Salomons: From cap guns to stealing a car

Try to imagine the excitement I felt on my 13th birthday as I opened my gift from Mom and Dad.

The wrapping paper (old newspaper comics) fairly flew off the gift, as in anticipation, I opened the parcel. Once opened, I became the owner of a new set of bright, shiny chrome .45-calibre revolvers, complete with holsters and a western-style belt.

With a package of cap rolls, I was a force to be reckoned with, at least in my own mind.

When I was 13, we lived in a new home on 39th Street. Everything south of us was farm land, except for the new construction of St. Mary’s school.

It was kid’s heaven in there were huge piles of dirt, or mountains, as we called them. So those pistols would come in real handy to defend the fort we had put up.

By today’s standards, it all seems so schmaltzy. We weren’t angels by a long shot, but there was a certain amount of innocence in our playing. We certainly didn’t have aspirations about doing something totally out of character with our age group.

Recently in Oakville, Ont., three boys aged 13, 14 and 16 stole their parent’s vehicle and went for a high-speed drive. Inexperience and speed are a potent mix, and of course, as a result, they crashed.

The 13-year-old was driving and escaped with minor scratches, while the 16-year-old had a few more injuries, and the 14-year-old remains in critical condition.

I’m not making a good/bad statement here, but this whole issue makes me feel like I grew up in the wrong century.

Now that I’m writing about this, I recall that I also stole a vehicle once, in Holland.

I was three or four and a neighbour boy and I wanted to go to a park, but didn’t want to walk.

My buddy, also named Chris, suggested that we could borrow a pickup truck parked a block away.

At that time, no one locked doors, so we climbed in, and while Chris would drive, it was my job to start the truck.

I got on the floor, as he told me, to push down on the starter pedal, which I did. It actually started and headed straight for the canal!

Thank God there was a tree in the way, which we promptly hit, stopping us cold. I don’t remember the aftermath, but it must have been bad, because it is completely wiped from my memory.

Why do I mention this? It is not to make light of a bad deed, but it almost helps me to understand why kids today go that extra mile when doing something stupid. There is, I believe, a correlation, but also a huge difference, between my and these three teenagers’ misadventure.

Follow me on this, because this is the heart of the matter. When I was three, my friend and I took an opportunity as it was presented to us in that pickup.

Not recognizing the difference between right and wrong, we chose wrong. Since that time, I have learned the difference. So when I read stories like the one about the teenagers, it makes me wonder, did they ever learn, or worse, were they ever taught?

It is easy to criticize young people, and just as easy to punish them for infractions, but do we ever stop to think about their upbringing?

When you have parents who both work to put food on the table, something in the training of a child has to give. Television, as well as murder and theft games on the computer, or now on phones, are no excuse for untaught children.

Personally, I would still sooner be playing with cap guns at 13 and know the difference between right and wrong.

Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.

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