Give young people some place to call home
By JAMES L. WHITE, Times Staff firstname.lastname@example.org
"May the good lord be with you"
"Down every road you roam."
To the best of my knowledge, Rod Stewart first sang those words in the late 1980s, sometime around 1988. All my research shows he wrote the song with Jim Cregan and Kevin Savigar.
I never really liked Rod Stewart that much, although I can point you to no less than three women my basic age who would be all aflutter should he come through town and need a lift to Wal-Mart for some hair products.
But today we will talk about being young. There are purists out there who would say that rather than using Stewart's "Forever Young" song lyrics, I should have used words from Bob Dylan's song of the same name.
Maybe, friends, but more people will recall the Stewart song, so sue me.
I was thinking about what it's like to be young this last week. I am now beyond that time frame in my own personal existence, but I do remember my youth.
I grew up in this town, which is almost completely true. I actually was more a product of a mixture of Valley Springs Schools and my suburban Bellefonte home, but Harrison was the town we all called home after our own fashion.
As a boy, I did what many rural boys do. I hunted and fished with family members and learned to drive at a fairly early age.
Driving, to us, was the chance for freedom. We could go anywhere and do anything we wanted once behind the wheel. But, for a few of my friends and me, there were other wheels that came into play before we could drive. They were smaller wheels, but they held forth the promise of other freedoms we couldn't get anywhere else.
Those were the wheels on a skateboard.
Yes, I was a skateboarder as a boy. I could even do a handstand on a skateboard, or at least I could long enough to get my confidence up and acquire the following scars and cuts after I went down.
There were no places for us to go to ride skateboards, though. So, we made up our own little skate parks of sorts.
Once, just after the mall here in Harrison opened, I took my skateboard with me when my Mom was shopping. She had several stores to visit and I'd decided I would ride on the ultra-smooth surfaces of the concourse while she shopped.
I was careful and didn't scare anyone as I casually skated around the floor. But suddenly, as I pushed my way along the walkways, I heard an ominous voice on the mall's intercom, which said:
"Get out of here with that skateboard!"
I did as I was told and suffered at least a little parental wrath afterward, although not enough to keep me from trying to ride other places as well.
When I was finally old enough to drive, I would go down to Valley Springs and meet friends where we would ride on the sidewalks surrounding the school.
I still have one scar from one of those trips that reminds me of the hubris I felt on a skateboard, which is one lesson I learned the hard way indeed.
I have since left those days behind me. I have tried to ride a skateboard in my waning years, but I find my balance has gone the way of all flesh in much the same way as my eyesight.
And I don't heal as quickly as I once did, which is a major part of my decision to remain on fairly stable ground without wheels of any kind beneath me.
But one of the things I always noticed during my youth was that unless you were involved in a team sport of some kind, your activities were considered less than optimal.
Sure, there were other options than team sports, but they were ones upon which the powers that be frowned, such as driving fast, doing drugs or just getting into generally felonious mischief.
And, oddly enough, the grown-ups in town regularly bemoaned the fact that young people wanted to move away as soon as possible and not return, meaning there would be few young people to carry on the traditions of small town Arkansas.
Just this past week, city officials began talking about the future of a skate park on the municipal parking lot at the corner of Walnut Street and Central Avenue.
The general consensus was that a few older youth were down there harassing younger skateboarders and causing problems.
That's the way of the world - from Rainbow Tribe members to Hells Angels riders - some goobers can ruin the whole thing for everyone when they start trouble.
Not all children are cut out for organized sports. Some need independence in order to develop their own lives, and skateboarding is one of those individual sports where the rider competes against his/her own best/last performance as well as other riders.
What I am saying is, let's give them a chance. Let's see if a truly worthy skate park could bring as many visitors to town as a soccer or baseball tournament.
And that just might make the young people of the community want to stay around and raise their own children here.
Who knows? It just might make us all feel a little younger in the process; maybe we'll be forever young.