The Good Old Days
When I was a kid. If you lived within two miles of the school, there was no bus service. So, we rode our bikes everywhere. I had a sweet ass Huffy with a banana seat so, it really wasn’t a problem. Fourth & fifth grade we lived west of Portland out in farm country. Nowadays it looks just like the city, but back then it was nothing but farmland and small communities. So, we rode our bikes to school every day. My little brother and I would leave our house and gather friends as we made our way to school. By the time we got there, we probably had a gang of about 10-12 kids without a care in the world. And, when school was out, we rode our bikes home. Except some of us had parents who were still at work. So, we hung out with friends, we rode all over town trying to perfect our Bunny-Hop & Wheelie skills or just played Lego’s at Brian’s house while doing our best to devour all the snacks hidden in his kitchen. Nobody got hurt or got into any major trouble so long as we got home in time to get our chores done before dinner, or before my dad got home at least.
We didn’t wear helmets, or pads. We carried cap or disk guns and pretty much never washed our hands until dinner. Some days we might be lucky enough to have a little money so we would ride to Ben Franklin or the convenience store and stock up on candy and Garbage Pail Kids. Then we would get to work converting a dirt bank into a massive network of roads for our Hot Wheels. Or maybe we might just gather up some friends and start playing war or cops & robbers. Back then nobody seemed to look twice at a kid on a bike with a big green plastic rifle hiding behind the fence in their yard. So long as the weather wasn’t very nasty, we were outside until just before dark. The weekends weren’t much different except we watched Saturday morning cartoons and had to finish our chores before we could head out and, other than lunch, we weren’t really allowed back in the house until dinner.
I don’t ever remember checking in with my parents, but I am sure we did from time to time. We knew where the police and fire stations were if we had an emergency. But for the most part we all just went to the nearest friend’s house for a glass of water or the occasional band-aid. If you liked a girl, you called her names. And, if she liked you back, she would generally kick your ass. We spent most of the summer vacation with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins on camping trips. We played Rummy, Uno and learned how to catch Crawdads with a stick and a flashlight. And when we messed up. Well lets just say that my aunt broke more than one hairbrush on my rear end. And one time I made my mom cry in front of my grandpa. He introduced me to a willow switch and that is still one of my most painful memories.
When we got a little older, we moved back to good old Douglas County. Apparently, we had learned nothing with our years of experience because it seems that we just started trying truly stupid things. We skipped school to ride dirt bikes and take our 2-wheel drive cars scrapping in the mountains. And when we got stuck, which inevitably always happened, we walked miles and miles to the first house we could find and begged to use their phone. And instead of learning our lesson and just NOT doing that again. We installed chains on our tires like the brilliant, problem solvers we were. We used half empty propane tanks for target practice. Turned dozens of Whistling Pete’s into a small bomb capable of waking entire neighborhoods. Impromptu camping trips with friends where the only supplies we brought were Doritos, Bartles & Jaymes (Because we were hard core back then), and a couple sleeping bags. Sleeping on picnic tables or on the ground under the stars. Toting our 22 rifles and eradicating the scourge of frogs, squirrels, chipmunks and birds that plagued the forest. And I’m not going to incriminate myself by listing things that may or may not have been completely legal.
We laughed and made fun of each other. Sometimes we argued and more than a few times we fought amongst ourselves. I remember getting a bloody lip after poking fun at one of my buddies a little too long. And yes, I was warned. Some got mad and quit coming around for a while. And some never seemed to be phased by anything. But at the end of the day, or at some point in the future, we all made up and life went on. Being offended was a part of life and it just didn’t last forever.
Some of my friends from back then have married and have kids & grand kids. Some have multiple ex’s and loads of back child support. A few have life-partners and a couple never settled down. A few joined the military, some went to college, some started their own businesses and a couple even spent time in prison. Some drank too much; some did a ton of drugs and some never touched anything harder than caffeine. And some never grew out of any of that.
I’m not close with everyone from my past still. We all got older and went our separate ways as life tends to do with most childhood friendships. But I do cross paths with some of them occasionally. And when we do, our favorite thing to do is talk about the good old days. We remember the stories and laugh about how stupid we all were. And sadly, we remember our friends that are gone. One of the things I notice most when I look at my past and the people in it, is that we were just as diverse a group of people as what you see in our community today. We had different races, sexes, sexual orientations, backgrounds, religions, opinions and values. And everything else you can think of. And we didn’t always agree on things or get along. But we talked it out, or just let it pass. Everyone had their own beliefs and opinions. And everyone realized that wasn’t the end of the world.
I think the world would be a boring place if everyone looked and thought the same. I guess we were just raised to have thicker skin. I laugh to think what my parents would have said if I told them I was offended over every little thing I didn’t agree with. Probably something like, “Suck it up.” I do believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. I just think they all need to realize that themselves. And realize that not everyone wants to see or hear about it. I try to be courteous, polite and open-minded. If I don’t necessarily agree with you, I’ll probably just smile and nod. And do as I was taught as a kid. Keep my opinions to myself and my mouth shut.
Written by; Carlos Ortegon
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