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9to5to9: In praise of dirt

Submitted by on Tuesday, 2 September 2008 No Comment

Forget the great neocon-liberal gulf in this country. The real issue that divides us as a nation: Dirt.

Based on extensive research, it’s a split largely along age lines. OK, I’m lying. My “”extensive research”" was a half-hour of people watching at a festival this afternoon, as I tried to listen to a concert but the guys preferred to get filthy. But I’m telling you, I saw a definite trend.

  • Anyone 60 and older passed by with a big smile and an “”atta boy.”" “”Careful!”" one grandfatherly type grinned. “”You don’t want to leave any of that dirt here.”"
  • Folks in their 40s rushed by looking as if someone had passed gas and they couldn’t get away quickly enough.
  • Younger parents scurried, hugging their children protectively and hoping whatever the guys had wasn’t contagious.

What the guys had was a whole bunch of fun, and not of the “”good, clean”" variety.

They clawed for rocks, presenting me the “”best”" ones as if they were the Hope Diamond. I left with 14 in my pocket. They drew finger pictures. They carved roads and made mountains. They then did their best Pete Rose slides into the mountains, ensuring that the clothes they’d donned just a half hour earlier were headed for the hamper when we got home.

Really, I don’t mind. The only time in their lives I’ve scolded the guys for getting dirty was this spring, after a neighbor left a water hose on overnight and one side of our house turned into a mud bog. Even that would have been fine if Big Guy hadn’t decided to play mud-pie patty cake on his brother’s head.

Otherwise, I love dirt and all its wonderful possibilities — as long as it stays mostly outside, and that’s easily arranged in the summer. Just hose ‘em off before they come in — the guys think that’s the most funnest part anyway.

Yesterday, we took a walk for the sole purpose of hunting dirt and rocks, because after a while Big Guy declares our dirt and rocks “”borrrrrrrrrrring!”" We found enough along a canal bank near our neighborhood to keep the guys occupied until sunset. They even hauled a pile home in the trunk of Little Guy’s tricycle.

Maybe I love them loving dirt because it reminds me of happy times when I was a kid. I remember many summers in Mawmaw’s grassless back yard, stealing her strainers to keep rocks from collapsing my buildings, molding villages from pilfered Tupperware. I’d go inside, bug-bitten and happy, only when darkness fell.

It seems, though, that dirt is seriously undervalued as a plaything these days. For me, it’s the ultimate — it’s, well, dirt cheap, it’s readily available and I’ve never met a child who didn’t enjoy it. More kids probably would prefer it to their Xboxes and wiis if only they were allowed.

Too bad for them. As far as I’m concerned, if the guys are happy traipsing around like a Pigpen clone, then I’m happy, too.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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