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The Chase: I Must Be an Outlaw

Or maybe a ghost.

I mean, almost everything I did as a kid was either illegal or fatal, at least by today’s standards. It’s a miracle any of us survived long enough to breed.

If you check into my generation’s history, there’s dwindling evidence that we actually existed in the first place. My particular age group, too late to be “Baby Boomers” and too early to be “Gen Xers” is now being loosely called, by some academics, “Generation Jones”—believe it or not. Children of the ’60s, young adults of the ’70s. Everything we did was incorrect, at least politically, also unhealthy and/or dangerous. But we did have good music.

As far as literature, the books that were so enthusiastically drilled into us back then are now thought of as taboo for one reason or the other. Seems like everyone, right down to Dr. Seuss, is in trouble these days.

There’s even a “new” math. The old one, apparently, somewhere along the line, turned out to be a failure. I am very confused about that. I could almost testify in court that 1+1 still equals 2.

Yes, we are those kids that rode without seat belts. Most of the cars that my family had when I was a kid either came without seat belts, or if they did have them, the things were so deeply buried in the seats that Indiana Jones couldn’t have excavated them. We were the ones who rode, like Old West buckboard riders, with no tie-down, no yee-haw rope, without those baby-carrier-lock-in-strap-down-facing-the-right-direction-according-to-the-latest-billion-dollar-government-study things, and sometimes, as toddlers, even rode
on Dad’s lap when he let us “drive.” I think that is probably a felony these days. 

And Lord have mercy, we thought the biggest childhood kick of all was riding in the back of a pickup truck. This was a fairly rare and much-celebrated occasion, for several reasons. It had to be the right kind of day, not so hot that your rear end would fry on the metal bed of the truck, and not too cool to be out in the wind. The trip had to be in town, not out on the highway, had to be an errand that could be accomplished quickly and would not be hindered by children coming along. Still, there was usually a fair amount of begging involved. Sometimes my dad or an uncle would put us cousins in the back with a snow cone and specific instructions on not standing up while the truck was moving. This always ended with trouble. Somehow the wind and a snack turn normal kids into little pirates. This is likely the reason those trips were so few and far between. It is actually still legal in the great State of Texas, with a few reasonable restrictions, to ride in the back of a pickup, but it is frowned upon by a lot of folks. 

My brother and I had little or no regard for off-the-rack bicycles with their chrome fenders and too-fancy baskets, so we, along with our pals, “customized” the bikes our parents paid their hard-earned cash for. First, we stripped off those annoying fenders, baskets, chain covers, and other unnecessary stuff while considering what kind of paint and tape with which to “redo” the finish. All this was simultaneous to the building of our Evel Knievel jumping ramps, and we were always determined to make a bigger, higher, longer jump than last time. And pity the poor kid that showed up with a helmet. When we weren’t jumping our Evel Knievel ramp of death, we were trying to find the “Mosquito Man” truck that, quite literally, sprayed DDT into the air to keep down the population of insects. We gleefully rode our bikes along behind the truck, laughing and barely avoiding collisions in the fog, until we became a nuisance and someone ran
us off.

Until I was in my twenties, there was no such thing as water in plastic bottles that I was aware of. Water came out of a tap, or if you were outside, a garden hose, which was just as safe to drink out of as it was to spray down your brother and sister (whether they asked for it or not). It never occurred to us that there might be something crawling around in the hose. I believe the common kid lore was “wait until the water gets cold, then it’s safe to drink.” That would be the only rule we went by. Some water tasted sweet, some not so much, but that was never enough to slow us down. Cold water in the summer is good any time. To go inside to get a glass or cup to drink out of would have been a total violation of the kid All-That-Is-Sacred code. 

We were the ones that grew up
to drive Corvairs, Pintos, Gremlins, and every other crazy dangerous
car on those annoying little social media lists, and lived to tell the
tale with a smile on our faces. Generation Jones. 

Yo ho ho.

Author

  • Artist, singer-songwriter, music producer and humorist Andy Chase Cundiff spent many years traveling the U.S. and abroad, but calls Amarillo his home. A longtime resident, Andy’s house is on a red brick street in Oliver-Eakle that is lined with elm trees.