A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how we used to go out to play. Without cell phones, with no communication with home. No one got worried or frantic because a kid went missing for a few hours and I wondered if kids in this country really play anymore.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day today and we drove down to a branch of the Blackstone that runs through Rhode Island.

We bumped into a squadron of boys. Maybe 11 or 12? They all arrived by bicycle, ditched them along the fences, pulled off their outer clothing and jumped in the river. One of them wanted to fish and was distressed that the “no fishing” sign was up and we got into one of those adult-child conversations wherein I tried to explain that this is when the trout are breeding, so they need to protect them so that next year, there will be full-grown trout.

What is that on my foot?

I think the “cycle of life” explanation doesn’t mean a lot to 12-year old boys. They simply haven’t seen that much of life, especially when they live in the Valley.

I didn’t see a single boy with a telephone. I saw them with bikes, fishing rods, baskets to collect whatever they might find in the river. I watched them grimace as they stepped on something (yuk). Gather together to try and figure out what that thing is.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They were sure we were professional photographers come especially to take their pictures. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized they never see people with actual cameras. Everyone they know takes pictures with a telephone.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So, ergo-ipso, we must be professional photographers. After that, it was hard to get them to stop posing. They did want me to make sure to get pictures of them jumping into the river. I did, too. Proving that I haven’t completely lost my reflexes and also proving that this is a very fast camera! Garry got more pictures, from different angles.

Getting in is easier than getting out!

What IS that?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As one of them got out shaking, I said: “Cold isn’t it!”

He said: “Wow, yeah, cold!”

It was good to see kids just playing. No phones, no electronic anything, although they sure had nicer bicycles than we did! And they had the river and that’s no small thing. No one had to wait for mom to drive them to the beach … or even older, take the subway to a beach in Brooklyn or Queens. The just got on their bikes and went to the river that had the least current and was pretty shallow. Safe enough.

Down by the swimmin’ hole …

I guess the answer is that kids still play, just like they used to, but not in cities or suburbs. Here, in the country, they play. I would have given almost anything to have a river a place where we could swim, even if the bottom was gooey with mud and other unspeakable gunk.

What a joy to be a boy on a late spring afternoon with nothing t do but gather by the river and jump in. Even if the water is really cold.

Categories: Childhood, Garry Armstrong, Photography, River, Spring

Tags: , , , , , ,

43 replies

  1. I’m 63, and was remembering, just the other day, when I was a kid with my 3 siblings and we spent hours and whole days goofing off in the woods near our house. Acres and acres of trees and meadows and two or three streams, and steep hills and mucky swamps, all of it for us. We hardly ever saw anyone else there and we (and the dog) loved it. I, too, was wondering if kids do that sort of thing any more. It’s good to see they do.


  2. Swim like it’s 1972… I do see kids, even teen/early 20s kids put their phones down and go outside and play. Gives me a little hope. Funny about the “real camera” though – I have noticed that a lot of people take cameras much more serious now that everyone uses their phone. Still, brrr, it is too cold to swim!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trent, I think Marilyn was right about the kids’ reaction to our “real” cameras instead of phones. That’s a statement in itself.
      Sometimes, locals will give me a “thumbs up” when they see me taking pics of our lttle town. It’s a sharing of pride that you don’t usually find in large cities. As for the swimming hole water, I didn’t take any chances. But I shudda.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That river is REALLY cold. I noticed they didn’t stay in the water long, either. Brrr indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tomorrow they will have to paint the fence white, then they can go and swim/play again!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s almost as if you time travelled to take those shots but great to see kids out enjoying themselves and that presumably they have parents who are happy to let them without it having to be educational.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s good to know. The only kids I encounter have been my nieces and nephews. And they USED to play, but now (mostly all grown..the littlest one graduates high school tomorrow), it’s the creeping phone sickness. At our first and perhaps only family reunion last summer in Idaho, it was depressing to me to see them ALL fixated on some teeny screen in their hands, thumbs twiddling, and not playing. *sigh* If I were a parent, I think that sort of thing would permanently break my heart. It does anyway. So thank you and Garry for being professionals and getting a glimpse into a mostly forgotten world and sharing that with us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I am seeing is that they go through a phase with the phones, but they grow out of them. After a while, by the time they are out of high school, phones go back to being communications devices — or a way to listen to music or an audiobook. They aren’t great for phone calls, especially not in this valley where the lay of the land tends to make all telephone and radio communications dodgy, but they DO grow out of it. By the time they are working and have relationships, phones are communications — with bonuses. There IS hope.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. We used to swim in the irrigation ditches and ponds when I was a kid.
    Nobody needed to be concerned about our carefree enterprises of pure job and Freedom.
    Alas … much does seem to be gone.
    But children will still find a way to play.
    They must.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s harder in the city. There are fewer safe places to play, a lot of heavy traffic (the traffic is a lot more dangerous than the people!) and a lot more ways to get yourself into trouble. We lived in the country, really. It was a piece of the city that got enclosed by Queens, but never “grew up.” We had little farms which raised corn and cucumbers, chickens, donkeys, and geese. The geese used to roam around and the woods were empty because my parents BOUGHT those woods and protected them from developers. After they sold the house, developers cut down the woods and built condos.

      I don’t think that will happen here. This is too far from where people can find serious work. Lacking a local job, the commute to Boston is among the worst in the country. Unless you are retired, a local shopkeeper and/or work in a shop, or a farmer, this is a hard place to work. Still, I can’t think of a nicer place to grow up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You would’ve smiled broadly at the joy and excitement of these youngsters at our local swimming hole. It was fun just watching them. I was tempted to dip my toes but why ruin the good vibes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful country and shots. It’s great to see kids being kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it? I was so envious. There were no bodies of watre in Queens, New York — not tht weren’t a public pool. I did get to swim all year, though. My high school was the last high school in New York that still had a working swimming pool and we were all required to know how to swim — at least basically — before graduation. So every year, when they asked “Can you swim?” I said NO.

      The swimming teacher always said “YOU again?” I grinned.

      “Well, at least you like the water. Just go to the deep end and stay out of the way.”

      That’s what I did. I stayed in the deep end and happily paddled around for an hour every day. I never became a great swimmer, but I loved being in the water. Once school let out, though, there wasn’t anywhere to swim unless someoneone’s mother (usually Mary’s mother) drove us to Jones Beach, or we were old enough to take a subway to Rockaway or Coney Island. I liked Coney Island. They had better hot dogs.

      That was also where I fell asleep in the sun. I was torched and couldn’t go into the sun for weeks.


    • Patricia, the young fellas were straight out of Capra’s central casting. Good natured, friendly and seeemingly innocent. What a respite from the TV news stories about our youth.


  8. That renews ones faith in the future Marilyn, how delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderfully refreshing write that is. Nature at its best and some good action shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Good to know they still play. Those are great shots!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think in the country, no one is really worried about kid-snatchers wandering our acres. Boys and girls have bikes and ride them all over the place because houses are not packed closely as they were in New York. But yes, given the opportunity — not to mention a swimmable river! — they play. Oh, what I would have given for a place to swim for free!

      Liked by 2 people

      • It was a Norman Rockwell setting with snippets of “Stand By Me”. Excellent choice for our photo shoot. Enjoyable for everyone.



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