over the cliff if you missed the turn), climbing trees, tackle football with no protective gear (into the twenties), building tree forts with defective/rotten lumber, bottle rocket wars (aim,, tennis ball cannons (lack of steel beer cans puts a cramp in that), BB guns, practicing throwing knives, archery, mucho firecrackers, cleaning showers with straight Muriatic Acid (good for that WMD training), using extremely defective city equipment in a manner not proscribed by the manufacturer in order to get the job done/have fun...

I may have forgotten a few things after some hits to the head.

Posted by: Mikey at November 30, 2004 at 06:31 AM

Okay. I'd love to hear a goat insult.

"billy-gruff, you are so ugly osama made you wear a burqa..."

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 30, 2004 at 06:43 AM

I started wearing a helmet voluntarily after getting in a bike accident at the age of fourteen. I didn't hit my head but had plenty of time to think about it while I was sailing through the air.

The safety device that drives me bonkers is the passenger-side airbag. Most places, it's illegal to turn off, so they tell you to not put children in the front seat. Guess what? The guideline for "children" is often set at 100 pounds, which some "children" don't cross until the age of fourteen or fifteen (what can I say, my family had some late bloomers.) Try telling a fifteen-year-old boy not to sit in the front seat because the "safety devices" could kill him.

Sometimes the guideline is height - also not the best. I have an eighteen-year-old niece who will never get above 4'10". Should I tell her that she always needs to ride in the back?

The comment about playground equipment is all too true - but it doesn't matter how innocuous it is. I almost broke my neck on a low set of monkey bars - I ended up excused from speaking for the rest of the day because of the lurid (but not all that painful) bruise on my throat...

Posted by: B. Durbin at November 30, 2004 at 06:58 AM

"Actually, the amusing part of this is, so many of you seem to believe doing stupid and dangerous things is "cool". I have a sneaking suspicion we won't see many posts from the kids who killed themselves."

Actually, we were all killed as children. Fortunately Hell didn't want us, so we came back.

"I don't like to play the heavy, but thanks to those sorts of beliefs I'm blind in one eye and have pretty significant facial scarring. Wasn't my doing; some high-school student in chem lab thought it'd be "cool" to play with HF in a sealed glass (not Pyrex, glass) container. I just walked in at the wrong time."

Actually, I get the feeling that you do like to play the heavy, as post-dated revenge against the students who scarred you for life.

"I'm not looking for sympathy."

You have it anyway. I'm sorry your sense of humor was fatally injured. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go sneak some off-season firecrackers to some local teens and entice a couple of the neighborhood toddlers to play in traffic. A malicious spirit's work is never done, I swear.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 30, 2004 at 07:00 AM

"Actually, this phenomenon is easy to understand--at least in the US. We've become a society where in many cases both parents work, so the kids are being left to the mercies of everyone else (more or less). Anyone who provides a service like a playground is expected to be parents-in-proxy, so to speak, and they're increasingly being held responsible for the kids' behavior and safety."

I don't agree at all. As a lot of people have said here, kids 10 years ago or more went out to play and didn't ofter come home for 6 or 7 hours. One might come home for a quick sandwich, but it was off to adventure again. What I heard was "Be home before dark" or "be home by ..."

My mother didn't work.

The problem is the litigant society we live in. They don't even let adults do what they want anymore. I was at the beach walking on some rocks I used to walk on as a kid and was told to get off because people had slipped and fallen.

A co-worker was upset that he could take his baby into some kind of industrial show. I told him that it was because we are a litigant society that takes no resposibility for their own actions. He looked uncomfortable and then told me that he and his wife were suing the hotel that they stayed at because they had set the child on a wooden pull out computer tray and it collapsed. He seemed to think it was justified. I wanted to say: "Well there you go then."

It's not because the parents work. It's because of all the "namby-pamby" parents who sue. I broke my arm in 4 places riding a GT skateboard. Did my parent sue? Nope. My dad called be a dumbass and I had to sit out baseball season.

My daughter broke her arm falling from monkey bars. There was not much padding. Did I sue? Hell no. She was doing a gymnastic dismount like a ditz and fell. She shouldn't have been, but I did the same thing and at least understood.

Do you get the concept of personal accountablity?

Posted by: Catracks at November 30, 2004 at 07:25 AM

Remember those ropes in school gyms? The ones that went all the way to the very high gym ceiling? There was always at least one boy that could climb to the very top on the one that didn't have knots. The school I teach in doesn't have them anymore, obviously.

I read or heard something a while ago that really went with this subject. The person brought up the death of the pick-up game. Kids no longer wander their neighborhoods playing whatever. The reason being that parents today start them on soccer and T-ball by the time they are potty trained. (Has anyone witnessed 4 year olds playing soccer? Not only is it expensive, it's utterly ridiculous to watch - my opinion anyway.) There are a lot of lessons from a simple backyard stickball/whiffleball/kickball/whatever game that kids learn by themselves without the interference of adults, that a whole generation of kids are no longer learning.

Organized sports are organized by adults. Backyard kickball games are organized by kids. Big difference.

Posted by: Maureen at November 30, 2004 at 07:25 AM

Fair go Andrea, he does kinda have a point.

Posted by: RhikoR at November 30, 2004 at 07:30 AM

As a kid, I used to ride a horse to school (in rural Queensland). One time the horse bolted, I got thrown and fell heavily. Probably lucky I didn't break my neck like Christopher Reeve, or my ribs. At the time it was painful, but we didn't take such things very seriously. Now I'd be more cautious.

Posted by: mr magoo at November 30, 2004 at 07:32 AM

Now, for another view: I was a good 90s mom and taught safety to my daughter without being repressive. I thought. Just recently my teen told me she might get a motorcycle for getting around Manhattan. I also found out she has been learning rock-climbing, once jumped into a corral of wild Andalusians and managed to ride one bareback, and admits to being Republican when in NY and LA. She took over the controls of a twin engine in the Bermuda Triangle, has driven her boyfriend's car at speeds that scared him, and wants to sky-dive (she was invited to do it in HA and I hid the information. Yes, I'm a mean mom). Oh, much, much more.

The point is that parents can't really take the wild child out of a child. They can try to teach them to look both ways crossing the street and not to dive into shallow water or to stick metal objects into electrical sockets or to run with scissors. But, T-type children will always find some outlet that prematurely ages their parents. At least, our baby wears helmets, and she doesn't do drugs or drink. She prefers other ways of dying... well, OK "living", if you ask her. BTW, she is a brilliant writer and painter and does quite well at 'civilized' dinner parties and formal functions.

For those of you who aren't yet parents, please know that most of who your kids are has less to do with your parenting and more to do with the genetic lottery, and then enjoy (or pray a lot).

Posted by: isabel at November 30, 2004 at 07:34 AM

I recall when I was five, and my folks were installing a pool, before it was plastered it was a lovely concrete bowl -- my three older brothers and me so we soaked a tennis ball in camping fuel (white gas) and lit and played soccer with it.

My Dad comes out and says, (a) if you are going to do that, no long pants and (b) I want this garden hose running so you can dowse each other if necessary. Sensible precautions both.

My Mom, having raised five kids with only two broken bones, three arrests, two totaled automobiles (same brother, and this included a 1965 Mustang Fastback), puts it best when she says that the trick is that "kids will get hurt, the trick is to make sure they don't get injured."

Sadly, I don't think I'll let Owen be the pyromaniac that I was.

Posted by: Andrew at November 30, 2004 at 07:36 AM

My childhood was pretty tame but let's see:
Biking without a helmet was standard. I do wear one today.
Walking to school along the railroad tracks
Snowball fights on the school yard
Making fun of the only kid in Grade 6 with a moustache
Like I said, I was a tame sort of kid.

Posted by: Teem at November 30, 2004 at 07:38 AM

"When I were a lad", back in the 50's in Sydney, we used to swap gunpowder recipes. I seem to remember that some boys' magazines from earlier times even carried such recipes. My father certainly passed his expertise on to me.

Today such behaviour would have us locked up under anti-terrorism legislation; let alone the safety issues.

Posted by: MichaelO at November 30, 2004 at 08:01 AM

We did not have bike helmets. We threw rocks at each other and played a game called smear the queer where we broke someones nose. We played on railroad tracks....actually playing chicken with oncoming trains. My mother went and got the corn we kids shucked and threw at houses on halloween. We were also provided with the soap we used to "soap" houses and cars. Mom drew the line at eggs. I can't imagine giving my kids the tools to what is in effect, vandelism. Ah, the good ole days. I'd never allow my kids to do any of the above.

Posted by: Kelly at November 30, 2004 at 08:02 AM

Up until I was about 13 years old, we lived in what would be termed today an inner city. Both my parents worked as did both parents of most of my friends. That meant we had a great deal of unsupervised time to have all sorts of 'fun'.

Most of what has been mentioned we did .. biking with no helmets, setting whatever looked interesting on fire, hitching rides in winter on the backs of delivery trucks when we had ice skates on, and climbing anything we could climb.

One activity we did, that I'd kill my kids had they ever attempted, was roof jumping. You need to have buildings that are at least 3 stories tall and close together (we considered 3 stories the minimum height). We liked to jump the roofs of the various factories, apartments, stores, and garages around town. Get on the roof of one, take a running jump, and land on the roof of the building next door.

One of the biggest challenges, for my group of friends, was to jump from a building of one height onto another that was lower in height. Why some of us were not killed I'll never understand. But, nobody ever was.

The worst that ever happened to any of us was being chased off the roofs by the cops. Oh, we also got lots of scrapes on the arms and legs in the summer. (Many roofs were covered with gravel and the gravel would tear the flesh.)

When I was 13, we moved to the suburbs (my parents were good workers and savers). I missed being able to do what the older teens did .. jump roofs that were spaced further apart. I remember thinking how cool it would be to jump as far as the older kids. The suburban kids didn't have the buildings we had in the city so I stopped jumping roofs after we moved.

When I became an adult I found out that many of my aunts and uncles had taken part in roof jumping as children. Seemed to be the thing to do. (There wasn't much else.)

I wonder if the city kids do this today? I assume they must. It's vary tempting, when you're a kid and on a roof, not to try and jump across to the next roof. I imagine that, laws being what they are today, the building owner would be responsible if anything were to happen.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at November 30, 2004 at 08:03 AM

Mr. Magoo,
How would you be more cautious? By insisting that all horses be on a lead rope attached to an adult? or that you'd never gallop? or that you'd not ride or allow your children to ride a horse.

People still jump despite what happened to Reeves thank God. I've seen jockeys get crushed and then mount up as soon as healed. I'm surprised the government didn't call for a ban on all horse sports. I'm really sick of the government telling me what is okay and safe for me to do.

I fell off a bolting horse and got a nasty concussion. So what? It comes with the territory.

Posted by: Catracks at November 30, 2004 at 08:05 AM

this is an amusing expression for an Australian.

"... while the adults were drinking and eating barbecue."

How do you eat a barbecue? (One brick at a time!)
Ahh, the wonders of the English language!

Posted by: markn at November 30, 2004 at 08:05 AM

All of these stories are fun and a chance for the writers to use their stories on us that are probably past their use-by date with their friends. What you are forgetting is that by definition you are the survivors of these escapades. The unheard writers here are the kids who didn't survive.

My Mum and Dad let me do a lot of dangerous thing without protection too but I put it down to ignorance and unavailability of the correct procedures. As an example, playing football. Our coaches were either schoolteachers or somebody's dad. How many are hobbling around on dicky knees as a result of that? I know I am.

Posted by: Allan at November 30, 2004 at 08:19 AM

People used to have a lot more children, so losing a few was no big deal.

my apologies in advance

Posted by: John from OK at November 30, 2004 at 08:21 AM

Between 14 and 16
- I sharpened a bamboo stake and attached it to the front of my bike in a modified version of jousting with the neighbours. Had to swerve to avoid jamming the damn thing into someone's head at speed.
- Rock bombardments where we'd be at the top of the cliff lobbing rocks at our neighbours below, who had to dance around avoiding them... of course one of them was distracted and copped one in the melon.
- Gathering all my toys at 15 and immolating them with petrol (the common phlame phase...)
(then at 18 there were the high-speed car chases, etc)

I had a wonderful childhood but i don't know how my neighbours survived it :) I know that my children will be learning martial arts from a young age to teach them self-discipline and the art of the consequence in a controlled environment (ie do something stupid, kaboom) where it won't hurt them as much.

Posted by: Juanito at November 30, 2004 at 08:30 AM

Many things I did as a kid would get me prison time today, but EVERYBODY including the police knew who, what, and were. I made a high powered rifled (got a machinist's kid to rifle it for me)zip gun (when people figured out it was rifled we had to destroy it, no police were technically involved), explosives made from food preservatives, and proximity fuses (had help from an adult on this one), and we weren't even trying to "get away with it", we didn't have to.. Those IED builders in Iraq are pikers. I did have a bicycle helmet, but that was for Kayaking. No way one God's green earth am I going to allow my kids to do these things (I do not want them to do time for one thing).

Posted by: demigh at November 30, 2004 at 08:31 AM

Ah, remember the double-bunger firecracker? Someone told me (c. 1971) that five of them were equivalent to a stick of dynamite.

Growing up, there was always someone in my class with something broken, but we survived. Aged 2, I got a broken collarbone when our car rolled. Aged 8, I fell forward onto my hand, forcing my fingers back - it swelled up pretty nastily, though it turned out not to be broken (had it X-rayed).

But then again, my school classmate's younger brother was in a rugby scrum that collapsed. He's been in a wheelchair these last 22 years.

Posted by: David Morgan at November 30, 2004 at 09:05 AM

Plus my sister still has a scar on her chest from a toy dustpan (metal) that she fell on when was 2 years old.

She also once took my car out for a little unauthorised driving practice when she was 16 and I was away...well, she survived.

Posted by: David Morgan at November 30, 2004 at 09:09 AM

Case in point: while planning a company picnic, we had developed several games that the children could play while the adults were drinking and eating barbecue. One person asked if we would get some small trinkets for the kids who won the game, as prizes. Horrified looks all round: the kids certainly shouldn't be rewarded for winning the game.

Why stop there, let's eliminate winning and losing with adults too. The office would be a good place as any to start. How about the worst screw-up in the place and the star salesman get the same year-end bonus??

Posted by: Paul at November 30, 2004 at 09:10 AM

I and my mates from St Josephs built a billy cart along the specifications of Baron von Richtofens Fokker, without the tri-plane or synchronised machine guns. We would race it down Tooronga Village Car Park or High Street Hill. No-one seemed to mind, we got quite adept at swerving in and out of traffic.

When we werent playing chicken with billy carts we were building rafts, ala Huck Finn, made of old oil barrells and drift wood. The object was to raft up Gardners Creek, towards the Great Dividing Range some several hundred miles to the North.

When this got boring we would assemble a team to explore the storm water drain system under the Yarra river. The idea of being drowned in a flash flood never occurred to us.

Otherwise we would amuse our selves by picking fights with the Jordy boys down by Jordanville Station. Or trying to knock each other out with bouncers on a concrete matted pitch.

On holidays the idea was to try and swim INTO the Gunnamatta Beach rip, and then swim out of it thereby proving ourselves superior swimmers to Harold Holt. Otherwise you simply paddled to the far side of a Lake Tyers and lived in the boondocks for a couple of days like the Aborigines.

And dont get me started on going to Windy Hill on a Saturday arvo, or St Moritz and Bojangles on a Saturday night. If you didnt get into a few scraps you werent really trying.

I assumed that taking a few risks was what made life fun. Certainly Darwin assures us that this was the way to sort the men from the boys and thereby improve the breed.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at November 30, 2004 at 09:13 AM

I remember getting rides back from Cub Scouts in the back of a pickup truck, driven by one of the Scout leaders. Made the mistake of not holding on while standing at the back, just as the driver pulled up in front of my house. Flew a few feet, landed mouth first against the cab - still have a couple of very nicely chipped teeth as a result. No lawsuits, no complaints.

I have a toddler daughter, another kid on the way. I feel like such a hypocrite - can't even imagine what I'll be like when it comes time to talk about drugs and sex.

Posted by: rick mcginnis at November 30, 2004 at 09:18 AM

I'm a God fearing product of evolutionary survival.

Among the litany of spanking offenses survived.

Lighting rocket engines with matches...BB gun wars with glass aviator shades as eye protection...Bottle rocket RPGs...Sailing forty miles to the next island in an overloaded sunfish with a bottle of water between us...A-mature skateboard medical training setting various dislocated joints in drainage ditches...Disassembling bullets and shot shells for the explosive goodies and blowing up engine blocks...Arrows with explosive tips...Tin can mortars...50 ft cliff flops into surf...Hitching everywhere...Racing everything with wheels...Lizard genocide...Sword fights...Stick fights...Rock fights...fist fights...And happy go friggin' lucky to be alive.

Posted by: monkey fan at November 30, 2004 at 09:19 AM

I should have added that my sister survived, but not my car.

But it was all for the best. I got a new car and she finally settled down seriously to her HSC.

Posted by: David Morgan at November 30, 2004 at 09:21 AM

"Actually, the amusing part of this is, so many of you seem to believe doing stupid and dangerous things is "cool". I have a sneaking suspicion we won't see many posts from the kids who killed themselves."

I can tell you many nonamusing stories about people killed doing nothing. Children learn by doing, it is as simple as that. Taking risks teaches children "Judgement." Taking risks is a part of life and wrapping your child in cotton wool will not keep them out of harms way. "It usually results in a fanatic or psycho :-o)"

When I was a child, we would play on the railroad tracks and sometimes, we played chicken with the train.

Posted by: BlackRedneck at November 30, 2004 at 09:24 AM

The memories keep flooding back, as I read this thread...

There was a known pedophile in the neighbourhood, living in a house a few blocks away. Some of the older boys used to go by his place, lead him on and rob him - he couldn't complain to either the cops or their parents.

It was a tough neighbourhood, working class. There were biker clubhouses in the area, and a lively little drug trade among the parents and teenagers.

How do I even explain this today?

Posted by: rick mcginnis at November 30, 2004 at 09:34 AM

At about 14 years old I built a crossbow from a leaf off a Ford Cortina spring firing a sharpened steel bolt. The first time I used it, the bolt went straight through the 44-gallon drum I was using as a target and buried itself in the door of Uncle's truck. A couple of days later it disappeared, and I never found it again. We also used to fill the tar-paper bags that welding rods come in with oxy-acet mix - light the paper and throw ... quickly.

Posted by: WiIlmott Fribbish at November 30, 2004 at 09:49 AM

Full disclosure here folks, I was what I thought was a huge wimp. The most dangerous thing I ever did (besides getting in the car with my barfly parents) was rollerskating through the flat, flat streets of my Miami, Florida neighborhood. Back then there were no roller blades, we used the old-fashioned two-in-front, two-in-back wheeled type. You could either get the kind that attached to your shoes (you adjusted them with a key) or more-coveted were the kind that were attached to ankle-high white boots. (You could wear them and pretend you were an ice-skating star.) One day I was zipping along and fell right on my ass. I sprained my wrist -- they iced it for five hours or something which hurt even worse than the sprain -- and after that I retired my skates and retreated to my books. The endings of which I used to peek at in case they might be "too icky" for me. All of you sound like the bad, bad children I hid in my room to avoid.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 30, 2004 at 10:14 AM

Car surfing, usually while chemically enhanced.

Posted by: Habib at November 30, 2004 at 10:15 AM

I see I'm not the only one with a wacky childhood. I grew up in a "safe" area. By that I mean there were none of the wackos that we had to watch out for, just stupidity. There's too much to post on Tim's bandwidth so I'll continue on my own blog. Just a taste: Falling out of a sycamore tree at ten into a pine and bramble thicket (about 35 feet), ending up with just scratches; leaving home at dawn and being gone until dark (at age 5); catching and playing with snakes, including poisonous ones; china-berry and slingshot wars; riding dozens of miles every day on a bike with no fenders and poor brakes; hunting, trapping, fishing, and just plain traipsing through the local forests, beginning about age 5 and lasting until I joined the USAF. I did everything I could, enjoyed every minute of it, and never suffered a broken bone or serious injury. My parents said "God looks after fools and children, and you're both", but I had fun, and a lifetime of experiences by the time I was twenty. My children never even had the CHANCE to do much of what I took for granted.

Posted by: Old Patriot at November 30, 2004 at 10:23 AM

Sliding down the kerbing during the wet season, using the coat of algae that grew like mad in all the rain was a bit of a hoot- you could get up a fair old lick of pace, but if you lost your balance you'd crack your head open on the concrete, and if no-one picked you up you'd drown. Stormwater drain kayaking was pretty intense as well.

Posted by: Habib at November 30, 2004 at 10:29 AM

Young bamboo was a wealthy source of both bows and arrows; also tom-thumb firecrackers, if unwound from the bundle are exactly .177 calibre, and can be lit and fired from an air-rifle at unsuspecting friends, geezers waiting for the bus and passing bicyclists. Magpie cricket was exciting as well.

Posted by: Habib at November 30, 2004 at 10:32 AM

In the 50's we rode bikes, roller skated and raced home-built go-carts without protective gear. Our playgrounds had (wooden) see-saws, jungle jims, merry-go-rounds, tire swings and high slides that we used to wax for greater speed. We had fireworks, BB guns, slingshots and all manner of toy gun. We built and used tree houses and rope swings over swimming holes. We played coed dodgeball in gym (only one rule - you couldn't aim at a girl above her waist). And these were the things our parents knew about (the crap we pulled down by the railroad tracks alone would have gotten us grounded for life).

We did not have seatbelts and we kids sat anywhere in the car we were told to sit (cars pretty much were tanks back then, didn't go as fast and there were fewer of them). Locking the house was no big deal. Leaving the kids in the car (sometimes with the motor running) while Mom ran into the store for milk was more normal than not. We were not taught to fear strangers (although we knew never to go anywhere with a stranger and never under any circumstances get in a car with a stranger). Playing down by the river or lake was not off limits. We could go anywhere around town and occasionally took the bus into the city. At age 11, I and some girlfriends rode the bus for an hour to the New York State Fairgrounds and attended the fair for the day by ourselves. I frequently traveled alone by plane and train to visit relatives.

We have no children so I can't speak from that POV, but I well understand the forces behind all the changes and sadly, aside from the whole protective gear thing, they're all negative. Two things for sure: Childhood is a whole lot more expensive than it used to be and kids today spend too much time in the house. Almost all our non-school daylight hours were spent outside, even in the winter (with a whole new set of hazards). We were the better for it I think.

(PS OT - One of the reasons I like coming here is because it always tomorrow.)

Posted by: Kyda Sylvester at November 30, 2004 at 10:33 AM

Three cousins on summer vacation, roaming the moutain woods of north central Pennsylvania, carrying a .22 single shot rifle. And a pocket full of ammo.

My kids are old enough that I wish they WOULD learn how to shoot.

N. O'Brain

Posted by: N. O'Brain at November 30, 2004 at 10:40 AM

-"Joyriding" (aka "temporarily stealing") in a Cessna 210 after drinking a cocktail or three, and them buzzing the local teen hangout at about 100 feet and 160 knots around midnight back when I was 17. The moon was so bright that it looked like dusk after my eyes adjusted to the darkness.
-Flying under the bridge at Kowliga, Al on Lake Martin. I ran some people out of a bass boat.
-Blew my best friend's TV antenna over with a Cessna 172. His mom cut off the peanut butter after that.
-Kicked up a rooster tail from the Lock Ness in a Phantom with the tail hook down.

My oldest is 16 and will be soloing sometime before Christmas. I'm scared shitless!

Posted by: arlo at November 30, 2004 at 10:45 AM

I get up in the country, that entailed horses, motorbikes, ATVs and snowmobiles. I've broken bones, knocked out teeth, dislocated a shoulder and got more stiches and tetanus shots than I care to recount. I wouldn't change a single thing, I learned risk assessment and consequences the hard way.

If I ever have kids and live in the country I'll give them the same freedom but living in the city it's too dangerous to let children roam.

Posted by: Lilly at November 30, 2004 at 10:46 AM

Let me clarify: three young kids, 10-12 YO, unsupervised.

Posted by: N. O'Brain at November 30, 2004 at 10:49 AM

"I was what I thought was a huge wimp"

Andrea, you may be the only one here that got tougher with age.

"All of you sound like the bad, bad children I hid in my room to avoid."

Now the trolls are hiding from you.

I am not able to tell everything about my childhood...will need to check the "statute of limitations" first.

Posted by: Tej at November 30, 2004 at 10:51 AM

Tim _ I hope you were using your isotoner seat cover and rmi-preventative wrist pad on your mouse arm when you posted that...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at November 30, 2004 at 10:58 AM

Got up to all sorts of hijinks similar to many posted above, but this example - in its 'normalcy' - illustrates everyday parental attitudes of the time:

1969 - I'm seven years old - I am given my first bicycle by my parents to ride to school. This is in Nth Queensland in a sugar cane farming community and my house is on the main road, as is the school, about 2 kilometres away. All through the crushing season there are massive cane trucks and molasses trucks thundering past at all hours, and the road isn't much more than a thin Andean goat track. So, what sort of bike do they give me to ride to school? A 'fixed wheeler'.

I'm not sure whether they exist anymore, but a fixed wheel has NO BRAKES AT ALL. The pedals are locked to the revolution of the wheels, so you cannot have a pedal brake, nor were there any hand brakes. The best I couuld do to halt my forward momentum was either slow down as I neared my destination and let friction and gravity do their work, or try to put backwards pressure on the pedals, which, if you had a good head of steam up, would merely result in you bobbing up and down on one leg on the pedal like some mad 3-stone marionette, but achieving little by way of actually slowing the thing down.

For all that, I came to no harm and got a much-coveted dragstar a couple of years later. With actual brakes.

However, I did lend the fixed wheeler to a classmate one lunch time, and omitted telling him it was one .. he came to a very nasty halt at Stewart's shop on the other end.

Posted by: Sweet sweet Bundy at November 30, 2004 at 10:59 AM

The Aborigines stole my brother's Dragstar. Bastards- I would have inherited it. An item that was big with Rockhampton hoodlum wanna-bes was called the "go-bike"; they would steal a lawnmover, remove the engine then cut down the frame of a (stolen0 bicycle, and weld the engine into the frame with a direct chain drive to the back wheel, no brakes. They would also weld extra fork legs on the front forks for that "chopper" look, then provoke the police into a street chase.
I raced 25hp powerboats from the age of 15 to 18, and my parents drove me to meeting towing the boat. I believe they had me heavily insured- I crashed one in the Brisbane to Caloundra in 1976, and had a propellor blade pierce my helmet and enter my head, which explains a lot.

Posted by: Habib at November 30, 2004 at 11:22 AM

Perth in the 50s and early 60s, was, well, interesting …

Homemade hill trolleys that braked courtesy of crashing into something (hopefully soft). If you came off, you quickly learnt that road-rashed buttocks HURT like hell.

Bombing tadpoles with penny bombs in the stormwater "dam", which was 20 feet deep, with steep sloping sides -- and I couldn't swim then.

Exploring the Rivervale rubbish tip, which was alongside the Swan River, past our waists in stinking clay sludge and industrial wastes. My mate would tow me there; he on his pushbike, me on borrowed rollerskates.

Homemade crossbows with sharpened 6" nails for arrowheads. Homemade cracker cannons and steel ball-bearings for ammo. Pulling the heads and powder out of .22 cartridges and pushing the case into a bar of hard soap to make low-powered soap "bullets", using them to knock doves off the clothesline, or raise interesting welts on my youngest brother's legs and bum. "Ging" (slingshot) "wars" using quandong nuts for ammo. My brother zigged when he should have zagged and copped one fair centre in the forehead, which saw him end-for-end, base over apex, down the sandhill we were trying to "conquer". Penny-rocket fights, launched from hollow lengths of bamboo held on the shoulder. Putting a drop of diesoline in the hollow skirt of an air rifle pellet in my mates old Daisy, just to get the extra "oomph" as the diesel ignited. We graduated to pushing the pellet down the barrel with a nail, and filling the gap behind with ever increasing amounts of diesel fuel. Quite spectacular at night … and a testament to the strength of Daisy airguns! Putting a sixpenny bomb under a Nestle powdered milk tin -- and making my then 4-year-old brother stand on it to see how high it would launch him.

Helmet? Nope. Pads? What were they? We wore shorts, summer and winter -- I didn't even know what jeans were until I was in my mid-teens. Sneakers? God, we went barefoot everywhere -- Mum made us wear shoes, but we'd have them off halfway to school. Some of the wimps wore leather sandals, but … We were lucky -- no-one of my acquaintance or vintage got seriously hurt or, even worse, killed.

My two daughters are adults now, but the older one did abseiling and scuba diving, while both did Duke Of Edinburgh outdoor ed. including kayaking, camping etc. They younger one took up archery with me and even went out to the rifle club to shoot a few times. What they've done OTHER than that -- I don't want to know, nor do I need to know.

Posted by: BruceT at November 30, 2004 at 11:56 AM

Bolt bombs- you get a i/2 inch nut and two bolts, screw the first bolt loosely into the nut then scrape the heads off a box of matches into the nut, then screw the other bolt into the other side (carefully). Launch into the air onto bitumen- if they land just the right way (on the end of a bolt) they go off like a mortar round and fire the top bolt straight up in the air. All-bearing billycarts made out of scavenged timber and using old egine bearings for wheels- an unearthly clatter on the road, quicker than shit off a chrome shovel down a steep hill (no brakes) and as much traction as teflon sandshoes. How did we all survive? Only fatalities at my school were an idiot who tried shooting a fish with a speargun with a powerhead, which missed, hit a rock and was driven back through his head, and a boarder who got rat-arsed on the Midlander (train) going home to Emerald and fell out the back of the train having a piss, only to be run over by a coal train.

Posted by: Habib at November 30, 2004 at 12:39 PM

In the early '60s, I lived on the Missouri River north of Kansas City at Ft. Leavenworth. I was in 3rd grade (8-9 years old). We would go down to the river thru snake infested swamps and lash together whatever wood and logs we could find to make a raft. We would float down the river like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for a few miles. For some reason, the freight trains going north traveled real slow thru his area, so we could run and jump on them for the ride back home.

Posted by: perfectsense at November 30, 2004 at 12:54 PM

In Grade 3 I killed a kid just for the pleasure of watching him die. You try that these days!

Posted by: Pig Head Sucker at November 30, 2004 at 12:59 PM

I grew up on a farm in the 1960's.

Trust me! I was either lucky, or good, not sure which.

Posted by: rinardman at November 30, 2004 at 01:23 PM

My memory isn't perfect, but when I was young (~15 years ago) we were playing in a park, and we heard something and we looked to investigate, and someone our age on the road who wasn't wearing a helmet was (I think) bleeding from the head. We got someone living nearby to phone an amulance.

As far as I know, he lived. We found out later that he had jacknifed off his bike.

I was rather unimpressed by him not wearing a helmet.

Posted by: Andjam at November 30, 2004 at 01:29 PM

Born in the UK in 1958. By 1966 I had broken my left arm twice, (the first time in 1961), had my left kneecap traumatically removed, had 13 stitches in my right arm...

Alan, my son appears to be following in my footsteps.
But he brought two pairs of scissors to me this morning - and walked both times, just to show he'd learned his lesson.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at November 30, 2004 at 01:49 PM

My kids keep asking me what to do because they are inside all day and not allowed to cross the road because of that army of paedophiles that waits around the corner (I haven't met them yet but my wife assures me that they're there). A friend who's a Federal policewoman told me that the ratio of kids getting killed or horribly maimed in car accidents to those getting taken by roving paedophiles is 10,000 to one. Are parents proportionately worried about their driving habits? Nope. My personal answers to this one are, no television, camping as often as possible and encouraging them to climb trees and finding like minded parents who like seeing kids using some initiative (there's some).

Posted by: David at November 30, 2004 at 01:58 PM

When I was a kid, (she said, putting her teeth in), my parents felt perfectly safe letting me go downtown by myself on the bus, alone. This was Chicago, Illinois, - the second-largest city in the US at the time - and I was five.

Also, at the age of five, I went to the movies with a couple of other kids my age and spent Saturday afternoons watching Hammer horror films and stuffing myself with boxes of buttered popcorn and Jordan almonds.

The worst thing I had to worry about was the odd creep who'd sit next to me in the darkness and attempt to feel my thigh. I knew how to deal with that (a quick, glancing blow to the jugular usually worked). And I could ride my bike anywhere. I could also go to restaurants by myself and pay by myself. And Mother never had to worry. Life was more innocent then.

Now, however, I'd never let my kid step more than fifteen feet away from me without a Rottweiller in tow. There are some deeply sick people out there, and they've ruined the simple pleasures of childhood as I knew them.

Posted by: ahem at November 30, 2004 at 01:59 PM

It has become a commonplace occurence now in the States for college kids to go on rampages after sporting events - tearing down the goalposts, vandalizing businesses and so forth. I don't recall this happening when I was in college. My university basketball team, the Marquette Warriors, won the national championship when I was a freshman and there were thousands of excited kids in the downtown streets celebrating that night, drinking, yelling, puking in gutters, but no vandalism and very little trouble of any sort. (And this is when the legal drinking age in Wisconsin was 18.)

Nowadays, it's become almost run-of-the-mill for UW Madison kids to rush out into the streets after a Badgers game and not only drink, yell, and puke in gutters, but break windows, fight, set cars on fire, battle with police and generally do their best to imitiate rioting British yobs. What has happened during the past 25 years?

Well, lots of things. But I have wondered if packs of mainly middle class students aren't more badly behaved now precisely because they were supervised to death as children. After a lifetime of being shunted around from one adult-run activity to another, when they finally find themselves unsupervised, they don't know how to handle their freedom and they behave like complete heathens.

When you're left to explore the world on your own, you learn about consequences the hard way i.e., trying to stand up on the handlebars of a friend's bike while she's headed down a steep hill is a bad idea, not just because Mom says no, but because you end up going tail over tin cup. Having to go to the ER and get gravel picked out of your face with a comb is a memorable experience and one that definately leads to greater caution in future.

Besides, I think of what a wonderful thing it was to roam around alone on my bike or with friends (the universal rule was you had to head home when the street lights came on) on a hot July day and I really pity anyone who never got to experience that sort of freedom as a child.

Posted by: Donna V. at November 30, 2004 at 02:01 PM

Being a kid can also be a health hazard for parents as well.

As a kid my dad used to build boats as a hobby. Growing up in the country I liked throwing things and decided to make a whopping big boomerang out of marine plywood I stole from my dad's workshop. The boomerand was 2 foot wide from end to end and would go a mile when I threw it. On one occasion I was about 100 metres from the house when I threw the boomerang in a direction away from the house. A gust of wind caught it, it came back way over my head and strait for the house. I cringed thinking it was going to take out a window, but I heard a loud f**k! in the distance. The boomerang took out my old man while he was walking from the house to a nearby shed and left a huge purple/black bruise on his shoulder and back. What were the chances of that!

Also did the usual exposive fettish thing, touch powder etc, being a chemistry geek. Once tried to set off 40kg mixture ammoniun nitrate and diesel once with a blackpowder primer. Luckily for me the primer wasn't strong enough to set it off. If only I could have got my hands on some mercury fulminate...

Posted by: Antipodean at November 30, 2004 at 02:02 PM

The neighbor hood kids and i used to contruct ramps with plywood, cinder blocks, old tires in the alleys behind our houses, or in the street and jump in to giant mud puddles after gathering up speed on our bikes. We ate gravel a few times and had to pull it out of our elbows and knees, but it was great. Somebody would probably call the cops if kids were doing that these days. No helmets, never owned a bike helmet in my life, or elbow or knee pads.

Posted by: vinny at November 30, 2004 at 02:05 PM

Jeez, this thread is bringing back memories...some supressed due to embarrassment...some probably missing due to severe blunt trauma to the head.

BB gun fights? Yup. Bottle rocket fights? Of course. Pipe bombs? You betcha. Skitching rides on the bumpers of cars in winter? Sure thing!

I also have fond memories of what we called "swamp hockey." There was a low spot in the woods not far from my house (now a housing development with a nitwit name like "Lake Lawn" or some such). Within the woods there was a stretch that always managed to flood just before freezing over. As soon as it did, we'd be out there slapping away at a puck and skating full tilt into trees, roots, rocks, stumps, and each other. I still have a scar on my forehead from that.

I also spent summers on my grandmother's farm helping my uncle and cousins make hay. Every once in a while, a snake would turn up in a bale. The only safety advice I got came from my cousin - "when the haywagon starts to tip over, remember to bail out on the side going up."

I don't know how any of us made it.

Posted by: DarthVAda at November 30, 2004 at 02:17 PM

Habib "Bolt bombs- you get a i/2 inch nut and two bolts, screw the first bolt loosely into the nut then scrape the heads off a box of matches into the nut"

We made something similar but we used 1" bolts and nut but filled them with caps (from cap guns).Throw them up and run for your lives.

As we got older we had better availability to parts and went to pipe bombs: 2" diameter pipe about a foot long with screw caps on both ends. Drill an 1/8" inch hole in one end, fill it with ....[ Edited by management].... then take 100'+ of speaker wire, stick one end in the drilled hole and take the other end to an electrical outlet... plug it in and wait.

(WARNING: Do not do this at home we were 14 year old professionals)

Speaking of throwing something up and running for your lives....anyone remember "Lawn Darts". I think my parents bought us a set just before they left for vacation one year. couple pound giant darts (4" steel spike with 12" plastic fins) you throw up and they stick in the ground or whatever they hit when they land. The winner was the one who lived.

Posted by: Tej at November 30, 2004 at 02:17 PM

I remember being pinned down behind a piece of corrugated iron for a while by a friend with a slug gun.It taught me to duck.
Growing up in Botany,happy days.

Posted by: gubbaboy at November 30, 2004 at 02:32 PM

Tej: Jesus H., I forgot all about "Lawn Darts." We had them too. My mother was so concerned that we'd poke our eyes out with pencils if we goofed around at the table while doing our homework, but she had no problem with us lobing Lawn Darts across the yard.

We're the lucky ones. I knew a kid whose jeans caught fire - and I mean, they really went up in flames - when he was lighting a fart. He was in a pediatric ICU for months. The family moved away about a year later and so I don't know if the kid sustained permanent damage (not that I would necessarily be privy to info like that if the family had stayed.)

Imagine going through life unable to father children or have a normal sex life because you set your pants on fire when you were 7 and dumb. Poor guy. I really have always felt bad for him.

Posted by: Donna V. at November 30, 2004 at 02:34 PM

My husband grew up near a glass factory in Huntington, WV. When clackers were all the rage, the factory churned them out. All the broken ones they put in a huge pile on the factory grounds and all the children would come play on an enormous mountain of broken glass.

Posted by: Donnah at November 30, 2004 at 03:25 PM

Never wore bike helmet as a kid. Saw a kid killed riding to school, with blood coming out his ear from fracture scull. Didn't start me wearing a bike helmet.

Bike helmets are now required by law. I've been hit by two cars since I was thirty and the bike helmet has saved my life on both occaisions but not collar bone. My kid (due in April 05 - ANZAC Day actually) will be wearing a bike helmet.

We used to put a house brick on the trampoline and jump and avoid the brick.

Made a flying fox using thin rope from our Jacaranda tree. Luckily I landed flat on my back when it broke.

Posted by: Razor at November 30, 2004 at 03:25 PM

One of the reasons kids are getting fatter these days is that parents won't let them walk to school in case they get kidnapped or something. When they're more likely to be in a car crash on the way to school than abducted.

There was always freaks out there, and always will be. Let kids be kids. Like a mate of mine says about her son - a little pain never hurt anyone.

Posted by: Elliott at November 30, 2004 at 03:54 PM

We used to climb as high as we could in the macrocarpa trees (they're shaped like low pyramids) and leap out. Usually we'd land softly in the branches below. Usually we dropped about 30 feet.

Great fun.

Posted by: SteveGW at November 30, 2004 at 04:00 PM

Hey Razor, I hope your Kid isn't being born wearing a helmet...
makes the eyes water a bit.

Posted by: kae at November 30, 2004 at 04:12 PM

Let me see - some things we got up to included making chloride bombs (Chlorine and brake fluid in glass bottles), pulling the slug out of bullets to get the cordite to make pipe bombs, hunting pigs off horseback using long clubs when I was 8, hunting with my .22 that I got for my tenth birthday, towing our billy cart at 40mph with my brother in it with my motor bike (lots of skin lost when you fell off it), assorted "busters" off my horse (my neck is still no good from one fall), racing mates in their cars at night without lights (using moonlight).

Also played that game where you and a mate stand opposite each other without shoes on a wooden floor and see who can throw a knife into the floor closest to the others foot before one of you chicken out.

Somehow made it through childhood without any broken bones - lost a bit of skin though.

Posted by: Richard O at November 30, 2004 at 04:16 PM

My neighborhood was bounded on 2 sides by a river and the third side by train tracks... of course the best place to play was the train tressel. I remember climbing under the tressle and using the space under the tracks (and 20 feet above the water) as a 'fort'. We would smash pennies on the train tracks all the time too. There was a rumor that a quarter would derail the train - so we only used pennies.

My father cut the seatbelts out of his cars... he hated the rattling noise they made.

Nobody wore a bike helmet... except a friends little brother Johnny... he was 'special' and never took that helmet off. No WAY would any of us worn a helmet that may have made everyone think we were 'special' too.

My dad used to give me fireworks. He was former artillery and I think loved fireworks more than any kid.

We also Ice skated on the river... nobody does that anymore...

Posted by: mapchic at November 30, 2004 at 04:58 PM

kae - that scan is next week so I'll get back to you on whether it's wearing a bike helmet.

Posted by: Razor at November 30, 2004 at 05:13 PM

Learning about milking cows at school and then coming home and milking the cat into the tea.

Posted by: Vicki at November 30, 2004 at 05:48 PM

Aaah!! Those were the days - all the fireworks you could get your hands on, canoes in the river, high diving at the local pool, rifle shooting up to .303 calibre, slingshots, tree climbing, bikes galore, roaming the countryside. Helmets? Forget about it. My kids have taken to horse riding, and that's pretty dangerous. They have done their share of mucking around in the backblocks. But they only have to put on a helmet if they are in the suburbs - its not necessarily the parents who are fearful (although of course we are careful of their safety) but society has rules, and these tend to apply across the board. "All are punish'd" (William Shakespeare)

Posted by: Geoff at November 30, 2004 at 05:56 PM

Reading through some of the contributions here concerning cycle helmets - like this one from "razor":

I've been hit by two cars since I was thirty and the bike helmet has saved my life on both occaisions but not collar bone.

only makes one sit back in awe about how far the brainwashing of the general public has progressed over the last 10 years or so. There is plenty of rock-solid scientific evidence that bike helmets do not save any lives - the most they do is put people off bike riding. The overall effect of many of these measures is a net cost to society.

For anyone that wants to educate him/herself, here's one impeccable, fully referenced source.

It truly is a worry that so many otherwise independent, individualistic people that frequent this site accept the "safety first" bullshit propaganda of the various governments without a qualm.


Posted by: JPB at November 30, 2004 at 08:04 PM

I spent almost my entire youth either mountai-biking (with a mountain-bike or slightly adapted road/racingbycicles), horse-riding/jumping or skate boarding, never realy got hurt untill my early twenties, when I attempted to drive down a long steep hill (on a mountainbike), while A: spectacularly drunk and B: towing a friend of mine (the same one that pioneered first blood badminton with me) who was on rollerskates at the time.(broke my left ankle in 11 places)

The reason I never realy got hurt before that faithfull night was quite simple and something that I wholeheartedly recommend to all parents here as one of the best safety-precautions you can take to protect your children: Let them learn Judo, I agree that it is not the greatest combat/selfprotection-sport out there (at least untill you get your opponent to ground-level) but it teaches you how to fall, an art that saved me from serious injurie on many occasions.

Posted by: Evert V in NL at November 30, 2004 at 08:11 PM

Ah. Memories, memories.
Seems to be a little bit of a pissing contest going on here as to who had the best childhood memory.
The best I'm able to offer up in this respect is as follows:
Chasing dingoes/foxes on Crackernight and unloading countless six ball shooters at them handheld.
Having time trials and exploring through the storm water drains riding my BMX with a torch taped to the front.
Paddling gondola style up a creek in an upturned fridge with the door ripped off.
Countless excursions across many suburbs being towed behind my friends minibike on my skateboard.
Not to mention the customary Friday or Saturday night knock and run efforts which educated me about risk assessment.
I'd better stop the reminiscing before it gets out of control.

Posted by: Intellectual Gladiator at November 30, 2004 at 09:17 PM

Ah, the sweet stupidity of youth! Our greatest renewable natural resource.

Posted by: Mikey at November 30, 2004 at 10:30 PM

Aaron, I think that I could be a good negative role model.

Posted by: Person of Choler at November 30, 2004 at 10:57 PM

OT, but JPB hit a button.

I didn't have a bike helmet with me for a Sunday outing with friends, so I wore my Army issue kevlar (PAGST) helmet instead, partly as a sort of protest, partly for fun.

Idiot walloper (on a motorcycle on the bike path) pulled me up and warned me that my helmet was not "approved", and that I would have to get a proper one next time.

I suppose a "proper" hemet would be plastic and foam?

That'd go well in Iraq.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at November 30, 2004 at 11:26 PM

Climbing a 30-foot tree and shaking said tree to get the apples off; bike riding for hours without helmet or pads. Fireworks, cars without seat belts, riding in the back of trucks, motorcycle riding without a helmet, things like that.

I do have hope in the younger generation, however, in spite of the nanny police. I gave my oldest grandson a large skateboard; I found he and his brother (8 and 5) using it as a street luge down the cul-de-sac (which has a nice downward slope), ending in the creek bed behind the next-door neighbor's paved driveway.

Imperial Keeper

Posted by: Elizabeth at December 1, 2004 at 12:39 AM

The book to read is Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences by Peter Huber.

The usual one-two punch of Big Media creating a crisis and Big Government stepping in to "solve" it.

Posted by: Brian at December 1, 2004 at 01:21 AM

I have tears in my eyes from laughing, and from good (sorta) memories.

I distinctly remember at age approximately 9-10 the entire gang of boys from my neighborhood deciding to build a log cabin on the hill behind my house.

Imagine seeing about 8 preteen boys carrying saws, hammers, hatchets, double-bitted axes, mattocks etc. into the woods today. My parents and all the others parents seemed to think nothing unusual was going on. We actually cut down several pine trees. No one lost a hand or a foot.

One more- taking three of the thin plastic bags that drycleaning comes back in, sealing them together with an iron and filling them with natural gas. We then took the ballon into a vacant field, attached a long lit fuse, and let it go. The wind took it very slowly over the center of town, whereupon it ignited , making a nice fireball. About 5 minutes later, all hell broke loose, as the fire dept and police were out looking for the wreckage from what everyone though was a plane that blew up in mid-air.

It was several years before I had nerve enough to confess to that one. Oddly enough- I'm now a firefighter LOL.

Ahhh the good old days.

Posted by: Harry at December 1, 2004 at 01:49 AM

At least in the U.S., suburban kids are being turned in to obese sissies. There use to be one every block or so, but now the whole block is full of kids who can't or won't go outside.

I took my kids (11 & 13) into a wolf sanctuary where we pet the wolves, fed them sausage and howled and played with them. These wolves were wild yes, but used to humans being cast off pets and movie animals. Some people at work were shocked that I took them in thinking me irresponsible. I sure as hell won't tell them about the .22, M-1 and 12 gauge or the off-roading with half of us in the back of the truck.

We were talking about kids toys. I mentioned that I wanted to buy a rocking horses on springs and was told that they are far too dangerous and a couple of kids had strangled. I said: "Ridiculous!" Them: "How would you feel if your child died on one of those?" Me: "I certainly wouldn't punish everyone else."

A good, well-rounded, fun life is a risk. I have two family members that shield their kids from all possible dangers both emotional and physical. The kids are FREAKS. My daughter showed one kid the Watership Down cartoon and the child was a screaming sobbing mess. This child is 11.

Life someone said above. Let them out and take them to the mountains, desert, river, beach ... whatever. Let them play. Teach them catch, gut and cook a fish. Teach them how to shoot. Do have them take Judo. My son certainly does know how to fall.

BTW, you Aussies are cool.

Posted by: Catracks at December 1, 2004 at 04:56 AM

Crossing the railroad trestle--it was only about a 60-foot drop.

Exploring abandoned mine shafts--full cognition from parentals about this, too.

Picking up all kinds of snakes.

Ice-skating on the river. Also swimming in it, although there were big snapping turtles in there, too.

Ice-skating on various lakes, no parents anywhere to be seen.

Swimming with no supervision, in both rivers and pools.

Riding my banana-seat bike, no brakes, down a thrillingly steep hill. Over and over. It was a contest--first one to go flying lost.

Playing on housing construction sites. It was fun jumping from the first floor to the basement.

Running in the dark, at night, for exercising the dog.

Playing flashlight tag.

We had no curfew in the summer...

Posted by: ushie at December 1, 2004 at 05:06 AM

I had a pretty sedate childhood. Even so, I did ride my Big Wheel and later my bike all around the neighborhood, and routinely biked (helmet? what for?) between my mom and grandmother's houses a couple miles apart. I climbed a lot of trees and fell out of them fairly regularly, once embedding a stick in my thigh on the way down. I mixed household cleansers together at the babysitters, trying to find a magic combination that would get hot and fizz. On the huge swingset at school we'd push each other until we swung to the very top, and then we'd jump off and fly down to the blacktop parking lot a couple yards away.

All the kids in the neighborhood would sled down the icy, steep street we lived on into the cross-street below. Or down Saker's Hill, where we'd see who could bounce farthest off the chain-link fence at the bottom without falling down the cellar steps. Even in the mid-70's wearing seatbelts was pretty rare. When we all went somewhere we'd pile into the back of the neighbor's big station wagon and roll around.

I think all of us adults forget how resilient kids are. A broken bone, a skinned knee, or even a concussion will heal just fine. Evil predators aren't lurking around every corner and the world isn't as dangerous or as deadly as the news makes it out to be.

Posted by: Bryan C at December 1, 2004 at 05:37 AM

I rode my bicycle off the roof; backed into a yellow jacket nest while raking leaves, dropped an iron wheel on my foot, and set myself on fire, all before the age of 13. And then I started doing really dumb stuff. :)

Posted by: alfadog at December 1, 2004 at 05:47 AM

Oh yeah, I forgot BB gun wars with the kids two blocks over.
BTW, I did win the "best wheelie" contest by riding my bike off the roof. Helluva wheelie. Hooaahh!
The landing kind of hurt, though, and may explain why I've sired only one child. The dumb stuff I did later was things like getting married, growing up, etc. I blame all this on the fact that the first bike my parents bought me didn't have a seat. No seat, just that metal post. Am I just being Freudian, or do I have a case here?

Posted by: alfadog at December 1, 2004 at 06:04 AM

Not all the kids are packed in cotton wool these days...

On the first weekend in July, we go to a blackpowder Rendezvous near Crescent City, CA. Lots of families camping for the week, competitive muzzleloader shoots, 'hawk throwing, skills seminars (cooking, tracking, weaving, etc.) Kids are in it, busy all day. All Supervised.

On the 4th of July, we get to march in the city parade, in costume, rifles and all.

Afterwards, early dinner, and off to the beach.

Last time, we arrived shortly after some local highschoolers had set up with their fireworks. A youngster from our group wandered over, to be told that the fireworks were for the "big kids".

His response: "That's nice. We've got cannons." And we did. Three or four of them, including one that lobs bowling balls out into the bay (no boats in range). Pack a wad of steel wool behind the cannonball, and at night you get a red ball of fire into the bay. The kids sleep well at night.

All this in California. Granted, the north of the state is different to the rest of it.

Posted by: SteveH at December 1, 2004 at 06:37 AM

All of these are great stories and I have really enjoyed reading them. I'm suprised that there are a few missing. How about jumping off the edge of the house onto the trampolene to “double bounce” someone else as high as humanly possible. There are a couple of other things we did that I didn’t see mentioned. We used to “catch” the train. After a night of drinking, we used to wait for the frieght train that came through town. It would slow down at some of the intersections. One of those just happened to be near a local watering hole. As it would slow down, several of us would run along side the train and jump onto one of the ladders on the sides of the box cars. Once we were “all aboard” we’d all meet on top of some car in the middle. We’d ride on top of the train for several miles and as it slowed down to pass through the middle of town, we jump (and or role) off. Lot’s of fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it for my children……….

Posted by: Bubba at December 1, 2004 at 07:58 AM

Ah, the learning of life-skills. You could not be entirely protected from life as a child, neither can you protect your children from everything remotely dangerous. Somehow, from somewhere, you must teach them the skills at living dangerously.
No guns or explosives in my childhood, though... and water only in the Tujunga Wash, and about knee deep. Lots of climbing trees, climbing rocks, hiking in the hills, riding a bike or a horse all over. (Helmet? What's that for!!!?) And no seatbelts in the back of the parental station wagon, either. And a two-mile walk to school--- and yes, we were well-warned about pervs in cars. My Dad taught us all how to break a grip, and run like hell, and first aid for snakebite--- all neccessary life skills.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at December 1, 2004 at 09:18 AM

Cracker night was always eagerly looked forward to. Penny skyrockets were good fun to shoot at each other while running around in a storm water drain and bungers made good depth charges (wait till the wick had burned inside the bunger then drop it in the local creek - timing was essential). A variation was chicken and involved finding a large fresh cow pat and sticking a double bunger in the middle - last to run away wins (or occasinally not). We also made a bolt action cracker gun and a passable mortar.

At other times of the year more invention was required, slingshots were standard and the launch of the television show "The Samurai" saw us nicking the lids of galvanised rubbish bins to cut out star knives. Before trying these out on each other we fortuitously had target practice on a tree. Seeing these sink a half inch into the wood quelled any thoughts of live targets.

Tree huts were obligatory as were rope swings. Being invulnrable we ignored the large patch of blackberry bramble below - at least until the day the rope broke catapulting a mate into the middle. By the time he got out he looked like raw meat.

The debut of the old Vic Morrow show "Combat" saw us digging underground bunkers and tunnels. Unfortunately our engineering was lously so they collapsed. It was only dumb luck that no one was inside.

Of course our parents were oblivious to all of this. They rarely could pinpoint our location within a 25 sqare mile area (about the limit of our daily wanderings on a push bike). On the other hand our behaviour was mild by their standards.

My father tells the story of going to school with a handgun. He and his brothers once covered the chimney with a wet sack smoking out the house. They used to lower their sister down the well and not bring her up until her hand was wet. They sawed the back legs of the teachers chair 9 tenths through and then waited like angels for the inevitable collapse.

Times have changed.

Posted by: Greg at December 1, 2004 at 09:20 AM

Putting dog turds in a paper bag, light it, ring the door bell and run was a good one.

On a stinking hot summers day in Melbourne, 43C (100+F) and a hot northerly wind that would solder your tongue to the roof of your mouth, we would have a competition to see who could stand barefoot the longest on the road surface.

A myriad of pranks at the public swimming pool during summer (mainly bombing the stuffing out of each other.

Shoplifting (dietry supplements, for petes' sake)for a time had it's thrills

Posted by: mm at December 1, 2004 at 12:19 PM

Correction: my childhood partner-in-idiocy reminds me the car hood came from a '39 Ford.

Posted by: Person of Choler at December 1, 2004 at 12:41 PM

Harry- we used to make hydrogen in milk bottles out of caustic soda and aluminium foil, and fill ballons with the evil stuff. We'd then tie string around the end of the balloon and soak it in kerosene, light the end end let it go- at about 3-400 feet mini-Hindenburg. Oh the humanity! On army cadet camps, opposition school campsites would be stalked, and if they had a decent fire going a few of the small cans of cheese that came in ration packs then would be lobbed into the fire; they gave time to escape before they went off like a mortar round, showering hootchies (and gathered Catholic kiddies) with embers and molten cheese.

Posted by: Habib at December 1, 2004 at 01:01 PM

JPB - I grew up riding a bike without a bike helmet.

As I said, in the last four years I've been hit by two cars while riding a bike and both times I ended up with a sore neck and a smashed up bike helmet. I'd rather that, than be like my head injured mate. The same for my kid.

That doesn't mean that I want to nanny a powder puff. In fact I have a maxim - "it takes a lot to kill a kid" that I am more than happy to spply to my kid.


Posted by: Razor at December 1, 2004 at 01:25 PM

Topical note from the Great Victorian Bike Ride: After three hard days of 25-32 degree heat, back-breaking climbs and 100-km rides, a lot of angry kids are emerging among the 8000 participants. They're the ones who agreed to accompany idealistic parents on "bonding" adventures. Yeah, 12-y-olds really get off on a seemingly endless routine of road riding, making camp, queueing for hours for showers, toilets and healthy but bland food while enduring endless adult banter about bikes, hideous lycra outfits and past cycling glories. The kids have been conned: you can't have fun on a bike while adults are around.

Posted by: slatts at December 1, 2004 at 01:32 PM

I love this thread, tears of laughter!
I, too, did silly things - and SURVIVED!
Doing the ton with friends in their Monaro c.1970s, travelling up the freeway, passing chewing gum packets between cars, hitchhiking from Campbelltown to Narellan (when Ivan Milat was plying his trade) - and when it was raining at Narellan and we couldn't ride the horse, my friend Tanya and I would 'mud slide' in the ditches (wouldn't do it now, too much broken glass and needles, I might hurt myself!), so many more foolish things that you'd NEVER let your kid do. Now I know kids in their 20s who really have no idea about cause and effect and safety issues. I suppose it's because they haven't experienced these things.
I can remember getting a belting from Mum for playing on the railway tracks at St Marys (West of Sydney) way back in about 1968 or so. It was road and pedestrian a crossing!

Posted by: kae at December 1, 2004 at 02:18 PM

Didn't see this one mentioned:

When I was about 13, they expanded the airport near my home. All of the little farmhouses near the expansion were condemned and emptied. Well, all the kids were pretty much trashing these houses before the airport authority came in and flattened them.

We got to this little yellow house a little late, every window was gone and the normally-smashable kitchen cabinets were just a pile of splinters. It seemed that all that remained was a single column right in the middle of the house, which we figured supported the roof.

After a remarkable amount of effort, that column went down. There was an ominous creak, and soon after the roof fell in. At least we did the last part of the work from outside the house, pulling on that loosened column with a rope. I also have to credit the other rotten kids from my neighborhood, taking out most of the other walls so that we just had to bat cleanup.

Posted by: Matt in Denver at December 1, 2004 at 02:53 PM

My brother made a makeshift tandem tricycle by removing the front wheel from one and hooking the front fork over the back shaft of the other. We lived on a hill. Hundred yards to a crossroads. Bro on the front trike, me on the rear. Speed was significant with ten yards to go. No brakes, feet off the ground. Bro took the corner. I failed. Rear trike disengaged due to sudden twist of front trike; I rode it, sparks flying from front forks on road, into the side of an early Holden. I T-boned it and survived.

My bro started making billycarts instead.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 1, 2004 at 03:21 PM

Razor writes:

As I said, in the last four years I've been hit by two cars while riding a bike and both times I ended up with a sore neck and a smashed up bike helmet. I'd rather that, than be like my head injured mate.

No offence, but the fact you ended up with a sore neck and a cracked helmet does not automatically translate to the helmet's having saved your
life. Please, have a good read at the link I posted - Or, if you prefer, here's a great source from Western Australia: You'll see that not only bike helmets clearly do not save any lives, but may in some instances make cycling more dangerous due to risk compensation etc.

Here in the NT (I live in Darwin), helmets are not compulsory; cycling is much more popular than in any other State or Territory and the rate of serious cycling injuries is less than anywhere else in Australia. These are official statistics, so don't take my word for it. -- How does that fit
with the "bike helmets save lives" mantra?

Given the body of evidence out there, my initial comment regarding the
authorities' branwashing the public on this and other similar issues still stands. Had there not been any helmet laws introduced and constant
publicity pushed down people's throat, you would not have thought twice about not wearing a helmet even today and would not automatically assume
that a helmet protects you in potentially life threatening situations like being hit by a car. Do you seriously think that a thin piece of
polystyrene can make any difference against a ton of metal? -- In such cases, it's just plain luck of the draw, mate...

No disrespect, but it still concerns me when people fall for this type of government bullshit without applying any critical scrutiny to it.
Particularly as we now see a push for helmets to be compulsory on scooters, horse riding, football and so on - where's the end of it? Seeing little three-year olds on 10-inch bikes with training wheels trundle along a parkway at 1 km/hour, with a horrible helmet twice the size of their head on, due to their parents believing these disgusting things will save the kid from
being run over by a tank makes me feel sick. No wonder so many of our kids spend their days sitting at home in front of a PC getting fat...

We all survived without this crap, so what's changed all of a sudden?



Posted by: JPB at December 1, 2004 at 07:22 PM

I'm cynical and paranoid enough to think that assorted local, state and federal government members who suddenly have an urge to save kiddies from imminent destruction have brothers in law with bike helmet/pool fencing/safety capsule/earth leakage switch/airbag/etc factory/wholesale business/retail outlet. You cannot legislate against stupidity- if you could, New Zealand would be illegal.
Motorcycle helmets are one of the greatest cons of all time- they vastly reduce your periferal vision and sound uptake, making you more likely to get beaned to start with; full face helemts have been responsible for a large number of cervical neck vertebrae injuries, as when you're sliding up the road then hook the gutter with the chin piece it's instant broken neck. Helmets also have the rather dubious benefit of keeping accident victims alive but paralysed. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd rather be in a box than a ventilator.

Posted by: Habib at December 1, 2004 at 09:04 PM

Habib says:

Motorcycle helmets are one of the greatest cons of all time- they vastly reduce your periferal vision and sound uptake, making you more likely to get beaned to start with; full face helemts have been responsible for a large number of cervical neck vertebrae injuries, as when you're sliding up the road then hook the gutter with the chin piece it's instant broken neck.

Dead right - as evidenced by figures from the US, where the states without motorbike helmet laws have lower fatality rates & higher participation than those with such laws.

Most of similar such measures are no more than a con on the public - as you say. And the unsuspecting public falls for this con again and again.



Posted by: JPB at December 1, 2004 at 09:22 PM

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Up north at the cottage there used to be township dumps and you had to take your own garbage there. (What a cool place, full of junk and stuff!) Dad would load the cans in this old utility trailer that a neighbor had built for grandpa back in the 1930's (when dad got rid of the trailer back in the 1980's it still had the original tires on it.) Coming back, dad would let us ride in the trailer on the dirt road part of the trip. That was way fun!

Posted by: Mikey at December 1, 2004 at 10:11 PM

I remember as a kid growing up in Africa I had live Adders in a box under my bed. I regularly showed them to all my friends and my Dad would occasionaly get me to throw them out when their numbers got into the double figures. Only to be replaced by Honey Scorpions and huge venemous Centipedes.

Nowadays my folks would be up for child endangerment charges.

Posted by: Dog at December 1, 2004 at 10:26 PM

It's like George Carlin said: "In my day it was simple: the kid who eats too many marbles doesn't grow up to have more kids. Think of it as passive eugenics."

Posted by: Flashman at December 1, 2004 at 11:40 PM

We used to "van-surf", standing in the back of my dad's work van as he sped over bumps and around sharp curves in the hills. The last one to fall won, and hands weren't allowed to touch the floor, ceiling or walls. It only had two (front) seats, and there were three kids, so at any given time, two were in the back without seatbelts, childseats or any type of restraint whatsoever.

Posted by: Jough at December 2, 2004 at 05:06 AM

The tree climbing is a great worry. When I was growing up after WWII, I fell out of trees a few times, as did many of my mates. We survived. However, the world has changed, and now we are told that any sort of childhood adventuring is so dangerous that it must be either surrounded by protective armour or stopped. With kids who have a little spirit, this might still be hard to do.

The answer is simple. Chop down all the trees!

Posted by: Rod Coles at December 2, 2004 at 05:36 AM

We were almost entirely unsupervised when our parents wanted us out of their hair, which was most of the time. I distinctly remember my dad lighting the blow torch for me when I was six, and letting me wander off to see just what could be melted.

I also remember climbing a tree to touch electrical wires, swimming in a fast river alone, picking up coppherheads, and shooting bottle rockets at one another.

However, my friend (a pediatrician) insists that the one thing parents shouldn't screw around about is helmets. Kids bounce back fairly easily from most things, but head injuries are another story.

Posted by: evilbunny at December 2, 2004 at 05:55 AM

We were all pyros. Our favorite thing was to light the spray from lysol cans. They made beautiful pink/blue flamethrowers. One day, we were inspired enough to try some different aerosols for ignition. INSIDE THE HOUSE, we lit up some WD-40. I will caution the curious that this is a very bad thing to do. The intensity of the heat and flame, and the sheer SIZE of the fireball produced from WD-40 mist was something we were not prepared for given our cast experience with lysol and other alcohol-based aerosols. Kids, don't do this. Well, not INSIDE the house anyway!

Posted by: Fred Flintstone at December 2, 2004 at 06:08 AM

Growing up where I did, we encountered all the usual biking, fire-playing, BB gun, weapon-making, and generally unwise antics. But one incident when I was about eight gives me the willies to this day.

Someone told me and my buddies that a train would flatten pennies, so we doubled up on our bikes (there weren't enough bikes to go around for all) and headed to the closest train track, where freight trains often slowed down to about 10 MPH due to local traffic. We lined our pennies on the track, but were dismayed when they all fell off as the train came close. Not to be deterred, and unwilling to wait for the train to pass, we tried to grab the pennies between the wheels of the train as it passed and place them back on the track. We were unsuccessful, as they tended to vibrate off the tracks and the train was moving too fast to place them in the center of the track where they might not slide off. In the end, we didn't get to flatten any pennies, felt gypped that we wasted the effort trying and went back to the neighborhood, pretty much abandoning the idea altogether for sure-bet thrills like cherry bombs and WD-40 torches. None of us really thought about the risk involved sticking our arms under a moving train. And I never really gave it much thought until adulthood.

Posted by: T.Escobedo at December 2, 2004 at 06:10 AM

Perhaps cycle-helmets are a response to the roads being less safe now than they were in the 70s. There are a lot more cars on the roads now.
Not that a bike-helmet would be much protection I suppose.
The argument that children are unduly over-protected nowadays is spurious; didn't our Victorian forebears send small kids up chimneys? Perhaps it did them good, who are we to judge?

Posted by: Zebedee at December 2, 2004 at 06:13 AM

I'm not sure that kids today are any less wild. I'm 18, I grew up in a very safe household, and I'm still incorrigible. Maybe it's just because I live in a place that is a mix of rural and urban, but this stuff sounds like what me and my friends still do.

I walked home on the railroad tracks every time I couldn't catch the bus home from school. We had traditional metal and wood play grounds and unsupervised ice skating rinks in the winter. Heh, we even had one of those old fashioned roller skate rinks where no one wore any safety gear. I don't wear a bike helmet anymore, and I have friends that don't either.

In junior high we held shopping cart races down the side of a hill, until a hobo threw our carts in the river. Every year or so the school would take us skiing for a day, and there was always that one kid who either sprained something badly or broke a bone, but parents never complained. In high school I established a "liberation army" of pranksters that grew to almost mythic proportions. When my friends get bored of video games they usually race down dark country roads at 100 mph.
I once even jumped off of a rooftop for a music video.

Only a few people I know have gone to the trouble to build bombs, but many of them spend well over $100 a year on fireworks. Someone gets killed on their snowmobile every winter, though it has never happened to anyone I know personally. We play paintball occasionally and ultimate Frisbee more often. My sister bought a mini switchblade when she was 16, and the majority of my friends own either a gun, knife or a sword. I only have two throwing stars.

We even get into the new kinds of trouble that are just being invented. A kid I knew at school used to be a hardcore hacker and he has had serious trouble with the government in the past. I've made tasers out of disposable cameras and shocked the hell out of my hand in the process. None of us know much about chemistry, but we can build electronic devices that would blow your mind. Out computers are all hand built and modified, and we trade software and files with each other whenever we get the chance. Some of my friends have even gotten a slap on the wrist from their service providers for engaging in too much internet piracy.

But in the end we're not delinquents. I've only had the cops called on me once. We're just kids the same as any other generation. We stay pretty sober and most of us are either starting college, getting jobs, or going into the military. Despite all that I've said, we're actually a pretty well behaved bunch and more often than not we're sitting around bored at Perkins. We get good grades and come from overprotective homes. Being wild is the domain of the young and it always will be.

I wish I would have been free to meet other kids in my neighborhood. I wish there had been more improvised sports games. I wish we had been able to explore abandoned buildings. I wish we had done more with explosives. I wish we had built more things. I wish we had been given more free time and the ability to wander. But all in all, I think we turned out pretty well. ^_^

Posted by: MerKyuri at December 2, 2004 at 06:16 AM

I think the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. I am only 20, and I am pretty sure I don't want to have kids in this world, unless I move to Montana or somewhere else that is suitably far away from the mainstream.

I think that it is somewhat based on selfishness, on the part of the parents, and some gross assumptions about what "is best" for a child.

My parents let me run wild, let me roam free, and now I talk to people my age and see that they did not have close to the same personal responsibility growing up, and as a direct result, have no bearings on what is up and what is down in the world. They bumble through life and listen to what the MSM tells them, what their parents and thier psychiatrists and whoever else they want to shirk the responsibility of their life to says.

Parents want to shelter their kids because they don't want them to get hurt or die. They don't want that because they want to grow old and have grand-kids and do all that stuff. I think that sheltering a kid to the point of what goes on nowadays is wayyyy too steep of a price to pay for that assurance. I take risks on a daily basis because I believe that a life not taken by the horns is a life not worth living. If I have a child, and he is dumb enough, or even just unlucky enough, to drive his bicycle off of a cliff, then so be it.

Chances are I am not going to have a kid, because I will never find a woman who will hold a similar view. So be it. I would rather let my genes die off then place them into this world. While its not totally sterilized and homogenized yet, it is getting there, and right quickly.

I am sure that I am inviting all sorts of people to call me crazy, but what you don't understand is that it doesn't matter to me. What you'll never understand is why it is a crime to not let your children actually _live_.


Posted by: Bob Watts at December 2, 2004 at 06:19 AM

I behaved as a kid just like many here have reported. I carried a knife everywhere, road bikes and skateboards without a helmet, lit off fireworks
whenever I could, constantly played with matches.
I threw rocks, dirt clods, bottles at my pals on a daily basis. I had a great childhood, lived outdoors, with few injuries. But you know what? Lots of kids were not so lucky. Lots of kids died. Lots of kids did not escape injury. There a many parents alive today who lost a kid. Yeah, our kids will lack a certain set of skills we have, but being a parent, I guess I'd rather not lose a kid because he did something stupid. He may not know how to throw a knife or make a black powder bomb, but so what? I'd rather have him around.


Posted by: Rob at December 2, 2004 at 06:42 AM

We had kegs of gunpowder in the garage because my dad liked to reload his shotgun shells. When my brother and I got bored we would make trails of gunpowder along the driveway and set it on fire. I can't believe we didn't burn the place down. Lawndarts were fun back then too. We use to throw them over the roof at each other.
For 4th of July we would have bottle-rocket fights. No one lost an eye.
I used to enjoy doing "wheelies" on my bike. One time i lifted the bike up and the front wheel came off without me knowing it. The next thing I was flying head over heels to te pavement. Just a few scratches.

Posted by: Marty at December 2, 2004 at 07:15 AM

Hell thinking back on some of the stupid things my brother and cousins did growing gives me a pit in my stomach to this day.

The worst however was playing with throwing stars (during our ninja phase) in the basement of my cousins house. The basement was one of those typical basements paneled with 1/8 inch wood paneling. The game was two guys at each end of the room with the lights off. I believe we had two throwing stars, one per group, we would turn off the lights and duck behind a couch on one end while the other group threw a star at your group. One we heard the star embed into the wall behind us we would stand up and trown them back. Still not sure what the hell we were thinking...but I remember it being quite a rush. Nobody was hurt, because one of use wised up right about the time our parents got home from shopping.

(ps. I still havent outgrown the ninja phase)

Posted by: Brian at December 2, 2004 at 07:21 AM

On a more domestic note, I used to walk around the corners of square tables that were wholly unprotected by plastic squishy bits. I also used to play in cabinets that were not secured by fancy mechanisms that require the nimble fingers of adults to open. I even walked near the ungated staircase.

Wow, my house, compared to the houses of most kids today, was an absolute danger zone.

Posted by: Hilary at December 2, 2004 at 07:36 AM

Ah, those were the good days. Match heads collected into tin foil balls. Tossed onto the playground and watching the ball of fire and smoke. Throwing Molotov cocktails from the upper playground. The largest, a half gallon glass milk bottle. It lit up the night, but not a peep from the neighbors or a visit from the fire/police department. Taking 12 gauge shotgun shells, emptying the shell of bb’s, (most of the time), taping marbles to the primer, throwing and running for cover. Wandering the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains armed with bb guns and wrist rockets, shooting at anything that moved, including each other. Those foothills are now covered with homes. Hitch hiking to the ski resorts on Saturdays, not quite with our parents blessing, but they didn't want to give us a ride. Once the drivers licenses were acquired, heading out to the northwest section of the Salt Lake Valley with a car full of teen boys and guns, (.22 pistols, rifles, 12 gauges shotguns, etc.) tracking the wiley jackrabbit and anything else that dared run into the open. Fast draw contests with the .22 pistols. Using gun powder from the reloading supplies to construct any number of pyrotechnic devices, and on, and on, and on.

Posted by: Grant at December 2, 2004 at 08:03 AM

When I was very small, my brother motorized my tricycle with an old lawnmower engine and launched me across the yard. I stopped when I flipped over. Later he built a big motorized tricycle with old car wheels on the back and sent me off down the side of the busy highway.

When we were older: Building pipe bombs by filling them with powder and then hammering the pipes closed. (There was a kid at school with three fingers on one hand but we didn't pay attention.) Using these pipe bombs in metal mailboxes (wire the door shut, light the fuse, leave fast, torn and twisted metal everywhere). Shoulder-launched rockets. Battles with homemade firebombs. Accidentally blowing up bombs in the house. Making hydrogen from lye and aluminum and water, lighting it in a glass beaker, somehow not being blinded by glass fragments flying everywhere.

Driving really fast, a carload of us screaming, and then jumping the car over rail crossings and bridges. And shameless fast drunk driving, only afraid that we'd be caught. (A carload of kids from our school mangled themselves that way and the school authorities put the wreck in front of the school to deter us. Nope.)

Hopping trains. Hopping _off_ trains and skidding skin into gravel. (There was a kid at school with one leg from that stuff, but this also didn't stop us.)

Occasional shotguns, hatchets, mushrooms, bows and arrows, motorcycles. Horses and bicycles, never with helmets or sense. Increasingly spectacular show-off dives and flips from an eight-foot platform into a four-foot pool. (My best friend broke his neck but got better. And they didn't sue us. We owned the pool and the platform.)

Inner-tubing with no life jackets across the Niagara River (lower river, but still) to Canada and back. Messing about in the water above and not far from the falls. Climbing the arch of the Rainbow Bridge with six packs of beer at night to sit high above the Niagara and drink. There was no Homeland Security back then, buddy.

And my girlfriend grew up in Love Canal. Ah, those were the days.

As someone said above, we aren't hearing chuckling anecdotes from the ones who were killed or maimed. ("Yeah, we built bombs. They call me Captain Hook now. Har dee friggin' har har. Matey.")

Posted by: eeksypeeksy at December 2, 2004 at 08:05 AM

Great topic. Wonderful memories.

I'm 42, and wonder now about my own children and what they will be like given how risk averse my wife and I are now.

I grew up on a farm with 400 acres to roam across.

Some of what I did:
1. Regularly used my bow to shoot metal tipped arrows straight up, high into the air, in order to drop them onto cardboard targets a few yards from my position. That was COOL!
2. Made a decent mortar using an M-80, an old muffler tube, and a round chunk of wood that fit right down the tube. Procedure: prop up the tube on the rock pile, light the M-80, drop into the tube, drop in the wood, get it stuck, frantically push it down, still get it stuck, push it down, back off really quick. BOOM. Chunk of wood flew over 100 feet.
3. I loved to play on old rock piles, which in rural Minnesota doubled as trash dumps. Rock piles are great for kids. Regularly spent hours throwing rocks and breaking old bottles, plates, glasses, light bulbs, etc. If something broke, it was just fine. It was all a dump! Good times.
4. Played "bronc buster" on the backs of the 6 to 9 month old Holstein calves I was in charge of. After I fed and watered them, I'd hop on board and scoot around their pen. Great fun, though how I avoided concussion, broken bones, or serious cuts is not clear to me. Must have been all that calf shit I landed in every time I was bucked off.
5. Regularly climbed to the very top branches of very large trees. I often reached 40 or 50 feet above the ground in some of those maples, white pines, and butternuts. Never fell very far.
6. Regularly whittled branches, carved wood, cut cardboard using my own knives (I had about three) or box cutters or regular razor blades. I have plenty of scars, but those are all full of great memories.

This makes me realize that I need to let my kids do some things like this. I'm sheltering them too much, and need to let them make their own mistakes. It was all great fun, and while I was hurt in various small ways, I learned from those mistakes.

Great thread.

Posted by: bc at December 2, 2004 at 08:42 AM

Great stuff. Even my relative youth (32) hasn't prevented me from some derring-do involving bike races down steep hills, unpadded tackle football, unsupervised leaf-burning, and summer evening block-wide games in which the only rule was, "If your mom calls you, you're out." All fully organized and executed by we, the children.

The bit about the bike helmets being less safe than helmetless riding especially struck a chord with me. I prefer to listen to music while cycling, and the darned helmet keeps knocking out my earphones!

A similar though is afoot in sports as well. Partly through unusually larger athletes (nope! no steroids here!), but also through too much "protective" gear, the behavior of players is getting worse. I can never remember seeing so many hockey players hitting other players up high with their sticks or elbows, or leaving their feet to deliver checks. Result? Even with helmets (and, increasingly, eye shields), injuries are going up.

A perfect example is Bryan Berard, nearly blinded in one eye by a freak accident when an opponent caught him full-on with the blade of his stick. Even though this sort of thing just about never happens, the NHL (when not killing itself with multimillionaire in-fighting) is investigating making visors mandatory! And one of the main contributing factors in that incident was the opponent very carelessly trying to strike down the puck instead of batting it down with his glove (as good coaches are always teaching).

PS - Berard, after a lengthy rehab and some great medical work, is back playing, or would be if anyone in the league had a lick of sense.

Posted by: Nightfly at December 2, 2004 at 08:42 AM

As a youth we dug underground forts. One was so well disguised with sod on the roof that it wasn't found by other kids until winter. They tried to bust it up , but the ground was frozen. It was near a skating pond, and was put to use as a shelter from the cold. Someone stole a glue bucket from one of the slow moving trains we used to hook, and kids would pour out a little glue on the dirt floor and light it on fire for some heat. Dennis, not the smartest of the group, took a break from skating to warm up. Minutes later there was an explosion that lifted the frozen roof off the fort. As smoke billowed out of the entry hole, Dennis stuck his head out crying he was blind. He had little bits of gluem all over him in flames and no eyebrows. He survived without lasting injury. We also hooked cars as they passed by in the snow. That was when cars had chrome bumpers that stuck out off the back of the car. VW"s where made for hooking. When you got really good you could hook a ride down the street and then latch on to a car passing the other way for a return trip. this work only on snow covered streets that you could ski on in boots behind the cars. Although some daredevils did take to grabing the front headlight with one hand, slide to the side of the car in front of the wheel and use the other hand to keep their body away from the wheel. by pushing against the front fender. Most drivers could see you there and would try to run you into snowbanks or parked cars. Great fun outdoors staying warm in the cold New England winter.

Posted by: riffseeker at December 2, 2004 at 09:52 AM

I stood on the hood of a moving motor vehicle going more than 30 miles an hour with my friend Mark while our friend Lawrence Wiggs drove. We also smoked pot up there with Mark's butane torch lighter. Therefore I can make the following statement with total verity:

I stood on the hood of a 30mph motor vehicle smoking pot and remained on the hood without falling or any disruption for several miles.

It was on a multimile long levee along the Rio Grande in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1979.

We also took acid and battery powered black-lights into the desert at night and learned, to our simultaneous staggering chagrin and blorting happiness that scorpions flouresce under black light - there were all these little pink creatures scurrying around the desert at once. Thousands of them.

We ran to the car in fear but also laughing hysterically. eventually we had to stop and they were all around us but we were reduced to just gasping and laughter by that time.

Eventually we got back to the car and our found our forgotten (and similarly tripping) friend Karltonian Donagheulus. He was holding a 6 or twelve pack of soda in his arms. We realized he'd been alone in a state that we could barely handle as a group for about 60 minutes. Turning as a group to Carlton to assess his state he met our glance and said

"These Cokes. They're so close."

That is a true story except for the names. But that one dude's first name was Carlton, which I thought was cool, but weird.

Posted by: Pyotr Kartwright at December 2, 2004 at 09:59 AM

I'm 24 now and reading these comments reminds me of my own upbringing..."be home around dark" and "don't kill yourself" were about the only directions to me as a child. Helmetless bike riding, horseback riding(at full speed through the rhodedendrons), etc....Bombmaking, bottle rocket fights, BB gun fights(one pump was the rule)...Unsupervised pick-up games of any and all sports, including the ones we made up on the spot...Jumping from cliffs and bridges into the local river...Reckless driving, drag racing, chicken, etc...hitchhiking and train hopping later in life...

The most important lessons to teach your children(from my childless perspective) are not to be afraid of everything(just because you CAN get hurt does not mean you WILL get hurt), and Some common sense instructions(i.e. dont jump into the river from the bridge before you've checked out the landing, etc.), and above all, let your children hurt, let them bleed(not too long hopefully), let them burn themselves, just instill common sense and good judgement and let them learn...

Darwin has already explained the rest...

P.S. all you right-wingers railing on lefties have it wrong i think...i was raised by hippies and some of my friends growing up had repressive conservative parents...
I'm reminded of Cat Stevens "Where do the children play?"

Posted by: Schyler at December 2, 2004 at 10:13 AM

I am 29 years old. I have never stopped having the same kind of fun that I had as a kid. We had a dirt clod fight two weekends ago on a construction site. This weekend we are going back with bicycles and BB guns. If my wife and I ever have any kids I'm sure they will be there right next to me with magazines taped to themselves for armor.

Posted by: Keith at December 2, 2004 at 10:20 AM

i almost forgot the many times my cousins and i would ride on the top of my aunts car while she drove at top speed up a mountain on a twisty gravel road...much fun had by all and no injuries...

Posted by: schyler at December 2, 2004 at 10:27 AM

If you haven't surfed on the roof of a car on the beach, you just haven't lived.

Posted by: Dylan at December 2, 2004 at 10:38 AM

I still have a scar on my upper lip from a game of "Lets throw this rusty can that we found in the park at each other" that I had with my brother when we were kids. But I dont care - its all part of growing up.

Didnt get a single permanent scar from sliding face first along a bitchumen road under a pile of about a dozen bikes and kids after I took a header coming home from school one day, either.

Posted by: Shane at December 2, 2004 at 10:44 AM

My dad taught me how to drive out on the dirt roads of North Fort Myers before I'd even started school. As a tiny girl I used to wait until he was asleep then take his car out for a spin around the block. I clipped many a mailbox. The next day he'd always say, "Did you drive my car last night?" "No, dad," I'd say.

It took me quite a while to figure out that I needed to put the seat back in the regular position.

Posted by: Donnah at December 2, 2004 at 11:01 AM

I'm pleased to see that I wasn't the only one to indulge in amateur shuriken manufacture; we were quite taken with the weekly ruckus between Shintaro and assorted ninjas, and decided to build our own throwing stars by cutting triangular notches in the edge of the lids off dog food cans with tin-snips; they would quite easily stick in the trunk of a mango tree, but were (fortunately) wildy inaccurate and no-one managed to get one wedged in their head. We also made samurai swords out of bamboo and would happily smack each other over the head for hours on end. Never ever got the hang of leaping backwards onto the roof though.

Posted by: Habib at December 2, 2004 at 11:08 AM

"Actually, the amusing part of this is, so many of you seem to believe doing stupid and dangerous things is "cool". I have a sneaking suspicion we won't see many posts from the kids who killed themselves."

I don't think anyone here is glorifying their actions. If anything, it seems to me that the admissions of behavior as a child is shocking to even the authors. I know that I'm sitting here reading through these posts and laughing because they bring back memories, and because if any of my younger siblings or family members tried any of the things I did, they'd be sent directly to "Time out" (a farce of a punishment if you ask me).

Donna V mentioned the behavior of college students today, and as an instructor at two major universities, I can attest to the terrifyingly irresponsible behavior I see and hear about on a near daily basis. (NB: Not a single one of my students in the past three years has admitted to "Time outs" being effective. They all plan, in their own words, on beating their kids. A scary and ironic swing of the pendulum, if you ask me.)

Many of my students behave irresponsibly, and when asked for an explanation they respond with a version of this: "I was never permitted to do anything as a kid, and now it's my life and I don't have someone watching my every move. I can do what I want, and try things my parents would freak about if they knew." I've had students seriously (and, unfortunately, fatally) injured because of this. It goes way beyond just drinking and partying. In fact, it seems to me--at least-- that the irresponsible behavior such as "street louging," playing pick up games of "release" until 4 am after sneaking out, firework exercises and the like have been replaced with other forms of dangerous behavior that is much more difficult for parents to track and stop-- serious drug use. In my area there is a terrible problem with Heroin and Cocaine. What age groups contribute to the largest part of the problem? Middle school and high school students.

Let me say that again, because it bears repeating. ~Middle school and high school students.~ They might not be climbing trees or playing lawn darts, but they're being "adventurous" in a far more damaging and dangerous way. I say let them fall out of a tree and break a leg! You learn from experience, and if you try to jump into the learning curve halfway through the process, you're bound to put yourself in more danger. I'd rather see a teenager or pre-teen fall into a frozen pond and deal with potential hypothermia for a few days or weeks than have him or her begin snorting crushed up OC's or shooting heroin, and thereby creating a problem that will destroy the rest of their life.

And there you have my two cents, for what it's worth, in my very first post here! Yay!

Posted by: Lyrique Tragedy at December 2, 2004 at 11:25 AM

When I was eight years old in 1953, I won the town Cub Scout coaster derby, wearing an old leather football helmet and driving a home-built rig. No way this race would be permitted today.

More than 20 years later I started putting on downhill races on a treacherous section of dirt road, for friends who modified old newsboy bikes into off-roaders. No helmets, and questionable equipment. It was insane, and it also turned into mountain biking, and has taken over the world of cycling. My informal downhill races have been turned into an Olympic event.

Posted by: Repack Rider at December 2, 2004 at 01:26 PM

This is another example of the Nanny State.

Posted by: Jak King at December 2, 2004 at 02:43 PM

Habib - you can't jump backwards into a tree!? Practice, man, practice.

Posted by: Greg at December 2, 2004 at 04:17 PM

I'm young enough to have missed much of the really exciting life-threatening childhood pastimes, but we still managed to injure ourselves in interesting ways. On my elementary school playground, there was one piece of equipment shaped like half a birdcage embedded in the ground-- basically a large, hemispherical grid of steel pipes. The most popular game to play on it was this: all the kids but one would clamber about on the outside, and one would be on the ground inside and try to tag them-- with her eyes closed. I nearly knocked out my two front teeth on that thing.

We were also inveterate scavengers-- there were mulberry trees, huge tangles of honeysuckle and blackberry brambles all around the edges of the soccer field, and we would eat tons berries and honeysuckle every spring despite the pesticides they were probably drenched in. Not to mention building severely hazardous sledding ramps in the winter and "exploring" the creek in our back yard.

Posted by: Holli at December 2, 2004 at 06:00 PM

A couple of hours ago I watched a TV advertisment for a current affairs program that drew me in with the urgent message of "every parent must see".
What it was, was an expose on the killer toys that are going to be recalled and banned from sale, "thankfully" before christmas.
One example was a poor excuse for a bow that could release very short and blunt bolt a distance of about 2 metres.
When I was kid we would have left that toy in the toy box anyway for not being good enough.
What a joke!!
You can just visualise the soft cock bureaucrat that has begun this crusade to save the lives of all the little girls and boys. He'd be one of those stereotypical government employees that still wears tanned shorts, bone socks pulled up below the knee and a short sleeve white shirt and a tie and has his job description taped to the work computer tower to reconcile it against every request made of him.

Posted by: Intellectual Gladiator at December 2, 2004 at 06:19 PM

There’s some serious discussion going on in England about this stuff. This statement on risk in children’s play is signed up to by our leading safety regulators and expert agencies. Expression of interest: I wrote it. The prose may be dry, but at least in England we can now say ‘safety agencies agree: taking some risks is good for children.’ Playgrounds are still too dull, but the tide is turning.

Posted by: Tim Gill at December 2, 2004 at 07:57 PM

I lived in a growing neighborhood so there were always houses under construction. We used to play in them at all stages from a pile of bricks to fully completed with appliances and yet unlocked. Oh, and there was a pond and a lake we used to swing out into on a rope swing. No one wore bicycle helmets. In the winter we would chain together 5 or 6 coasters and sleds and barrel down a hill over a ramp we built. Land at the end in a pile smashed up against a fence. And yet I still breathe.

Posted by: laura at December 2, 2004 at 09:21 PM

We used to take two bolts and screw each end into one nut - the best part is you packed the nut with paper 'caps' from a toy gun (about 20 should do), throw the thing high in the air and run as fast as you could 'cause when it hit the ground you wanted to be behind either a tree, brick wall or a car.

Posted by: 1981 at December 2, 2004 at 09:57 PM

I started making gunpoweder, and made cannons out of water pipes. I made homemade rockets, some with metal bodies one of which (made with 1" brass tube) exploded less than 20 feet away, leaving tiny flecks of the wadding in the top all over the lawn, with no shrapnel to be found, luckily none inside me. I made a cap and nipple black powder pistol completely by hand, making the cartridges myself from brass tubing and using toy gun caps for the caps. it was .35 calibre, smooth-bore, but quite satisfying.

The coolest rockets were the ones that were only one inch long and .2 or so inch in diameter, made by winding tissue or butcher paper on a knitting needle. Gunpowder was too wimpy to make these work well, so I upgraded to using potassium chlorate or perchlorate with aluminum powder, or also with sulphur & charcoal.

I made an oven and cooked my own charcoal, experimenting with what worked best, learned how to wet the black powder, compress it, and (carefully) cook it, then re-grind it into powder.

The fact that chlorate mixtures, unlike the nitrate mixtures, are slightly pressure sensitive led to a few...incidents...culminating in my attending my high school graduation with no eyebrows and burn mittens.

Posted by: goad at December 2, 2004 at 10:33 PM

In my early teens in Nebraska and Iowa, my cousins and I would go out all day on motorcycles ("dirtbikes") and ride through the woods and go off jumps. We didn't even own helmets and often went out wearing shorts and sandals. Our favorite 'jump' was to ride fast approaching the elevated 2-lane highway and clear the entire highway to land on the opposite downward-sloping side. Our parents never asked questions. We all have families now and joke about the risks we used to take. Our children wear seatbelts and bicycle helmets.

Posted by: John H at December 3, 2004 at 08:51 AM

As a kid I grew up on a road that had a pretty good slope to it. A bunch of us neighbourhood kids would get on our skateboards and see how fast we could get going (while standing) before chickening out and jumping off. It got to the point where we'd get going faster than any of us could run. Eventually we'd get scared and jump off anyway. Oh the wipeouts, if you've ever seen someone who is moving faster than they can run, try to run. No helmets or pads.

My daughter is 2. There isn't a pointy corner in our house that isn't covered in foam padding. She has a helmet for her tricycle already.

Posted by: Dave Brown at December 4, 2004 at 02:47 AM

When I was about ten, my friends and I decided to throw plastic bottles full of water at each other, only we didn't have any bottles so we chose the next best thing, aluminum cans. I came out of that one with 3 stitches in my ear.
Fun stuff.

Posted by: Jen at December 4, 2004 at 03:47 AM

Bob Watts said: "Chances are I am not going to have a kid, because I will never find a woman who will hold a similar view."

Hey Bob! We exist.

Pyotr Kartwright, scorpions flouresce under black light? Hmmmmmm cool.

My dad said he used to take the glass vials for the sand painting kits, fill them up with gas and make little molotov cocktails.

I had forgotton about construction sites. I don't think there was ever was one day when we weren't doing something we weren't supposed to be doing.

Posted by: Catracks at December 4, 2004 at 07:25 AM

When I was a kid in grade school I lived in a small town in Massachusetts and had the run of the town (mid and late 1930's.) When I was 7 my folks put me on a train in Boston, Travelers Aid got me in Washington DC and put me on the next train to Miami where my grand father & grand mother found me waiting on the platform.
When I was 12 (during WWII) I lived in Miami, my dad was overseas (Normandy Invasion) and my mother worked like everyone else so she gave me a dollar every day to buy my lunch and dinner. I had the run of the city and had a great time with a few friends.
If my grandson had those opportunities it would be great for him but if my son let him I would be scared out of my wits.

Posted by: Mugford at December 5, 2004 at 12:18 PM