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They Were The Good Ol’ Days

I used to make jokes about people older than me who would say: “Those were the good ol’ days.” Sometimes, these people were family members, other times they weren’t; just old cats at the bank or the ladies at the grocery of the small town I grew up in. I’d question how much things had actually changed since the time they were whatever-age I was at the time and their current age: cigarettes were 15 cents a pack, gasoline a quarter a gallon. Two loaves of bread for a dime and an all day pass for entertainment cost whatever price your mind felt like charging.

When I was younger, cigarettes were $1.90 a pack, today they are $12.50. Gasoline prices range anywhere from $4.05 to $4.85, depending where in this city you are. Back then it was $1 a gallon. Two loaves of bread – depending if you want the full grain, the regular white or the half-wheat, half-rye, full flavor hop type – can run anywhere from $1.80 to six bucks, as a teen it was eighty cents a loaf. An all day pass for entertaining yourself can still be free, but in this world of technology driven everything, it’s a safe bet you’ll pay a nice sum of cash to attain the level of entertainment you wish for.

Now, I’m not saying these are the only things which have changed, because they aren’t. What I’m trying to say, and maybe the same thing those old cats at the grocery and the sweet old ladies from town were trying to say to us when we were younger was if you have the chance to do something phenomenal, do it. Don’t ask permission. Don’t question your morals. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Because at that second in time, it was exactly what you wanted.

Between the ages of 16 and 20, I did what I wanted. I wanted to love my girlfriend. I wanted to work construction. I wanted to spend countless nights under the stars, listening to the howl of coyotes, the soft rumblings of a storm in the distance, and drinking beer with friends. So I did. We’d sit around the fire, telling lies, and playing music as an escape from the real world. You may say we didn’t know what the real world was yet between the ages of 16 and 20 – and you have every right to – but you’d be wrong.

The real world to us, way back in the day, was waking with the sun to do chores around the farm. The real world was going to operate heavy machinery at the crack of dawn until the moon showed up. The real world was raising you’re children the best you knew how. The real world was raising your two kid brothers because your father couldn’t do it. The real world was realizing you could do whatever you wanted, as long as your heart was in it.

Some of us had parents who were in love with each other then and still are today. Others had parents who wouldn’t bat an eye if their spouse was killed. Others had moms, but no dads. Some had dads, without moms. Some went to Church on Sunday. Others went to the graveyard. We were not the same. But at the same time, we were.

Some of us were cowboys. Others jocks. Some of us were booze hounds. Others wouldn’t touch the stuff. Some of us played music. Others just listened. Some of us were leaders. Others just went along for the ride. And the ride was fucking amazing. We were loyal to the ones we loved and honest with the ones we trusted. We could not be scared. Fear lead to death. And we weren’t about to die. Dying was for the weak. The ones who couldn’t, the ones who wouldn’t, fight back. We protected the weak. All of them.

If we were asked to do anything, it was done. If our help was needed, we were there. If a wrong committed, we corrected it – no matter how dark the wrong was. Shoulder-to-shoulder or back-to-back we stood a many time. Out-numbered and out-sized, yes, but never out-done. If one fell, two helped him up. If two went down, four were there to corral the situation.

If any of us, or our families – no matter how distant a relative – needed anything, all of us were in, no questions asked. We grew together, we bonded together and we lived the life we wanted to live. But something happened. We started to grow up. Now, I don’t mean we were living immaturely or child-like, I mean, the bond we all shared with each other from the ages of 16 to 20, started to vanish. Not because we found dislike for each other, or we found new friends, but something more, I don’t know, real?

Now, everybody but me is married, most with children, working the jobs we knew we’d always be working, and up at the crack of dawn for chores at the farm, or sun-up to sun-down operating machinery or making a family with the woman you love. It’s sad to remember those times and the thoughts we used to have about things never changing. We were all certain that they never would. But now that I’m an old cat at the grocery store, I can only remember the good old days because I’ve slowly grown in to this thing called life.