Pith Helmet

“The Danger Book”
June 4, 2007, 3:41 am
Filed under: Books

I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. ‘Give me five bees for a quarter,’ you’d say.
“Now where were we? Oh yeah — the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time.”

–Abraham Simpson

My son and I have been playing around with The Dangerous Book for Boys. Early in the week, we took his newest toy dinosaurs out and used the Book to identify them, or at least the ones he couldn’t already identify. Then, we made the two paper airplanes, the Bulldog Dart and the Harrier, for which instructions can be found in the Book. He preferred the Bulldog Dart; however, he liked the Harrier too when I demonstrated that the Harrier performs best when launched slowly.

The Dangerous Book for Boys is a compendium of all of those things that most boys experience, or should experience, when growing up, but which have somehow passed out of vogue in this era of Nanny-statism and kneepads. It includes everything from skipping stones (just like Andy and Opie) to making a bow and arrow and skinning your quarry. The whole books just smack of “when things were simpler,” what Glenn Beck calls “The Real America.”

The very first Ditto-head friend I ever had prefers to listen to BBC-7 these days; however, the other day, he gave Glenn Beck a listen. He wrote me to say that, during his listen, Glenn was not “talking politics but on one of his weepy things about the good old days when things were simpler.” His reaction to Glenn’s nostalgia:

Simpler? The other day, I made a dinner for my father and myself — a real boneless chicken breast (out of a package); buttermilk biscuits (out of a can); black-eyed peas (out of a can); thick, white gravy (out of a package). Microwave for the pre-cooked chicken; 15-20 minutes for the biscuits, a little more work for the gravy. From start to the table, it took thirty minutes….

When my mother was a little girl and my grandmother wanted to make a meal like that — which she couldn’t every day — she had to wring the neck of the chicken, pluck it, divide it, take the bones out, and finally get to the breast. She had to get flour and knead dough to make biscuits. She had to plant, grow, harvest, shell and boil peas.

Even if everything was laid out for her, before she could start she had to get wood in for the stove and heat it up. Fry the chicken (not nearly as healthy as the boneless batterless breasts from packages), cook the biscuits, make sure nothing burned or stuck. You could spend all day at it. I never heard a word of complaint from my grandmother. Never.

Those were simpler times? We have everything done for us and all we do is whine. I do!

Amidst all of my chronic nostalgia, it’s good that I am reminded every once-in-a-while just how thankful I should be that my family doesn’t have to depend upon my ability to hunt and skin my own game or, even worse, for me to till the soil and pray that something edible pops out.

Then again, should we be thankful to live in an age in which weakness has become the norm (at least it has in my income tax bracket)? There is a line in Apocalypse Now that perfectly summarizes modern life for most of us just as well as it sums up CPT Willard’s time in the rear echelon:

‘Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.’

This rings true for me, especially in these days when the room has a/c, hi-def t.v. and free wifi.

The desire to reverse that trend is part of what attracted me to The Dangerous Book for Boys (or as my son calls it, simply “The Danger Book”). It provides an impetus, however small, to get out of “the room,” and get into “the bush,” even if “the bush” just means picking up mussel shells and flint shards in the local dry riverbed.


1 Comment so far
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thank you so much for the thoughtful review of dangerous book!!!
Cheers, felicia

Comment by felicia sullivan

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