A little speedpainting of the place i used to play when i was a kid, which wasn’t quite in my da’s backyard. I moved around stuff to fit all my favourite things in the picture, but i’m pretty surprised by how well i remember everything, even though i haven’t been back in years.

I’ve read a couple of articles recently (well, fairly recently, if ‘sometime in the past year but long enough ago i can’t for the life of me remember where i saw them’ counts as recently) on how kids today play outside less than they used to. That’s a huge ‘duh’, and usually blamed on electronics sapping their social lives and the ever-increasing homework load of NCLB killing all playtime.

There’s been other articles, though, citing studies which indicate parents don’t let their kids wander as far as they used to. I know if i’d been banned from the neighbour’s cowfield and the little creek separating his property from Da’s, i’d probably have rarely bothered going outside. As it is, i’m fairly certain no other kid moving into my da’s old house will be allowed to play where i used to. Part of the area i used to play in is visible from the kitchen window, but not nearly all of it. Many parents – including my mother, come to think of it, though the creek near her apartment was far deeper and more dangerous than the one near Da’s – won’t dream of letting their children unattended near a body of water. And then there’s the Fence.

I have no idea why the Fence was initially put up – or, rather, i don’t know why it hadn’t been there all along. It surrounded the cow pasture of the neighbouring farm, but creek side of the pasture was left open for years. Maybe the cows simply didn’t enjoy crossing the creek. All i know for sure is, one bright autumn day when i was about ten, i scrambled down the bank with the intent of going straight to my favourite tree, and found my way blocked by this thin wire thigh-high Fence.

Had the Fence been there all my life, it probably would have actually been enough to stop me from ever wandering into the cowfield. As it was, it stopped me only long enough to determine the best way past it. It was too high to simply step over, too low to crawl under – at least, not without significant risk of touching it, and considering how much it looked like the electric fence my grandparents surrounded their horse’s field with, i wasn’t willing to risk it. So i instead followed the Fence until it brushed against a tree with a low-hanging branch, swung myself over, and went on my way.

It never even occurred to me the Fence might be intended to keep meddling children out of the cowfield, but only two weeks later the farmer saw me playing out with his cows and brought me some bread to feed them (yes, bread. Mouldy bread at that, which they eagerly devoured with their long green tongues. Cows rock.) It’s probably therefore fairly safe to assume he didn’t really care about me hopping over his Fence.

The next kid to grow up in my old house, though, will probably get in significantly more trouble for the same adventures i had freely. Eir parents won’t want em trespassing on another person’s property; then there’s the danger of hopping over the thinly-iced creek in the winter or crossing the rain-flooded stream on fallen logs and rickety footbridges in the summer, or attempting to be friendly with the two-thousand-pound animals who wander the same area. How many parents encourage such things nowadays?

Well, e’ll have at least one tree to play on. And even a tire swing.

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