As time goes by, at what seems to be an ever-increasingly brisk pace, I have noticed that things that were once of great concern have seemed to fade into unimportance. I suppose it could be due to the misty nature of history or to the fact that life has achieved new levels of rapidity. In any case, what was considered actually dangerous has appeared to become much less so.
Since the late 1950s we humans have been provided with many exciting things to worry about. The good news here is that many of them have practically disappeared or at least stopped being so much of a bother. Of course, my experience is pretty limited and much of the following applies to my life here in the United States and doesn’t take into account what happens in Bolivia or the Arctic or even Nauru.
Looking through a few of my last 15 years of explorations into our “Big World,” I found some items that were big and now don’t seem to be receiving much attention. One of my favorites is what I chose to call “angry cow disease” but was commonly known as “mad cow disease.” For those who prefer correct nomenclature, it is more accurately known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which demonstrates why mad cow, as a name, was more popular. There was a time when I avoided eating dead cow meat because, as bad as this disease was for cows, it was much worse for people. The only thing that might be considered a little more positive about it, was that the human form had a more impressive name, “variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob” disease. In the interest of kindness, I would not wish either disease on cows or people.
Reaching back into my childhood memories, more accurately described as thoughts lost in the dense tule fog of history, I find more changes. I do recall a degree of concern about being turned into a pile of ashes conveniently located under my schoolroom desk. Of course, this was in the 1950s, so perhaps my desk, made of sturdy wood and thick metal, would have survived the nuclear flash and been enough to protect me. But it seems that in some ways, (here’s hoping there is no such thing as “jinxing” things), the danger has become a little less ominous because, due to the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction), most countries have lost interest in annihilating themselves and their neighbors. For an entertaining look at the innocence of the 1950s check out the Civil Defense video “Duck and Cover.”
Probably most readers born after 1975 don’t remember the thrill of sitting in their dad’s lap and steering the car. I remember doing this and have even fonder memories of driving my parents “retired” 1951 light blue Plymouth sedan at age 12. We had a 40-acre farm in the valley town of Delhi, population 900, which in the intervening years has gained about 11,000 folks. On our grape and almond farm was a lovely dirt road that went along the orchard for quite a way and made an abrupt right turn past somebody else’s tumbleweed patch, and then wended its way along for a bit and went up onto a canal bank, where I was required to turn around and make my trip back. When a boy is 12, that represents some real fun, especially the part where I was able to put the pedal to the metal, hitting a top speed of 30 or maybe 40 mph for a brief period.
These days sitting in dad’s lap while driving on regular roads is almost guaranteed to result in a number of unpleasant consequences including fines and arrest for child endangerment. I guess I won’t mourn the good old days because the deaths from auto accidents seem to have been on a steady decline since I was raising dust in Delhi.
Such is the nature of life for most of us. Bad things might fade into the past while other good things may get better and improve. It is my hope that 2021 has less of the former and lots of the latter. As always, time will tell.
Kevin Wychopen is a semi-retired school counselor and columnist for the Enterprise. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.