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Minnich: Heads up or duck in 2020? And how did we get this far anyway?

Rarely do I waste time and newsprint on predictions for the future, mostly because it’s hard enough to keep up with what just happened.

You never know, especially those of us born male in a certain era in typically American towns.

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The adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Flynn spoke to those of us who were here before you had to plug something in or charge its battery before you could function. Like most boys, I had a sense of adventure that exceeded my sense in any other way.

I was never lost, but there were times when my parents could not immediately locate me, which seemed to bother them a lot more than it did me.

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Family lore is that my mother put me in a harness, much like you’d outfit with a dog on a leash. It was the only way she could pause to check products in a store or peruse a magazine on a shelf.

Escalators were magical things which allowed those with an exploring bent to travel from Floor 1 to Floor 2 or even 3 in a department store. I was apparently not worried about getting back to my point of departure, so I would depart. And then, as one thing or another caught my attention, I would change course without filing a new flight plan.

Why worry? What goes down comes back up, and up and down and — the only complications came when I was nabbed before I was finished with my itinerary.

One story was that I was on the loose in a large store in Wheeling for more than an hour, which required an all points BOLO enlisting clerks from ladies’ lingerie to gentlemen’s hats.

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I have no recollection of that adventure; it was used it to impress upon me how much my parents sacrificed when they made the choice to allow me to live.

I had already forgotten it the day the little girl down the lane ran away with me to explore whatever was beyond the confines of what our parents assumed we recognized as our boundaries. To this day I maintain that it was actually her idea; she was an older woman. My part was merely encouraging her to break a small rule her parents had about crossing a busy road to my side so I could get a better look at the magnificent Indian war bonnet that she was wearing.

The red and white and yellow and green feathered war bonnet fastened under her chin with an elastic band. It transformed her from a rather chunky 4-year-old with a Dutch-boy bob into an exotic native American princess.

Once she shed her chains, she was eager to join me in a trek downhill through laurel as thick as a jungle to a neighborhood where we found a whole new civilization. I vaguely recall exploring back yards where dogs barked and a stack of cages full of ducks or some other large birds gawked back at us as if we were the funny-looking aliens.

Voices in the distance grew urgent with alarm. We were being hunted by a search party of adults who obviously had no faith in our navigation skills.

I don’t recall the punishment, unless it was becoming a parent myself later in life.

When you’re the grownup, you recall the time you shot an arrow straight up into the air and lost sight of it until it buried its tip in the ground 3 feet away. Or when you decided it was in the interest of science to find out what really does happen when you toss a pressurized shaving cream can into the trash fire (what you heard but did not see was found a week later 50 feet away, a charred piece of shrapnel after an orbit over the back yard).

Who knows what will happen in 2020? How did we get this far?

Dean Minnich, who retired from a career in journalism and served two terms as a county commissioner, writes from Westminster. His column runs Thursdays. Email him at Dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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