Letters from Ely - A 12-year-old's dream

by Duane Behrens

A 12-Year-Old's Dream<BR><BR>That picture of the two bears on last week's front page was, well . . neat. <BR><BR>Not as neat as the bear that tore apart the bird feeders in our front yard last spring as we all watched through the picture window. . . but still enjoyable. <BR><BR>And the very best of luck to the Bear Center, its animals and its surrounding neighbors. I hope they'll soon find a way to coexist peacefully. <BR><BR>Having grown up in a rural village in southern Minnesota, Irene Grahek's last column also made me smile. In the '60s, my own eight-member family took annual vacations to North Dakota in our used, 1956 Packard. Four in front, four in back and not a seatbelt to be had. <BR><BR>Fortunately, there was so much legroom in the back that two of us could lay down on the floor with blanket and pillow, quietly-and-secretly antagonizing each other throughout the day. I say "quietly" because in those days, there were dire consequences for misbehaving. <BR><BR>After a supper of hot dogs or hamburgers fried over a Coleman stove at a picnic rest stop, we'd often drive on through the night. The four oldest would pass the time by singing a medley of favorite songs in the back of the car. "I've got sixpence, jolly jolly sixpence, I've got sixpence - to last me all my life. . ." and so on through the evening, as that great, quiet beast of a car wound its way through wooded farms and pastures on 23&#162; a gallon gasoline. No, I don't suppose I would want to relive those childhood days. But I'm glad I lived them once.<BR><BR>And yes, things have changed since then. In most cities and towns across America, so many people are crammed into 400-unit town home complexes with no yards and strict rules of behavior. Inside (and if we let it), the television scares and blares at us constantly with news of terrorists and mass killings and child abductions . . . although in truth we don't know of anyone who knows of anyone who has ever encountered "a terrorist." <BR><BR>But just to be safe, we keep the kids where we can see them and, since WE don't necessarily want to spend all of OUR free time playing baseball in the park, "keeping them where we can see them" often means allowing them to sit in front of a TV screen or video game for hours at a time. It's a matter of convenience and a dangerously passive living environment has now become reality for millions of children across the nation.<BR><BR>In Ely and towns like it - and for now, at least - things are not yet that way. Children are free to travel to and from the park on their bicycles, and there's not a street in Ely that cannot be crossed safely to get there. <BR><BR>Outside of Ely - that is, "out in the country" (I still love saying that) - the same scrapes and pitfalls and water hazards I had as a boy in Delavan are still here in abundance, with the singular difference being that they are framed by beautiful pines and rocky outcroppings. And, of course, the waters still contain edible fish, largely untainted by farm fertilizers and chemical runoff from cornfields, hog farms and feed lots.<BR><BR>Yessir. It's still a 12-year-old's dream here in Ely . . . so long as we the parents keep the television off and the X-Box in check. <BR><BR>You know, I get great pleasure in glancing at O.C. in the rear view mirror each time we first come up the driveway to the cabin. As we approach our service road, he smiles, grins and shuts his eyes in the back seat, wanting to get the maximum pleasure from his first full view of his preferred home. <BR><BR>Heh. And hey, if I weren't driving? . . . I'd probably shut my eyes as well. <BR><BR>[ Duane may be reached at duanebehrens@cox.net ]<BR><BR>