The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
HEDELT: Kick-the-can beats any video game
BY ROB HEDELT
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
EVERY YEAR at this time, I think about the way a bunch of us kids came up with a million ways to enjoy summer way back when.
The subject comes up now because it’s typically when I’m on the way to an annual family gathering over the Fourth of July holiday along the Potomac River in Westmoreland County.
It’s the same place where, as a youngster, I joined a bevy of other kids whose families had homes or cottages at Sandy Point.
These days, youngsters who visit the waterfront community are just as excited as we were to get out on beaches or in the water there. But they have a host of other things to fill their time: hundreds of channels on cable television, smartphones, laptops, video, etc.
And when it gets hot like it’s going to be today, they can give up and retreat to houses nicely chilled by air conditioners humming up and down the lane.
In my young summers, there were three channels—one too fuzzy to see very well—that carried little more than soap operas in the afternoons.
And the houses were 10 or 15 degrees hotter inside than it was outside.
So we stayed outdoors all day, other than brief returns for snacks, drinks, meals or splinter removals.
We didn’t see coming up with something to fill our time as a challenge. With
a river, stretches of sandy beach and endless yards and even an orchard nearby, the world was truly our playground.
We swam, fished, crabbed, walked, ran, talked, ate, chased each other and eventually even rowed when we were lucky enough to have a wooden boat and oars.
And when those obvious amusements were exhausted, we’d come up with dozens of others.
We’d play games like kick-the-can, or grab a ball and gloves and play hot-box. We’d catch crabs and race them along the sand, eat our weight in garden watermelons or have endless contests of everything from foot speed to tree-climbing to our tolerance of stinging nettles.
Who could stuff more penny candy in their mouth than anyone else? Who could walk the farthest on the hot tarred road in bare feet? And who could catch more lightning bugs in jars outfitted with holes in their tops?
One year, we had a scuba club—I think we had one mask and three rubbery flippers.
Another, we turned an old storage shed into a Beach Boys fan club, complete with 45s along a wall and the most rudimentary of record players there to play “Catch a Wave” or the dozen other tunes we collectively owned.
Recalling all this isn’t to say it’s better or more interesting than things youngsters can or will do today. Indeed, with computers and various high-tech gear, a creative 10-year-old today can make movies and send them to every cottage on the point.
But I do believe that in our youth, the lack of obvious entertainment made us work to find things we enjoyed.
And because those weren’t going to be inside, where it was stifling, our fun involved exertion and movement.
And, let’s be honest, enough minor scrapes, cuts and sprains so that each house had its own first-aid kit.
Some activities, like the contest to see who could eat the most green apples, had their own health risks.
But we jumped out of bed in the mornings ready for that day’s adventures—as soon as we came up with them.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415