Big Mother is watching, thank goodness.
Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.
I’m sure you see the problem already. Apparently Ms. Harrell couldn’t afford a helicopter drone with live video to her smartphone, so her nine-year-old daughter ran the risk of having fun outdoors without parental witness.
Fortunately, a concerned parent at the playground intervened, interviewed the girl, and then notified the authorities who arrested the Mom.
To fully appreciate the seriousness of this situation, you have to watch the local news report. Face it, any crime that would force professional TV journalists to express this degree of shock and dismay must be egregious. It’s so bad, that the journalists actually gave contact information for government-run childcare so that other parents could avoid legal jeopardy and rapidly get their kids under government supervision.
Of course, we all know it would have been far better for the Mom to forego employment entirely and to get herself in some government programs. That way, she could have squatted on a park bench and noodled on her ObamaPhone while her darling played on the monkey bars (and tried to avoid contact with strangers). Better yet, she could have used some of her government allowance to buy another laptop so that her daughter didn’t have to risk the outdoors at all.
But this is all hindsight.
This alarming story makes me regret the countless thousands of hours that I, and my brothers, spent unsupervised somewhere in the hundreds of acres of woods and fields near my childhood home. In those less morally-evolved times, we’d disappear for hours after breakfast, lunch or dinner. We’d walk or bike or ride horses miles away from the security of my Nan’s watch-care. In case of emergency — like when somebody shot my finger with the BB-gun, or when Troy and I caught a groundhog and the varmint latched onto my brother’s thumb and wouldn’t let go — anyway, in case of emergency our only car was with Pop at work an hour away. Nan never had a driver’s license anyway. Our only phone was screwed to the wall in the kitchen.
We’d swim in creek, pond or canal. We played tackle football without helmets or pads. We’d cross fields where menacing cattle grazed, and climb the highest trees we could. We built dams, panned for “gold,” caught salamanders, snakes, turtles, crayfish and eels. We cracked spherical rocks searching in vain for geodes. Sometimes, in our early teens, we’d carry firearms, but way before that we always carried weapons — bows, spears, cudgels, rocks and slings that we fashioned from natural materials. Often we reenacted Robin Hood’s cudgel fight with Little John on a log over a stream. For a few years, we tended a trap-line before school in the morning, toting a .22 caliber rifle in the dark and facing some very annoyed raccoons and possums.
We’d swing from vines, engage in brutal snowball fights, toboggan through a stand of trees and bail out just before the barbed-wire fence. A pack of us would skate the unreliable ice of a farmer’s pond — when the farmer wasn’t looking — slapping frozen hockey pucks at the unpadded goalie who trembled between the boots that formed the goal.
These activities could involve children as young as six — often accompanied by our neighbor Jim and his little sisters, and all shockingly unsupervised by adults.