Reader remembers a simpler Independence Day

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A letter to the Editor by Elroy Riggs

Tonight as I watch the fireworks over City Lake screaming their salutes to the stars and stripes and the birth of the United States of America, I can’t help but think back to a time when Independence Day was a little easier to understand and celebrate.

When I was a youngster growing up in the days before we were societized and governmentalized to death, I think we grasped freedom in a way that is missing in the children and grandchildren of our generation.

For one thing, we never locked our doors. It’s hard to explain to modern day folks what it means to have just a thin screen door between you and the out-of-doors. The only outside lights we had was the moon, and at least this time of year, lightning bugs.

You could step out into the yard and just feel freedom pushing in from every side. Most summer evenings we spent waiting to be overtaken with what coolness the night would bring. Mama would bring green beans or peas outside, beckoning to us youngsters to help snap or shell so she would be ready to fire up a canning the next day.

When we finally retired into the house, we never shut the big door. It was left open, except in stormy weather. From June to October, thin boards and tacked down screen was all that separated us from whatever was outside.

Now, there was a latch on that screen door, but it was just one of those old hooks. You remember the kind. It was meant to go through an eye screwed into the door facing, but we usually only had an old bent nail for it to slip over, which we rarely did. And that was more of a latch than our windows had. We never thought about intruders.

It’s a funny thing about those Independence Days of old. We all had guns, but we never worried about our equally poor neighbor trying to steal the little we had. We were so filled with the opportunity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we never really doubted that we would find them.

Today’s children aren’t really free. Not when they live in a society that demands locks on doors and windows. Not when they are left to fend for themselves through a latchkey maze of television, video games and computers. Not when they are deprived at every turn the most important element of life and hope.

How I wish I could take them all and share with them one deep breath of freedom as we knew it on Independence Day back when I was a lad.

Elroy Riggs