By Ron VandenBoom
Perhaps the most unique thing my wife bought me for Father's Day this year was a toy pistol a orange tipped, plastic replica of a Colt .45 six-shooter.
While I'm sure most of you think this a strange gift for a 50-year-old man, I'm sure the explanation will clear up most of the mystery.
It all stemmed from a conversation we had a few days earlier when I happened to mention that as a child there was rarely a birthday or a Christmas went by when I did not receive a toy rifle, pistol, or some other toy firearm as a gift.
Most of the guns were also very realistic. No bright colored barrels, plastic orange grips, or day-glow stocks embellished these highly praised trophies. Their bright silver finishes, dark wood stocks, and so forth made most of them look just like the real thing.
In my neighborhood playing cowboys and Indians was a normal way of growing up at least for the boys. All of my playmates had toy guns of some sort and we brandished them with great pride when we competed in imaginary shootouts.
I also happened to mention during the conversation that while a teen, I was a member of my high school sponsored rifle team and the 20-point rifle range where we practiced was located in the basement of our junior high school. We also stored most of our rifles and much of our ammunition at the junior high.
I even have a newspaper clipping of myself, and the rest of the team, posing in front of an entrance to the school and we are all proudly holding a weapon.
The observation I was making to my wife was, "oh how the times have changed."
Today the idea that a school would sponsor a rifle team, much less allow the participants to practice and store weapons and ammunition on school property, is ludicrous.
The photo of me standing in front of a school with a rifle in my hands could never be taken today. In a sense it's a rare icon of a by-gone era that may never be relived or reproduced. It's a symbol of an age of innocence where guns were not the villains and even children understood the difference between what was play and what was real.
There were no "dysfunctional youths" trying to settle old scores by shooting teachers and fellow students and school boards weren't hiring security guards and searching school lockers with chemical sniffing dogs.
The school's greatest violence problem was the after-school fist fight that usually ended with more bluster than blood and a "dysfunctional youth" was the one caught smoking in the bathroom.
I don't mean to draw any great tidbit of philosophical wisdom out of these aforementioned facts. Nor am I trying to solve society's problems. These are just observations based on personal experience that show how much things have changed in the short period of 30 years.
My father solved most of my dysfunction by relying on principles. His first principle stated that "a pat on the back is good for a child just so long as it is hard enough and low enough."
What was amazing to me at the time, was the rich variety of situations to which this principle applied.
The principle seemed to covered everything from playing with matches and coming home late, to sassing the teacher and not playing well with the other kids.
I never had to worry about being dysfunctional as long as my father's arm remained functional.
Today of course the government would probably arrest my father while calling him dysfunctional. But there were several things I learned from the experience: I learned my father was there, I learned my father was watching, I learned when I made a mistake, and I learned that my father cared.
Maybe if we had a few more fathers around today who stood on principle, we wouldn't need chemical sniffing dogs and guards in our schools.