Slaying the dragon

Before video games and virtual reality, kids had – get this – an imagination. Rather than rely on software, youths would dream up stuff and make some fun.

Most country residences and farms had plenty to keep a mind active and curious. Very often back lanes were littered with abandoned equipment and vehicles, parked and dormant,  ready for adventure.

Wasps and bees found these spots a good place to hang out, and regularly, four-legged creatures set up shop underneath rusting hulks of metal. It was only natural for kids to think these places were cool too.

On one of many outings at a neighbouring farm in our youth, we remember tangling with an old binder. The frame had long since disappeared into the ground but the shape of the implement was just enough for us to envision a dragon worthy of slaying.

So we took our trusty sword, which was really just a dead limb off an old maple tree, and proceeded to wallop and stab the old machine senseless. Apart from scraping off some surface rust, which is about all an eight-year-old could muster, it wasn’t much worse for wear.

Our gang must have been occupied long enough for the dad to wonder where all the kids had gone. As he came over the hill, the carnage we wrought seemed to ratchet up his blood pressure with every stride he made. We weren’t too long realizing the error of our ways, as his kid got a spank and a life lesson was quickly learned by the rest of us.

The slaying of dragons that day was harmless fun and nothing was really damaged. The stuff, probably there still to this day, was junk in every sense of the word. But it was his junk, not ours. That is the critical lesson.

We recalled that little story as we were filled in on vandalism in Fergus late last week.

Vandals hit the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life tent the night before the event, slashing and dropping it to the ground, while a few days later, across town the rugby hall had items stolen and broken. J.D. Hogarth Public School was also targeted with spray paint and graffiti.

There is something quite personal about this type of lashing out, when volunteer-driven initiatives like the relay or clubs and a school have their hard work dashed in a few euphoric minutes of madness.

Wanton destruction of public property does not have a specific address, since vandalism seems to occur with regularity across the county. Every community has felt its sting when public spaces are defiled or when personal property is ruined or stolen.

The questions that come up when vandalism hits home are many.

What joy can be found in making people feel bad and causing financial burden on groups that are doing the best they can?

How about the young students at any school subjected to profanities and graffiti at a school where they should feel safe and secure? Is that really what older kids do? Are the perpetrators making a statement or are they just idiots with nothing better to do? Is it possible their own hearts are hurting and they are inflicting their problems on other innocent parties?

The outrage associated with such waste and the heartache for volunteers is very real. In the wake of these occurrences, it can only be hoped volunteers don’t give up and instead bolster their resolve for their cause.

It would appear all these years later there remains a dragon left to slay – that beast being the absence of empathy for the hard work and good deeds of others.