By Tony Hooker
If the first three days are any indication, we better buckle up for another wild ride in 2021.
First a little ice, then a little thaw, then some snow.
The snow reminds me of my misspent youth, back in the days before traction control, as noted by Mr. Hastings in his My Personal Side column last week. A fresh layer of snow meant it was time to go cruising, and the VG school parking lot served as a perfect palette for the true artistry of a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree spin, also known as a “donut”, for those of you born after 1990. When I was in high school, my dad gave me a near perfect vehicle for completing these masterpieces on ice and snow, a 1975 El Camino. The combination of a V8 engine in the front, combined with very little weight in the back, made it a centripetal weapon of mass revolutions. There were few things that could hold the beast at bay, with the local police force being the main barrier to the spin. The other, more pedestrian reason for not doing too many donuts was because I usually didn’t have much gas to waste since I lived in the river city and worked in Champaign. That V8 was thirsty!
Of course, there are many stories from high school that remain shrouded by the test of time, like someone I know getting his dad’s four-wheel drive truck stuck in the river bottom while entertaining his cousins from out of town. Or another guy breaking through the ice on a flooded playground while completing an epic donut session in his Capri.
Of course, for the younger set, snow also meant sledding, and the hill on the south side of the school was a popular location. Another popular destination was the hill between south Hawthorne drive and the river. This one included a turn at the bottom that I once failed to navigate, resulting in the loss of much facial epidermis on the tree that stood watch at the bottom of the run.
Continuing in the vein of “how the heck did we survive our teen years”, as we got older, another popular pastime was to hitch a sled or old car hood to the back of a truck and go for a drag. It was all well and good as long as the driver maintained a straight course and a level speed, but things got a bit tricky when the smart aleck behind the wheel would either A. Slam on the brakes, leaving us the option of pitching over the side of the sled or slamming into the rear bumper, or B. Do a whip around a corner, swinging the sled out to the side and making us work to dodge curbs, fire hydrants, pedestrians, trees, light poles and mailboxes, not to mention oncoming cars. Good times.
Between these antics and a thousand more, (bottle rocket fights on the Camargo Railroad bridge, anyone?) I sometimes wonder how male members of the species lived through puberty. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Those shared experiences made us all who we are.
Now that I’m a dad and granddad, however, my attitude has changed. A lot. Now I’m grateful for traction control and the GPS “stalker” apps that we made our kids download and myriad other safety advances. Heck, I even made my kids wear a helmet when they rode bikes. Just because we came out alive, doesn’t mean that our kids have to relive our steps. Between bullying, social media and unrealistic expectations of what success looks like, they have their own battles to wage. Besides, we’d probably get arrested if we decided to take them for a drag down main street, these days.