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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 07.16.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Those lazy, hazy days of summer "back then"

The other day, as I was rushing to get my kids to their Swiss Army Knife Certification Day Camp, I started thinking about summers when I was a kid and how there used to be nowhere near as much running around as there is today.

Remember when summers were spent just goofing off? Now, those were summers! Not that we did nothing. On the contrary. Our days were filled with carefree adventure and daring-do, punctuated by visits to the Emergency Room.

Those were happy times. I still remember lying in the tall grass with my friends, staring up at the blue sky and feeling the warm breezes blow past as we waited for the cops to stop searching for us.

Some afternoons, we'd wander down to the riverbank, which back in those days also served as the town's garbage dump. Traipsing over the piles of debris, there was no telling what trinkets or infections you'd pick up.

Or we might find ourselves getting together to play "Red Rover" -- if, that is, we could manage to get Rover on his leash and find some red paint. And what fun if we ever got our hands on a British bulldog! Back then, kids really knew how to play.

Some days, it seemed we'd only ever come home to eat, sleep, and get matches. People were closer back then. Neighbours really knew their neighbours. All day long, we kids were in and out of each other's houses, stealing each other's liquor. That's just how neighbours were.

Some days we would hop on bikes and ride and ride until we got exhausted, and then we would ditch the bikes in the woods where their owners would never find them. Back then, kids really knew how to hide evidence.

No one pestered you about wearing a bike helmet in those days. And if you did suffer a head injury, you didn't complain about it, mainly because you had lost the power of speech. In fact, we didn't worry much at all about protection.

For example, there was no such thing as "sun screen." Quite the opposite; we wanted a good, healthy tan. I remember Mother used to slather us with lard every morning before sending us out to play. "Spare the rod and broil the child," she used to say. Back then, kids really knew how to blister.

Most of the time I just ran around in my bare feet, mostly because we couldn't afford shoes. But that was perfectly all right because the gravel was much smoother back then compared to the cheap, brittle stuff they use today. That's just how gravel was.

We didn't need organized sports because we spent so much time running and running and running, usually from bullies. But that was okay. Self-esteem hadn't been invented yet, so getting bullied was an accepted rite of passage, like learning to tie your shoes or getting seven stitches in your lip. Sure, we cried bitterly and cowered in fear as the bullies forced us to hand over our favourite toys, but that just prepared us later in life to deal with the government.

If you were lucky, you might find yourself with a sudden windfall of spare change shaken out of some little kid's pockets. Then you'd tear off to the corner store and spend it all. Of course, you can't buy many of those treats anymore because everyone's so darn worried about exposing kids to "carcinogens" and "nicotine."

Those summers, you had to make your own fun. There was no Internet or cable TV, so if you wanted violence or misinformation about sex, you had to find it yourself.

Yes, life back then was slow, like my cousin Lance after he fell out of the tree house. Was it better? All I know is that they don't make memories or scars like that anymore.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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