When I was a kid growing up in the little town of Nolan in Mingo County, catching lightning bugs (some of you may call them fireflies), was something we did on a hot, humid summer night.
This is just one way we would occupy our time on those July and August evenings. After all, we only had three TV channels to choose from, and most of the shows were reruns.
Nowadays kids and adults alike have literally hundreds of cable or satellite channels to choose from. These are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The three local channels we got signed off after the Tonight Show or sometime in the early morning hours.
We played games like hide and go seek, tag, mother may I, cowboys and Indians or other imaginative things we made up. We were not allowed out after dark. Luckily those long summer days gave us plenty of time to play, since it didn’t get good and dark until 9 pm or after. But once it was dark, you better be back home or in your own yard.
Now kids have video games that they spend hours playing. They never get off the couch or out of the house. No wonder we have a society of overweight and unhealthy children.
These kids wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have television, DVD’s, movie channels, MTV and other electronic games.
Our communication with the neighbor kids was yelling over the fence, or in my case, my secret Indian whistle, which was a signal for my friend to come out and play some wiffle ball. If after a few games of pounding on the plastic baseball it started falling apart, that didn’t stop us.
Grab some black electrical tape from dad’s toolbox, an old sock or some rolled up newspaper. Wrap the tape around it a few times and believe it or not, you had yourself a makeshift baseball. It’s amazing what one can come up with by just using a little ingenuity.
Now they have MySpace, chat rooms and other web-sites to meet friends or to contact a neighbor who may only be a few yards away. Some of these kids even have cell phones and pagers. Get real. We might have had two cans and a long wire as a makeshift phone.
My family enjoyed sitting on the front porch on our swing, hoping to catch a slight breeze on a stuffy night, listening to the lonesome sound of the nearby train whistle.
Everybody knew their neighbors and if they passed by, they would always stop and chat, or at least long enough to say howdy or hey. Even if a stranger came by you were apt to say hello and wave.
In this day and time, if a stranger comes by, you’re apt to start worrying if he is up to no good or might be a thief casing out the neighborhood.
When we were kids, we could ride our bikes all over town. The parents didn’t have to worry about their children, they knew the whole community would look after them, or if they got into any mischief, their mom and dad would likely know about it before they even got back home.
Now, with the weirdo perverts running around, you don’t want your kids to ride a bike even a block away in fear they might get snatched up.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our innocence.
In the old days, if you ran out of flour or sugar, you wouldn’t think twice about going next door and borrowing a cup or two. Now, in many cases, you hardly know your neighbors. You wouldn’t ask them for the time of day, or vice versa – many people just aren’t friendly like they used to be.
In years past, you shared things with your neighbors. We had one neighbor who raised hogs. If we had any scraps left over from our meals, he had hung a bucket on a big post between our houses, and we would dump them in there so he could use them to help feed his hogs.
Then when it came time for him to butcher the hogs, you could always count on him to give you some fresh pork chops or some ham. A nice even trade if you ask me.
People raised gardens and shared their vegetables and fruit with neighbors. That’s just the way they did it at one time.
But getting back to the lightning bugs. I can remember getting an old jar with a lid, punching wholes in the top of the metal lid, and catching as many of the glowing insects as possible. We thought it made a pretty cool looking lantern.
Now I hardly see any lightning bugs. If my memory serves me right, there used to be thousands of them – on and off – illuminating the night sky as they flew around. For whatever reason, there just doesn’t seem to be a fraction of the beautiful fireflies as there used to be.
Maybe it’s all of the pesticides or pollution in the air. But that’s another story.
Another fun thing we did was wade in the creek and catch crawdads. Now you had to be fast to do this. These little crustaceans are fast. Usually you could slowly lift up a flat rock and underneath one would be hiding. But catching them was a talent. And keeping them from latching on to you with their sharp pinchers was another matter.
Then there was fort building. I don’t know how many forts we attempted to build, from anything we could find - old lumber, old rusty metal and any other object we might get away with.
Once the fort was built, then you could form a club. You had to have a password to enter the dwelling, but that was part of the fun.
For some reason kids today just aren’t exposed to the fun and entertaining things we did growing up.
As far as I’m concerned – that’s truly a shame.
I think it is important for us that are old enough to remember these more uncorrupted times. This was a time in our lives that we would love to reconnect with.
Of course kids have more time to kill in the summer since school is out for its long break. They have many more hours to loaf or find something to do.
Don’t get me wrong – I love computers and the internet. I couldn’t do without it, especially when it comes to research, e-mails and work. But there is a time for us all to sit back and read a book, take a walk in the woods or simply just be a kid.
Let’s just hope some of them use their imaginations.
“Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light …” — Mark Twain.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to email@example.com)