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Spring means playing outside

POSTED: April 19, 2009 1:00 a.m.

The beautiful spring weather has made me reflect on the springtimes of my childhood.

We spent a lot of time outdoors year round. In the winter, Mama would make sure I was bundled up with a warm shirt, an undershirt and my jacket fully zipped. I seemed to have lots of sticky zippers and Mama would rub them with a bar of soap to make them work better.

But then came spring and we could shed our jackets and dig out the short-sleeved shirts.

Spring also brought out the innovative side of me and the boys I hung around with.

We would go down to Mrs. Bessie Morrow's dime store and buy a pack of playing cards and some clothespins. If we had enough money, we would buy a pack of balloons.

We would clamp the cards with a clothespin so they would flap against the spokes of our bicycle tires. We would occasionally do the same thing with a balloon, which made an even louder noise.

We were constantly oiling our bikes thinking that more oil would translate into faster speeds, the ultimate goal of any boy.

Occasionally, a salesman would leave some decals advertising things like STP Oil Treatment at Mr. Jim Paul Shepherd's gas station. We would apply them to our bikes thinking they were rather cool.

There was a contraption my dad owned that I think was designed to give a burst of air to dislodge a drain clog. It had a pump like a bicycle pump, only it held the air in a cylinder tank.

Being a childhood rocket scientist, I was convinced that if I pumped it fully and held it under my arm while riding my bike, releasing the air would propel me to speeds not seen before on the sidewalks of Hightower Trail. It did not.

We didn't exactly go Dumpster diving. In fact, I'm not sure if any business in Social Circle had anything besides a bunch of trash cans. But occasionally, in the alleys behind the downtown business district, someone would discard some wooden crating that was used to ship merchandise.

A wooden crate had so much potential. I remember a fully intact crate that we carted home in a red wagon. It became a jail, a fort and, when it finally fell apart, it became pieces of a bridge to get our metal trucks across a ditch. We played with it for months.

There was also an effort to see what we could pull with our bicycles.

We had an old mower deck without an engine. Using a bunch of rope, I tied that thing to the back of my bike and pulled it around. Trailing the old mower deck did not accomplish anything, except giving me the satisfaction that I could do it.

Spring is my favorite season, and this is my annual lament that a lot of parents are not stimulating their children's imaginations by letting them play with a box or a rope or some broken down old piece of junk in the garage.

Imagination is not something purchased in one of those impossible-to-open plastic packages from the big box store.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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