Tag Archives: summer

Summer Memories

We’ve all got summer memories, right?  Memories of bike riding, games played outside, romps in the woods, and on and on it goes.  A rather disturbing thought is us older folk probably have more of those kinds of memories than our kids do today.

What would those kids that were us back then have to say to the kids of today?  (“You wear what? On where? Why??”)  What about the parents?  (“You let your kid wear that? On where? Why??”)  Especially when it comes to riding in a car! I have memories of moving all around our family van as my Dad cruised down the highway. Nowadays, you just about get arrested for that. At the very least, the video someone has taken on their phone in the car behind you of your kid moving all over your van gets posted on CNBC, Fox News and any other T.V. show that will have panel after panel of so-called “experts” deliberating and arguing back and forth about the merits and pitfalls of such actions in today’s society.

So what would they say about “Yard Darts”?

Remember those? Two colored plastic circular tubes the diameter of a pencil.  These made up two big rings that were the targets (the boring part); then, four darts–two sets of two different colored 12-inch long, plastic-finned, 3-sided tops with heavy metal bases that came to a point–completed the ensemble (the exciting part). Ours were in a cardboard box with those happy 1970’s family posers throwing the darts at the other team’s target. Nothing but good safe family fun, right?

What did kids do with this family-fun game when the parents weren’t around? What every kid did! Throw those sharp pieces of kid-dom fun straight up into the air as high as possible and try to calculate trajectories to see if they’ve gotta run like a banshee to avoid being pinned to the ground. We had a big side yard to do it in, too! As I recall, sometimes my brother and I would spread out on the side yard and lob them into the air to see how close we could come to the other brother without him actually having to move.

Yep….not smart. But it sure was fun. And very memorable. Mostly due to the fact that neither one of us ever got hurt playing with those things (God was certainly true to my mother’s prayers for our protection growing up). So what’s available now? Maybe a Nerf version of what used to be a thrill ride for a kid–something “safe” and non-threatening. That’s like giving a kid a chocolate cake without the frosting. No thanks. Give me the real thing. We’ve become too “safe-sensitive” in today’s culture–not that I want to go out and buy a real Yard Darts game for my kids. But I do recognize a tendency in myself and my parenting to be over-protective and unwilling to just let my boys be the kids that they are…kids that want to do things that in my adult mind seem unsafe and unwise. Yet what did I do as a kid? Some of the exact same things I catch them wanting to do.

Us adults need to remember what some of the joys of being a kid are. And when you stop and think about it, those childhood experiences really all come down to this:  Sometimes the best teacher for a kid is the freedom to experience something for himself.

A Bike Story

Everyone likes a good bike story.  It’s the middle of summer, which means it’s the middle of bike-riding season.  So I thought I would share with you a memory from an earlier post.  Enjoy!

You remember my telling you that we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath? I’m pretty sure I mentioned that before….so…..we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath. It was Drumheller Road. We had a big side yard on our property that was between our driveway and the gravel pit that was next door from an earlier story. At the end of our side yard and across Drumheller was another dirt road that ended on our road. This was Watson Road, and it ended in a very steep hill as it came up to Drumheller. Add to that the fact that our driveway also had a nice steep slope to the last 15 feet of it as it met the road, and you’ve got another “potent and high-risk” situation brewing.

Between my brother and I, one of us would be stationed at the end of the driveway (henceforth known as The Spotter) to warn the Evil Knieval wanna-be of any oncoming traffic–although I can remember more than once having no spotter to do this. The other brother (forthwith referred to as The Speed Freak) would race down the stone driveway, gathering momentum as the tires bit into the stones. The Speed Freak would tear down the sloping end of the driveway onto Drumheller, the bike’s tires spitting gravel up into the air as he turned left towards Watson Hill (this stretch of Drumheller had a slight downward slope of its own, so….brewing….it’s brewing). Then The Speed Freak would turn right onto Watson Road and commence a careening ride of trying to maintain control of a bike screaming over dirt and gravel as it keeps a more or less straight trajectory down Watson Road, The Speed Freak’s feet and pedals a dizzying blur as he gets as much speed as possible down the hill. Then, breathless and covered in sweat, bug guts (we weren’t wearing helmets) and tears of exhilaration, The Speed Freak would come to a complete stop.

Enter the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike with the really cool banana seat.

There I am, in the starting blocks, listening to the announcer as he introduces the next racer. My engine is revved–I’m ready for takeoff. The “Christmas Tree” hasn’t lit up yet. Suddenly, there it is! Yellow, yellow, yellow, GREEN! I’m tearin’ it up, trying to get some air between the bike tires and the stone driveway before I’ve even hit Drumheller Road. I’ve got flames coming off my back tire as I fly past The Spotter onto Drumheller. As I turn onto Watson Hill, I’m barely keeping the bike on the ground as the tires begin to melt. It’s screaming down the road, gravel shooting out and ricocheting off the trees. Suddenly, it happens. The bike decides to steer for a huge piece of gravel that wasn’t even in my way. As it hits it, the really cool banana seat lets The Twins know that it’s there and that it doesn’t like twins. I bring my bike to a screeching halt, horizontal tear paths on my face (these are not tears of exhilaration). By the way, it’s extremely difficult to bring a bike to a stop while looking through tears–and my eyes were filled with them. I look down at The Twins to make sure they’re ok and what do I see? The long pointed end of the really cool banana seat–the accomplice to the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike that committed this heinous act against innocent parties involved.

The really sad climax to this story is the fact that not only did I not learn the first time of what this bike’s evil intentions were, but I even tried many times going down Watson Hill no-handed (no racing, just riding). Who’s bright idea was it to put a metal bar right under the seat between the seat and the handlebars on a boys bike?? The bike knew that as well. So did the really cool banana seat. And so did The Twins. More than once. In extreme peril. And all I could do was try to bring the bike to a complete stop while trying to see through tear-filled eyes.

…..sigh…..The price of exhilaration.


Since it’s summer and I have been on the topic here and there about Paradise Lake, here’s another story from my childhood up there:

Let’s talk about bagpipes for a minute.  Now, I realize that some people turn up their nose at even the thought of them, let alone listening to even the sound of them.  If you’re one of those types of people, you have probably already envisioned some red-faced guy with chipmunk cheeks blowing fiercely into a hollow tube for all he’s worth who’s wearing a dress and making an ear-splitting racket with that contraption he’s hugging so closely to his person.

While most of us probably picture Great Highland bagpipes from the country of Scotland when we hear them, there is a close cousin to the Great Highland bagpipes and it’s found in Ireland.  Called the Uilleann pipe, it is a “softer” version of the bagpipes we so easily attribute to Scotland, meaning that it has a more mellow tone to it and can tend to not sound so shrill (the beauty of that sound being in the ear of the beholder).

I, myself, have always enjoyed the sound of bagpipes being played.  One summer, upon arriving at the family cabin on Paradise Lake, I was very pleased to discover that someone a few cabins down from our beachfront had a set of bagpipes–and actually knew how to play them!  Now remember, this is a lake in northern Michigan where the early morning hours can be spent just sitting by the lake and listening to nature:  the gentle sound of water lapping against the beach; the distant cry of a seagull as it floats across the lake’s surface;  the hauntingly beautiful call of loons out on the lake somewhere; and even the possibility of seeing a bald eagle soar overhead!

So this individual apparently liked to play the bagpipes in the morning hours, which was much to my appeal.  I can remember getting up early enough to get down to the boathouse to get the oars to the rowboat and a life vest.  There was no rowing quietly with these oars.  They were metal ones, so every time they were moved in the eyelets of the rowboat, they would squeak…badly.  So picture the above-described scene laid out in front of you and suddenly hearing  the slow but determined sound of “screeee……..screeee………screeee……..screeee” as a guy in a rowboat slowly makes his way out onto the lake.  So, nonetheless, I made it out about a hundred yards and dropped anchor, waiting for the bagpipe player to show up.

I’m telling you….to be out there on the waters of Paradise Lake early enough to watch the sun peak over the treetops and listen to those sounds of nature that were all around me was an amazing experience!  But then, to have the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a set of Highlander bagpipes floating across the surface of the water was just….just breathtaking.  I didn’t want it to stop.  And I would even say that if you are one who doesn’t like the sound of bagpipes, even you would have tolerated what I heard that morning and thought it actually sounded pleasant.

I believe the day will come when the waters of Paradise Lake will once again echo with the sounds of a bagpipe.  But this time, since I’m Irish and love the sound of Uilleann Pipes….