Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things From my Childhood 2-- Learning Baseball

When I was young(er), my dad was more patient with me than I gave him credit for.  I was a baseball enthusiast, and he did his best to teach me about the game and improve my skills.  There were many sessions of catch, batting practice, etc.  There was even one season that he worked with me on my skills as a catcher.  The team's coach let me take the catcher's gear home and told my dad to throw lots of tennis balls at me.  The idea was to get me accustomed to digging bad pitches out of the dirt without the bruises that typically follow that experience.  I can't remember how much time he spent doing that, but it helped.

There were also a few sessions of batting practice at the spot in the above picture.  I think that is, and was when I was a kid, some sort of water treatment facility along El Sobrante Road.  The clear spot near the arrow used to be a very rustic baseball diamond.  My dad used to take me there on weekends and help me work on my batting.  He would pitch and I would attempt to hit his very toned down throws.  I think that's where I learned to bunt as well; I never asked my dad how he learned to do such things, but I just sort of took it for granted that dads know how to play baseball.

One weekend during our batting practice, a fish and game warden pulled up in his truck.  He was curious to see what we were up to, and asked if we had heard any gunfire.  In the back of his truck was a dead eagle.  It was the biggest bird that I had ever seen up close and he told us that it was a bald eagle.  I asked why its head was not white, and he informed us that it was an immature specimen.  It had been shot, and I still remembered being puzzled as to why anyone could possibly want to shoot an eagle.  My dad was smart enough to point out to me that there were a couple of chicken ranches nearby and one of the ranchers probably confused it with many of the red-tail hawks that frequent the area, and had mistakenly acted to protect his livestock.  I again assumed that dads just knew such things.

My dad is a pretty handy guy.  Thankfully, it runs in the family.  I'm often thankful that my dad forced me to do various things myself,  or made me help him when he performed various repairs or construction projects himself.  I'm also thankful for all of the baseball lessons.  Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Things From my Childhood Series

Writing occasionally on the pages of this blog is fun, sort of, and I thought it might be beneficial to write about my childhood.  My kids might even laugh about some of this stuff someday, so why not document it before I reach an age where my memory is so poor that I cannot share it?  On that note, I have decided to document glimpses of my life and past here.  So here are a couple of stories from my past, and I hope to post more of them as I recall them.

That Joshua Tree with the bottle caps in it:  My dad and I used to make regular trips to the high desert to ride dirt bikes, shoot and generally fart around out in the desert.  He and I both enjoy being away from urban sprawl and the high desert has a certain appeal.  We used to load the bikes up in his 1974 Chevy truck (which ended up being my first vehicle) and head out past Victorville, California.  There is an exit off of I-15 for Stoddard Wells Road and, a bit farther on, a second exit with the same title (the one past Denny's).  We used to exit the 15 at that second exit, and park near a Joshua tree that provided almost no shade.  We would ride from there and return periodically to the truck to rest, eat, or to have something to drink.  Over the years, my dad would occasionally flip bottle caps from his soda pop or beer up into that tree.  He even commented once about how many might be up in there.  We were, after all, in the middle of the desert, and there wasn't much out there to disturb the tree.

One weekend, we made a trip out to the desert with a friend of my dad's from work, or maybe it was a friend's son, I'm not sure.  I was still riding a little Yamaha YZ-80 at the time, and the acquaintance that was with us commented on how well I was riding.  My dad complimented me as well, and I asked him if I was riding better than him; he admitted that he thought I was indeed a bit better than him at it.  I recall asking him at least one more time later if I was really better than him at riding; he was puzzled by the fact that I was fixated on that and I said, "Well Dad, it's a big deal; I've never been better than you at anything before!"

We had many good times out there in the high desert.  A couple of years ago I looked on the internet and was able to see the subject Joshua tree on either Google Earth or maybe Google Maps; it was still there and I wondered if it still had any of my dad's bottle caps in it.

Respect, A Dying Trait in America?

"These kids today, I tell you what..."  How many times has that been said by every generation in America?  Probably too many to count.  I do believe, however, that the kids today have outpaced previous generations' youth in their complete lack of respect for, well, just about everything.  Who's to blame?  The kids?  Their parents?  Our declining public education system?  Hollyweird?  I say, all of the above.

Children today are literally bombarded by bad examples of behavior.  Compare today's "role models" with those of yesteryear.  As a child, my role models were guys like Neil Armstrong, Chuck Yeager, and my dad.  Who do kids today have to look up to?  Professional athletes are  habitually in trouble with drugs, the law and all manner of other unsavory things.  Musicians?  Please!  Most modern entertainers can't even spell "role model."  Youth role models of today are best known for their latest brushes with the law, trips to rehab, or sex tapes.  What about the examples set by their parents?

I'm well aware of the fact that there are plenty of great parents out there, but the number of worthless parents seems to be climbing at an alarming rate.  When was the last time that you saw a parent discipline a child in public?  Many are fearful of reprisals from busybodies and law enforcement personnel, under the guise of "child abuse."  Others just cannot be bothered to teach their kids right from wrong, because it requires effort on their part.  How can we expect a kid to grow up into a good man or woman if their parents are lowlife scumbags?  Schools are no better these days either.

Most public schools seem to have completely abandoned the idea of disciplining students who misbehave.  If a child is not being disciplined at home, and their teachers don't bother to discipline them when they act out, take a wild guess as to how that kid will turn out as an adult.

Media outlets are plastered with examples of our youth's lack of morals.  Take a look at the "occupy movement."  All of those encampments were dens of crime, drugs, and all manner of filth.  Most of the participants were misguided young adults with a twisted sense of entitlement.  Where are they getting this sense of entitlement?  They're being taught at every level of education that they can rely on the government to take care of their every need, and a free ride is only a vote away (See also: Venezuela).  Thank you, higher education.

All of this is nothing new, but most of us go about our daily business without any real sense of alarm about this trend.  I don't know what the solution is, but an examination of what our kids are being taught in school is a good first step.  Since there are absolutely no repercussions for being a worthless parent, that fight will probably never be won.  I'd be interested in your ideas; fire away in the comments section.