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From the Publisher's Desk – Imagination Can Go a Long Way (May 6, 2015 issue)

It was a tense moment as the enemy circled on the outskirts. I could hear them quickly approaching. My heart was racing in my chest. The scenarios were playing out in my mind of the many ways this could go and yet it was the type thing that I couldn’t completely lock down. It would develop and unfold as the moments came and could basically take any direction.
At least I was safe behind the massive walled structure. It would take some time before they would even find me and could only see me if I allowed them to. Their forces could in no way penetrate the barrier I was behind. My barricade had never been tested but I had tried many in the past that survived and this one was far better than any of those.
The moment was at hand and it was time to make my move. I glanced around anxiously to the left and to the right. I had my gun ready, fully loaded and pointed to shoot. It had never failed me the many times I had used it in the past and I was a pretty good marksman, even if I did say so myself.
Quickly I darted out into the open with nothing whatsoever to shield me. Pow! Pow! Pow! I shot in rapid succession as I ran from tree to tree. Then there was complete and chilling silence. I looked around and noticed they had turned to flee away. I would let them go this time but they would surely be back. For the moment I had thwarted the enemy and protected the land.
I put my hand down, went back over to my cardboard box of a fort and waited for the next batch of criminals to arrive. This wasn’t an easy job for a six year old boy, but I could handle whatever my mind allowed me to.
There was nothing better as a child than a cardboard box, a loaded finger for a gun and an imagination. I am often reminded of the pet owner who buys lots of expensive toys for their cat and then notices the cat playing with a simple paper bag or box instead.
I didn’t have an iPad or an xbox growing up. I don’t ever remember saying “I’m bored.” I do remember a happy childhood and a creative imagination. I would much rather be out running through the yard than inside sitting on the sofa, consumed by an electronic device. My imagination never got dull after a few hours of play. It never needed batteries. It was never discarded for a newer version that was just out.
During the summer I played out many roles on my bicycle. That bike could be a bronking stallion, a high speed getaway car or a police cruiser that was chasing the bad guy. Somehow we seem to have less fear as a child of taking on the world. As adults, our imaginations play out to make the worst of unknown situations. As children, we dream up the scripts and play out the roles to what would be top CNN news if true.
When it was nighttime, I had plenty of toys to keep me busy as well. I could spend hours finding a place to experiment with a Slinky to see how it would amazingly “walk” down steps, off of the sofa, a table or other object. If I got bored with that, there was always the fascination of watching it stretch out and back in shape, like a bungee cord expanding and retracting.
I remember being fascinated by a large piece of string with the ends tied together to make a circle. There were all sorts of tricks for working it in and around each finger and thumbs to make various shapes. Each had a name, like the “spider web.”
An egg shaped container held a magical substance known as “Silly Putty.” You could roll it into a ball shape that would bounce. You could press it down on the inner pages of a comic book and make an impression of the image. Then you could take and stretch it various directions to distort the faces.
A similar product was Play-Doh. I had the deluxe pack, which offered all the primary colors. I can close my eyes and still smell the aroma when you would first open the can. Something about it was pleasing to this small boy. It almost made me want to eat it. Between you and me, I think I may have actually tasted a small piece once.
Play-Doh could be shaped into anything. Pieces could be pulled off and rolled between the palms. Structures could be built. People could be created and imaginations could be stirred by the possibilities. It was magic.
The closest thing I had to an iPad was my Etch A Sketch but I could spend hours twisting those two control knobs whereby I could mysteriously make shapes and drawings. A wiggle here and a wiggle there could produce some fairly recognizable shapes. Once the desired image had been achieved, there was nothing as fun as shaking the product to clear the screen.
At school we had a simple handmade item called a “football” that was actually a tightly folded piece of paper that had been made into a triangle shape. Using our finger, we flipped the object across the desk with a designated amount of moves to a designated goal line. If we were successful, we got to stand the object up on one of the points, aim at a goal made with both hands of a classmate, and flip the object through the goal (finger) posts.
I always had a game plan for my spare time. Don’t get me wrong – I got lots of toys. I just found that when they got old my imagination was always charged and ready for play.