I’m lucky to be alive.

“When is the expiration date on this?” said my daughter, turning the milk bottle around in her hand. Unable to find one, she returned the container to the refrigerator.

Years ago, my mother would’ve simply given the contents of the bottle a cursory sniff before pouring milk over my bowl of cereal. And for what it’s worth, she was usually right.

Welcome to the Nanny States of America — one where we are not only protected from spoiled milk but from ourselves.

As a qualifying member of the north of mid-century birthday club, I believe I’ve earned the right to look back and marvel at the reckless, dangerous and outright stupid things I did in life — and survived.

I also believe this gives me the right to say we’ve crossed the line from common sense and personal responsibility to a strange world where everyone is protected from the slightest hint of danger or unpleasantness.

As children, we played lawn darts without injury. And, yes, as testosterone-filled boys, we threw the darts straight up in the air, tempting fate — and each other — with a game of chicken. Yes, we were idiots, but we survived.

We also rode our bikes off rickety, homemade, wooden ramps and shot bottle rockets at each other with makeshift, bazooka-style launchers made from our worn-out Whiffle bats.

We also knew the taste of spoiled milk.

Every day was a lesson to be learned. If you found a slice of bread with something organic growing on the edge, cut it off. If something broke, duct tape probably could fix it.

Today, I read where someone filed suit against Starbucks for putting too much ice in their iced tea. As kids, we learned if we requested light or no ice with our drinks, we’d get more drink for our money. Like I said, we learned to develop an important skill we’d later hear referred to as common sense.

We built wings out of sticks and cellophane, jumping off the roofs of our houses to see if we could fly. One jump is all we needed to learn that lesson.

We made homemade bombs from empty Gerber baby food jars and a bag of gunpowder we once discovered — waking neighbors and dogs alike.

We even explored the dark underground storm sewers without the aid of flashlights, mapping out how we could travel underneath our neighborhood and come up through different manhole covers.

And those same storm drains, when the rains would come, would swell the creeks — drawing all of us to jump in on one end and ride down the white-water, branch- and debris-filled waters a few hundred yards later.

And yes, our parents knew we were doing these things (well, maybe not about the box of gunpowder we found ...). Their advice was simply to not be stupid and get hurt.

And thanks to this bygone era of my youth, I can detect spoiled milk without reading the expiration date.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.


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(3) comments

Bailey Jones

Once when I was a kid a small group of us took a large amount of dry ice to the lake (for reasons I won't get into). We thought it would be great fun to fill a 2-liter coke bottle with dry ice and water and watch it explode. 2 liter Coke bottles were made of glass in those days. So we loaded the bottle, screwed on the cap, retreated a good way, and waited. And waited. Nothing happened - we had just created a ticking time bomb with no idea what to do with it. So obviously we decided to shoot it with a rifle. Being the best shot in our little group, I had the honor. Standing behind a very small tree I took aim and pulled the trigger. The glass bottle and its pressurized contents exploded very satisfactorily. Only later did we find the shards of glass embedded in trees BEHIND where we were standing. Drunkards and fools, indeed.

Ron Woody

Leonard, thank you for another fine article that made me smile and allowed me to realize I too, am lucky to be alive.

Dan Freeman

We survived, but we lost many young friends along the way. Some of the “nanny state” warnings would have helped them live.

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