The Richmond Register

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June 12, 2014

Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth

RICHMOND — When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.

Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.

There was a fine line between being called a sissy or a tomboy but, truth be told, both genders frequently crossed the line into the others’ games.

Still, 30 years ago, when those little hand-held video games, Zelda, Pac-Man and what-not, that seemed to fascinate all the teen and preteen set to the point of total distraction, came on the market, I never thought I’d see the day when grown men would sit around on porches or in living rooms, even in city parks and restaurants with their kids and be mutually amused with similar devices.

Yet it’s very common, these days, when you see parents actually taking some time to spend with their kids, to see a dad and two or three young ones, sitting around in relative oblivion, gripping iPads, cell phones, Androids or whatever they call those things, biting their tongues, muttering to themselves, grimacing, doing body contortions, fist pumping,occasionally and yelling, “Yes!” They seem to be enjoying life to the fullest.

I blame my generation for the fact that the kids of today never discovered the sheer joy of packing around a pocket full of cat’s-eye marbles and learning how to play Christmas Tree and rolley holey and how to log to see who gets to shoot first. They don’t know how to stage a corn-cob fight or throw a ringer or even what a ringer is. They don’t know how to run their fingers back under a flat stone there in the creek and feel out a soft crawdad that will catch the biggest smallmouth bass in the big fishing hole.

We are the ones who let technology rob our grandchildren of the riches of our own youth. We are the ones who muttered and mumbled and let our own kids be kidnapped by Zelda and Pac-Man and that ilk as long as we were assured their homework was done. The truth of the matter is, we were too caught up in our own inflated opinions of ourselves to pay much attention to what was happening to our kids.

My generation was the first one to start blaming the school systems when their kids kept getting in trouble and discovered drugs. And it’s way too late to worry about it now.

Sitting around and whining about it also serves no useful purpose. Call it opinion for opinion’s sake, and thank heaven for the First Amendment.

People keep asking me when I’m going to publish a collection of my columns. And the answer is that I won’t because I honestly believe that if they’re worth it, they will just about publish themselves. To the extent the project needs some help, I’m leaving it to my grandson Mazzen.

As soon as The Maz gets his driver’s license in about three years, I’ll fly him in for a couple weeks vacation from Houston. He can drive down to London where every column I’ve ever written is on file and in print in one form or another. Within three years he will be able to use a hand-held device to scan all the early stuff I typed on a Royal manual typewriter. The whole thing won’t take him more than half a day at the rate technology is advancing.

The first 800 or so columns I wrote have never been digitized, except maybe for the press motor that printed the papers. I figure the whole project will take him about half a day at the newspaper and that his mother, my daughter Geneva Marie (Genny), can help him sort it out when he gets back home. They should have well over 1,800 columns to work with and maybe there is a book or two in that pile of pages.

And even though The Maz (an avid reader) and his younger siblings Ramzy and Isabel do most of their reading on Kindles and other digital tablets, Genny (who’s favorite hobby is reading) is savvy enough to know that a lot of folks her age and older still prefer their books on paper and bound between hard covers.

I don’t want my grand kids wasting their time with me on technology though. I want to teach them how to catch nightcrawlers and crawdads and wade the lower reaches of Silver Creek and experience the thrill that comes only when they entice ol’ Dollar Eye to come out from under that big sycamore root and latch onto a well-cast crawler.

I want them to feel that jolt of adrenalin that starts where the wrist connects with the ultra-light rod, goes up the arm and then all the way down to their ankles when a big smallmouth bass lets them know that its ready to give them all the fight they can handle.

And I’m willing to bet a substantial amount of money or a pocket full of marbles that I can take their minds off their tablets for at least a few afternoons and give them some memories they’ll keep awhile.

Wanna bet?

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