It occurs to me that with this piece today, I have written a newspaper column in five different decades. Deuteronomy records that Moses lived to 120. Many days, I feel that old.
Some argue that people who grow up in Southeast Missouri have English as a second language. Not true. Just because we shorten some syllables and omit others entirely, our word use could easily be followed by members of British royalty, at least the more earthy ones.
My parents would not have predicted me making a living as a writer, or even being gainfully employed.
My dad taught me to fish, perhaps thinking I could at least fashion a cane pole and feed myself if all job opportunities failed. My mother, for her part, filled our house with reading materials, hoping something of practical use might stick with her youngest child.
Bless her soul. I spent a lot of time with the magazines she ordered. In particular, I liked Boys’ Life.
A Boy Scout magazine, this came monthly and got me where I lived. These pages always contained adventures in knot tying and birdhouse building.
Beyond that, Boys’ Life exposed me to a world wider than my small Missouri town. Scouts on these pages hiked and camped in places with mesas and redwoods. It seemed perfectly exotic, an existence beyond the cotton and bean fields.
This sense of doing more, of self-growth, sometimes collapsed in execution. If memory serves, Boys’ Life put me on to the idea of building a box kite.
To be clear, the kites I knew came in a kit purchased at the local IGA, a quadrilateral of synthetic material stretched over a wooden cross framework.
Good enough for Ben Franklin. History books said he flew one in an electrical storm, a brave move for a guy wearing knee britches and high socks.
As portrayed in the magazine blueprint, the curiously designed box kite could be built with items available in most any 1960s home: a coping saw, some dowels, glue, tape, string and construction paper.
At a tender age, I did not benefit from the life lesson that published instructions for any task do not always correspond with resulting physical actions. If no one has trademarked the phrase, “It sure looked easy on the page,” that’s an oversight.
Perhaps the flimsy arrangement of the dowels led to the failure. Or it might have been the faulty attachment of the too-heavy paper. No matter, the box kite experiment never took flight.
Scouts of modern times might learn about drones, remote-controlled fliers available at any big-box retailer or even truck stops. Stories out of Colorado could also pique the interest of young folks.
In the sparsely populated northeastern counties of that state, citizens have become alarmed about drones, as many as 17, flying 200 feet off the ground, squadrons in the night.
They have done nothing threatening. They may not even be breaking a law. Law enforcement authorities, bewildered along with everyone else, urged people not to shoot them from the sky, which would be breaking a law.
On Thursday, the Colorado governor said he had been “actively monitoring” the drone situation.
Life was much simpler in the time of kites. You worried about gusts or stillness, maybe a power line. Not much else. No intrusions of privacy. No mystery from above.
The Boys’ Life version would be framed with fewer suspicions. I’m getting old enough to miss those days.