Kids today have a totally different view of “playing” than we adults have. Most of them are so smart it’s almost scary and yet they seem to lack common sense and responsibility. Their idea of playing is watching a movie on the i-Pod or smart phone and playing mine-craft onthe X-box. Only their fingers get any exercise.
When my Mom was growing up in the 1930s, she lived on a small farm here in Ashtabula County. She walked to school, church, 4-H Club meetings and to play with friends. Her older and younger brothers were her daily companions. After they did chores which usually meant feeding the cow, horses and chickens and milking the cow, they were free to play. In the summer this was swimming with a group of kids and in the winter it was ice skating. Mom says there was always a bunch of kids at her house playing baseball too.
But their favorite thing to do was playing in the creek and woods on their farm. Mom says they spent hours exploring and Grandma sometimes even sent a sandwich with them so they were gone all day. In the 1950s when I was a kid, my sister and I also spent hours in our creek. We waded, caught crawfish, went fishing with a stick for “clodfish”(green algae), walked on logs fallen across the creek and picked up stones. We made dams, and looked for tadpoles and frogs. There was a really deep spot by the road bridge that we were not supposed to play in but we always went to check to see how deep it was or if there might be any fish.
We also pretended that we were cowboys and rode our imaginary horses up and down the pasture hills near the creek. We were close enough to hear Mom call us for dinner or supper.
By the time our kids grew up in the 1980s, things had changed. There did not seem to be as much time to play. Farm work came first and most playing was limited to swimming and fishing in Grandma and Grandpa’s farm pond. The boys did enjoy a big tractor tire sand pile with caves, roads and ponds for their GI Joes and all their equipment. Our daughter spent her free time riding horses. They did try to catch frogs and turtles in the creek as well as exploring the woods when they helped get firewood.
The kids were usually close enough that I could call them to come eat. Today our grandkids do not even have their own creeks. When they come to the farm it’s usually for a holiday or other special occasion—there’s not much time for playing in the creek. They have spent a little time in the canoe looking for turtles and fish. What they usually ask for is a ride in Grandpa’s cub cadet, or to play badminton.
They are never without adult supervision—-an all day trip to the creek with a sandwich would never happen. It’s a loss for them. I wonder if you get common sense from playing in a creek?
Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.