The year was 1964. Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President. The Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Surgeon General declared for the first time that smoking may be hazardous to your health. I was 10 years old and still loved playing Cowboys and Indians with my friends.
The kids in our small town would roam the woods in search of the renegade Indians, whether they were Sioux, Creek or the dreaded Apache. We built forts in the trees and dug underground caves. We came home dirty every night, tired and ready for bed.
We used BB guns and cap pistols if you were a cowboy. If you were an Indian, then we made homemade bows and arrows, whittled to a fine point with the knife we probably received the previous Christmas. There were no rubber tips on the spears, as evidenced by the one that went through my brother’s eyelid, just missing his eyeball. The blood from that surprise attack by the Indians was all too real.
Yesterday Mary Lou and I took our oldest grandson, Henry, and his friend Brandon to Adventure Land and the new Xtreme Trampoline and Ninja Course in Dothan. Both boys are 10 years old and probably wouldn’t know the difference between an Apache and a Sioux Indian. That’s okay because I was not really sure of the definition of a “Ninja”.
We started the day out at Adventureland. Miniature golf was followed by the bumper boat rides with water cannons. The Go-Carts were next, the first time the boys had ever driven one by themselves.
We finished up with 15 credits each for the video games and rides. I assumed that meant they could play 15 games. However, since some games take four credits to play, I quickly realized the arcade was the real money maker in this place.
After lunch, we made our way to the Trampoline and Ninja Course. The first thing you have to do is sign a waiver, which their parents had done online before we even arrived. It should tell you something when you sign all your rights away before you even buy a ticket.
In reality, you don’t buy a ticket to the Ninja course, you buy time. $14.99 for an hour, which turned out to be a pretty good bargain.
According to one source, a ninja was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. They were trained in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare. Well, that is a little bit like cowboys and Indians, I guess. You could throw your opponent off the beam like we did as kids, only we were crossing a creek on a log. In our day, you landed in the water or mud. Today, kids land in a foam pit.
Towards the end of their time, after jumping, twisting, pulling and climbing everything in sight, the boys settled into the Dodgeball pit. This was something I could identify with, only they were playing on trampolines, avoiding being hit by artfully jumping around. It looked fun, but there was not enough Advil in Dothan to get me in there with those kids.
We finished the day with a visit to the frozen yogurt shop. It was one thing I could do better than the boys, as I used a divider to put three separate flavors in one cup.
The boys took their nap on the ride back to Georgia. I took my nap just after they left for their homes.
My first thought walking into the 40,000 square foot trampoline and Ninja course was that we have softened kids up since my time as a boy. Everything was padded and foam pits cushioned every fall. After seeing three kids hurt in the space of an hour, I realized these kids were playing harder than we ever did as a Cowboy or Indian.
10 year old boys, playing as hard as they can, coming home not so dirty, but totally worn out and ready for bed. Maybe things really have not changed that much since 1964, after all.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org