My inner eye still envisions miles of open fields, connected to the outside world by a gravel road. There, we roamed along the railroad tracks, played in the woods and along a stream we  called mud crick. On that small waterway we conducted mighty battles on rafts cobbled together from scrap lumber. In order for  our parents not to  discover our skinny dipping, we played cards until our hair dried. Winter came and the creek transformed into a forum for play on ice. Once, I broke through the the partly frozen surface. Fortunately it happened in water that was only waist deep. Cousin Gordon built a fire so that my colthing would partially dry. He did not want the grown-ups to know or to worry about our activities.

And how did our parents fit into the picture? They didn’t!  They neither planned nor executed our playtime or our games. That might sound strange today, where the overscheduling of youngsters and  excessive parental involvement seem to be the sine qua non. Yet, in that era, I cannot remember a single father who played with his sons. I guess they were too busy surviving the depression. Yet, I do not believe that their lack of participation resulted in an iota of damage. In fact, I look back upon their relaxed attitude as a wonderful gift of freedom. They allowed us to be children.

Perhaps, the raising of sucessful progeny needs good genetics. Skillful neglect might be equally important.

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2 Responses to HOME OF THE FREE

  1. Roar says:

    I can relate, even though I’m 20 years younger. Many of the same experiences. Long live the “older generation.”

  2. Marvin Keene says:


    This article by Fred Reed from a later time speaks of a similar unsupervised childhood. I was a kid in the sixties and when still in single digits, disappeared for hours unsupervised. My kids almost certainly won’t unless I move far out into the country–and that is a shame.

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