Creativity vs. Wealth
When I was a kid I always wanted a go-cart. Or a four-wheeler. Or a dirt bike. Anything with wheels and a motor was at the top of my hypothetical Christmas list. I told myself I wanted a vehicle so I could drive around on the farm, take supplies to my fort, or rapidly explore the wilderness. All of those were noble desires for a young lad. But they are not true.
The truth is, I was perfectly happy with my bike and my legs. But I wanted a go-cart because all my friends had go-carts.
They would drive themselves to each other’s houses. They would have races and sled pulls and the like. I, the cartless friend, would have to ride passenger. Or even worse, just stand by and watch the fun antics. This is when I was invited at all.
I never got my go-cart. Or a dirt bike. Of four-wheeler. My family wasn’t poor, but we couldn’t afford that particular luxury. Looking back, I am glad for this. I never got a go-cart, but I got something else. I got the Road Runner.
The Road Runner was an old Murray riding lawn mower. It was red, with the engine in the back and driving column in the front. My dad removed the mower blade, so the thing had about a foot of clearance from the ground. On the back he fashioned a bed, complete with stock racks that looked like his own pickup truck.
The Road Runner had a top speed of slightly-slower-than-walking. Hence the clever name. But what it lacked up in speed it made up for in toughness. The Road Runner met few obstacles it couldn’t handle. It could crawl over rocks and climb hills.
A few times I would take it up a hill so steep I would leap off the vehicle for fear it would roll over backwards. But it never did. The machine just tugged along, driverless, to the top of the hill where I would jump back on. The little ex-lawnmower that could. And its intrepid operator.
The machine was back heavy, and as a result would pope huge wheelies if you weren’t careful. I wasn’t careful a lot. My friends go-carts may have been fast, but I never saw them driving along on just their back wheels.
In my mind the Road Runner was a truck, a tank, a train, and a spaceship all rolled into one. I took that thing everywhere I could, and plenty of places I shouldn’t have. It was a friend in exploration, a tool for construction. A menace to birds and prairie dogs.
I never really got over my desire for a go-cart. I still sort of want one, even though I am an adult with a real car to drive. But I am glad I never got a go-cart. Everyone wants to have the same things as their friends. Not everyone gets the opportunity to have something special and unique instead.
Had my parents been wealthier, I’m sure they would have loved to give me a go-cart. They are not the type to deprive children. The old lawnmower would have gone to the scarp heap. I would have never learned that a piece of junk could become a valuable treasure.
The greatest lesson I learned from the Road Runner, besides how to fix a flat tire or troubleshoot problems with a motor, was this: That in the face of want, creativity can provide great comfort.
Money is fine and good. It buys toys and helps you fit in. But creativity beats wealth every time.
Maybe, someday in the distant future, we won’t have to make that choice.
Great blog! Your writing of longing, why and when, is evocative of my childhood also. What a wonderful recycled ride you had….and the experience of keeping it going.
Great Nuncle Gumby
Thanks for the comment, Uncle Nate. It is good to hear from you!
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