In school, we always had a countdown to Christmas break, but it only seemed like a few days. The big countdown was for the final day of school, and that usually began around the time we returned from spring break.
We seemed to have so many ambitious plans for the summer. For some reason, it involved building a fort or digging a place in the woods.
Any scrap of lumber would be a key part of a fort. One year, we found a broken wooden pallet that was the perfect wall for a fort.
Hammering nails was not our strong suit. We tended to grab the hammer high on the handle, not giving us much leverage. If we held it in the right place, we were not as accurate with our pounding.
I convinced one of my buddies that if he held the nail, I could hammer using two hands. His bruises were almost unnoticeable at the end of the summer.
There was the break for vacation Bible school. I loved Bible school.
We always made something during the weeklong adventure. One year it was a scroll with a scripture verse written on a piece of paper that was glued to two dowel rods. It looked pretty biblical. Many of those verses are etched in my mind.
We had a kiln at the church to harden items made of clay. I made my mama a very nice ash tray. Neither of my parents smoked, but every good household needed a nice ash tray, or so it seemed.
No matter what we did, it seems our days were full. I would leave the house in the morning, then come back and fix a sandwich before going out for the rest of the day. With the exception of rainy days, we never stayed inside.
I hurt for today’s generation. They will never have the absolute freedom we had years ago. Parents, who are afraid of everything from minor injuries to the fear of their child wandering too far away, either hover over them or have them tethered by a smart phone.
I think most of my 10 fingers have been smashed by hammers, rocks or a 2-by-4. I have been bitten by chiggers, mosquitoes and even a mousetrap. I attempted a Superman flight off the front porch and found I did not have the ability to fly.
When a lawn mower or go-cart wouldn’t start, we would smell the gasoline to see if it was OK. I probably lost a few brain cells in the process. I came home dirty enough that after one bath, mama thought I immediately needed another.
We didn’t need a cellphone, because if a neighbor saw us doing something or going somewhere we shouldn’t, my mama got a phone call. Before that, the person took corrective action, up to and including spanking us, if needed.
Bored? Never. We came up with some idea that seemed to fill the time of every summer day. At night, we were hungry from a day filled with activity. After supper, we were soon ready to go to bed and get refreshed for the next day.
We knew about bad people and stayed away from them. If something was wrong, you went to a neighbor’s door and asked for advice.
I wish we could go back there again.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.