Maine’s Precocious Kids Play With Guns and Sticks
When I was a kid growing up in Maine, my family lived in a cave. When I was twelve, somebody invented fire, and we had heat and didn’t have to eat raw meat. A few years later, we got a TV, which showed us fuzzy black-and-white pictures of the luxurious lives led by the residents of such exotic locations as Los Angeles, New York, and Bedrock.
I learned a few things early on: how to outrun giant predators, how to make crude drawings on the cave walls, how to cure skins to make fur diapers to cover my privates during tourist season. In all that, I was much like the other children of our village, content to make it through each day without being disemboweled.
Today, Maine is a much different place. For one thing, in these enlightened times, disemboweling children will almost certainly result in a visit from a case worker with the state Department of Health and Human Services, which will provide the disemboweler with therapy and food stamps.
But it’s not just Maine that’s changed. Kids, themselves, have, too. They’ve grown more aware of the world. More connected to a larger society. More knowledgeable. More adventurous.
And way more violent.
I’m not saying we were perfect back in the cave. I once split my brother’s head open with a rock. I pulled the wings off flies. My tribe committed genocide against the evil dwellers in the next valley. But these simple acts of mindless rampage were driven by our instinct to survive. And to expand into the next valley. Nothing personal. Really.
Young people today seem unaware of these boundaries. No sooner can they walk and talk, than they’re preparing for armed confrontations. Video games, mostly.
Except for this three-year-old in Leeds. He was gunning for venison.
According to State Police, a man was stopped by the law on Nov. 14 while driving on a rural road in Leeds. Upon inspection of the vehicle, an officer discovered a loaded rifle.
Carrying a loaded rifle in a car is illegal, because, during hunting season, it encourages idiots to shoot out their windows at objects they think are deer, but turn out to be cows or yard sales or children.
Fortunately, the driver of this particular vehicle had an excuse.
He said he hadn’t loaded the gun. His three-year-old nephew had done it when he wasn’t looking. He told the cop the kid had been playing with the rifle and must have filled it with ammo. Happens all the time.
I know many of you will be skeptical of this claim, having concluded that such a scenario teeters on the brink of being either implausible or ridiculous. But I beg you to reconsider. Kids today grow up much faster than we did, and it’s not uncommon to see six-year-olds dancing in Old Port nightspots, four-year-olds gambling at Hollywood Slots in Bangor, and eight-year-olds operating medical marijuana dispensaries.
These children are different from you and me when we were young and innocent. They are different because they have Internet access, which allows them to obtain much better fake drivers’ licenses.
My theory that our youth are undergoing significant social changes isn’t based on a single case of an armed toddler. There’s also the story about the fourteen-year-old hockey player, a freshman in a Massachusetts high school, who announced on Nov. 16 that he was verbally committing to attend the University of Maine in four years.
When I was fourteen, hockey hadn’t been invented yet. Although, we did have an annual festival in which we attempted to slide on a frozen pond while beating each other senseless with sticks. The winner, defined as the person with the most teeth, was given a trophy called the Stanley Cup, because it was made out of the toothless skull of a guy named Stanley.
Of course, when I was fourteen, there was also no such thing as college. After high school, most kids got jobs killing the evil people in the next valley. Everybody else became a hunter-gatherer. One guy in my class learned to be a witch doctor, although these days he prefers to be called a holistic health-care provider. Or a purveyor of medical marijuana.
The point is that by the time I realized I could get a full athletic scholarship to the university of my choice merely by excelling at some primitive sport, all the places reserved for student-athletes had been filled by fourteen-year-olds. Except for the rifle team, which had committed to several three-year-olds.
As much of an annoyance as modern youth can be, they’re nothing in the pest department when compared to adults. For instance, it was adults who designed and installed the piece of public art called “Tracing the Fore” in Boothby Square in Portland’s Old Port. For those who haven’t been unfortunate enough to view this cultural landmark, it looks as if indifferent shop-class students left dangerous tool parts scattered on traffic islands.
For years, businesses in the area have been requesting its removal, and on Nov. 17 the Portland Public Art Committee agreed it had to go. “Tracing the Fore” will be dug up and moved to an as-yet-unspecified site.
Among the locations being considered:
Leeds, as part of a target-practice range for three-year-olds.
The Blaine House grounds, as a gift from defiantly Democratic Portland to the new Republican governor.
The metal recycling bin at the Carrabassett Valley Town Transfer Station.
Finally, no summary of the preceding week’s events would be complete without mention of the state’s newest baseball team. The New England Collegiate Baseball League announced several weeks ago that it would place a second franchise in Maine (the first being the Sanford Mainers).
The team will play in The Ballpark, the cleverly named stadium Old Orchard Beach was stuck with when the Maine Guides blew town back in the days when people still lived in caves and refused to go out to night games for fear of being eaten by nocturnal dinosaurs.
Now, OOB is getting a second chance at hosting a team, which will feature some of the top college talent in the country, including at least two fourteen-year-olds, a pitcher who’s only eight, and a shortstop who’s still in diapers and carries a blankie on the field. As a result, the town considered naming the team the Invincible Immatures, but that suggestion was rejected by the league.
Instead, it’s going to be the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide.
Its mascot will be Splash, the Playful Tide Pool. Or Itchy, the Damp and Uncomfortable Bathing Suit. Or, possibly, Justin, the Lackadaisical Lifeguard Dude.
Precocious children wishing to apply for any of those positions are encouraged to contact the team, while refraining from mentioning where you heard about them.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com, but be nice. When angered, he tends to throw rocks.