As I grow older and older the list of things I can not do is getting longer. One of the things on that list is pole vaulting. Just the thought is rattling my bones. When I was a kid we went pole vaulting over ditches and small canals and looking for pike along the ditch lines. The poles we used were willows that grew in very wet places and were between 15 and 20 feet long. The only thing we had to look out for were bulls in the meadows. Catching a pike was pretty tricky and took a lot of patience. We caught pike with a very thin looped wire that we let down very slow in the water and slower yet towards the pike. As a rule, pike sit very still on the side of a ditch and when a small fish, salamander or frog swims by they shoot towards their prey like a rocket. The trick is to get the loop just at the beginning of the pike’s head and than yank the loop closed as fast as you can and swing the fish away from the ditch; even then the loop will most likely be halfway down the pike’s body.
Olympic pole vaulting is something else; these people launch themselves 20 feet in the air and land on three feet of foam with out their pole.
Heck, if we lost our pole we were very wet and muddy when we got home. The reason being the pole getting stuck in the middle of the ditch and slowly sinking deeper. The end result was having to let go of the pole and swim across. Coming home without a fish, soaking wet, muddy and without a pole was a miserable experience because one had to find another pole and there was no welcoming committee when standing at the door wet and muddy.
Life has changed since I was a child, but change has happened since the beginning of this earth. The changes affecting humans were not as fast or abrupt as the changes after the industrial revolution, but there never was a time without change. It is the increasing speed with which change occurs that makes me wonder if we are mentally capable of adapting to these rapid technological changes. In my observation, children and adults were more physically active and ate healthier, mostly locally grown food up to the late 1950s.
At this point in time, I do not know how or where my food was grown or what additives or poisons were used to grow it. I do know that herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are leaking into rivers and lakes which makes them unfit for drinking water and impossible for fish to survive. Obesity was not common 50 years ago, but looking at the amount of adults and children who are obese now; something has gone wrong.
Whether the reason is what we put in our mouths or how much time we spend looking at TV, or are influenced by fast food ads is a question mark to me. Electronic gadgets take a lot of our time, cell phones ring anytime and anywhere, tunes are played from early morning to night, people are texting everywhere without attention to their surroundings. Our homes, with all the music and movies we want, have become places where we isolate ourselves more than ever. I am wondering how anti-social we have to become before our society falls apart. I look at the empty and boring playgrounds and wonder what happened to the inter-action between children and ask myself is technology shaping us, or are we shaping technology?
Personally I am glad I played active games and went pole vaulting with friends; these are still happy memories.
How many happy memories can there be when the answer is I sat on my rear end and played violent electronic games?
Bert dee Vink is a local resident and regular Observer columnist.