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Youthful Things

By Dr. Dick Wieder

     There were three things of vital interest and importance to all when I was a kid that do not seem to be so vital and important now. At least, I don't hear much about them anymore. These things were windmills, pussy willows, and quicksand.

     As a child, I remember, windmills were massive, imposing structures built by the Dutch to provide wind power to continually pump water from land claimed from the sea. And every year in the early Spring (as days got longer and flowers bloomed) the teachers at my school seized the opportunity to test our immature artistic talents. Windmills were the favorite subject of those "artistic years." So, we all drew windmills. Surrounded by colorful tulips. The best pictures were always hung at the top of the blackboard for all to see! It was a yearly ritual throughout grade-school. Windmills were objects that while their huge size commanded a youngster's respect, they were symbolic of a deeper more ominous meaning. For here was a structure that revealed man's ingenuity to harness the forces of nature to do work. The wind, free, aloof, and smug, had finally succumbed to man's intellect. For without permission from the wind itself, man enslaved it for his own use. And with that, man's attitude changed. Now, nature was no longer free and dominant. It became a slave to man. And like all slaves, man ceased to respect it.

     The pussy willow was a much sought after plant in my latent years. Honor fell to that child who first spotted the plant in March and brought it to the classroom. And since pussy willows implied Spring, honor to that child who was thus the emissary far the coming Spr ing. It is a hardy plant. A long reed-like stem dotted with small gray bundles of fur. I never understood the reference to the felines for this plants name. For those small bundles of fur seemed more like minature rabbits to me. Proudly, the first among us to capture one would strut into class with a fist full. Into a vase with water , they were placed on the teacher 's desk . When other teachers entered the room , some comment would always be made about the beauty and relief the pussy willows brought. Of courser the name of the kid who found them was always revealed. And he or she would blush from the teachers praise. Even today, I wonder about: the symbolism of these plants. Now I know. It was evidence that in spite of man's destructive bent. Winter was now fast retreating from the onrush of new life. In fact, the pussy willow was the proof of that.

       Quicksand could be found in every adventure story and movie film of my childhood. It was always there, lurking in the jungles, waiting another victim. The worst death imaginable! To slowly sink into the oozing earth, fully conscious of one's fate, was the worst of all possible ends. If a damsel in distress wandered into it, Tarzan or Jungle Jim was always within earshot and rescue was only a matter of time. For everyone knew that heros and heroines never die in quicksand. It was as if the earth could not digest those who stood for goodness. Only evil-doers should meet such a fate. And so it was. Invariably evil ways led evil men down the brush covered pathway to where nature was hiding the worst of fates, the quicksand pit. There the evil ones screaming and struggling met their just rewards. In partnership with the good guys, nature thus would "take care" of those who would destroy and deface the beauty of the jungle. I suppose now with all the horrid high-tech weaponry at man's disposal nature has been pushed aside, quicksand has lost favor as a just end for unjust men.

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