by Brent Davis
We have all heard the tagline on an advertisement that goes like this: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste. It can be taken another step by saying an Imagination is a terrible thing to waste. I guess it could be argued that without a mind to waste, imagination falls the wayside by default. Perhaps this is true.
An imagination is more powerful than any video game on the market or any television show flying out to America on our airwaves, cables or wireless internet connections. But what all have in common is that an imagination was necessary for each to evolve as we know them.
Take a look around you. Everything you see started out in the fertile imagination of someone, whether it be the idea itself or the creation of the machines required to bring the thought to life. We need imaginative thinkers. So, where do you find them? Easy. They are our children.
Children have open minds that haven’t been corralled by society, norms or any other means that tell them certain things can or cannot be done. In a child’s mind, nothing is impossible.
For example, as a child growing up on Gibson Street I panned for gold, hunted for lobster, traveled a tunnel between two countries, competed in the pole vault at the summer Olympics and even jumped the Snake River as Evel Knevel.
The creek that ran behind our house was a small creek. But, if you looked closely, it was a raging river with high cliffs on one side and a jungle on the other. There were boulders too heavy to pick up and after a strong rain, the current washed over them in whitewater fashion. It was after one of the torrential monsoon downpours that an expedition set out to explore the churning waters. A blowup floatie became our raft. Old ax handles became our rows. Our hardy group of explorers traveled northward in search of adequate access to the river before us. Finally finding an opening in the jungle, we proceeded to carefully place our raft into the water, strategically positioning each member at various locations along the craft for maximum stability and off we set. We bounced back and forth from one side of the river to the other while sheer cliffs towered over us. The water splashed up on our faces and after hours of hard rowing, we passed through the dangerous rapids and arrived safely at our destination. We were a brave bunch and headed home for our reward…peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
This same river was the site of our gold claim. Hubcaps in hand, we made our way to the waters and waded out into what we believed to be the most logical place to find gold. With the cool water flowing past our P.F. Flyers and rolled up jeans, we dipped our gold pans into the water and gently sifted the sand and rock for gold nuggets. It seemed that after months of work, we had no gold to show for our efforts. So we abandoned the search and moved to a more lucrative endeavor. We decided to hunt for lobsters. While panning for gold, we had seen the elusive creature through the water. They hid under the boulders in the stream. It took a mighty effort to move these massive stones and uncover the lobster beneath them. Their pinchers were enormous and one had to be careful not to lose a finger to these angry crustaceans. Funny how a crawdad can be so dangerous.
At one end of Gipson Street, there was a culvert that ran underneath road to allow our creek to pass through. What the rest of the town didn’t know is that at the other end of the tunnel was a foreign country. The tunnel allowed us to travel back and forth with ease as often as we wished. It was just the right size for walking through. However, it was on one of the crossing that a member of our group was attached by a jungle tribe. They had not seen civilized men before. In their fear, one of the tribe members threw a spear that impaled the heel of our youngest member. Our eyes searched the jungle for the perpetrator but to no avail. He had disappeared into thin air. With the spear still dangling from his injured heel, we rushed our friend back to our homeland and to the security of his home nation whereupon he was nursed back to health. From that point forward, cap guns were standard equipment for tunnel passings.
Earl Bell had been a bit hit in Arkansas back then. His career as a pole vaulter inspired those of us who had watched him on our black and white TV’s. Seemingly out of nowhere, a practice pole vault pit was constructed in the backyard of one house along the street. A crowd grew and the anticipation built as the Summer Olympics came to Benton, Arkansas. With posts fashioned from old limbs, a big pile of old foam rubber and vaulting poles created from saplings, contestants ran along the track path to the noise of the crowd. The pole planted in the hole and the vaulter sprang close to 20 feet into the air, landing softly upon the large mat below.
At the top of the street was a stretch of woods we designated as “The Jumps.” This hallowed ground was only for the brave souls willing to speed their bicycle down the face of a large mountain and upon reaching the bottom at breakneck speed, launch themselves into the air just like Evel Knevel. Our time in the air was minutes and the feel of flying was without compare. A successful landing on the other side of the Snake River was met with a gasp and final roar for admirers.
The trick to it all is not to lose this joy of imagination as we age. Because and imagination is a terrible thing to waste.