April 28, 2024


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

Junkyard Nation

Junkyard Nation

In the summer of 1966, my friend Alan and I rode our bicycles all over what is now North Garland but what was then, the uninhabited Wild West. The unspoken principle was that the further we got from home, the further we were from authority and the more freedom we had to engage in the acts of mischief that defined life for two eleven-year-old boys.

The map of Garland looked like it had been drawn by a mapmaker with a faulty pen. Shiloh Road spanned North from our neighborhood for a couple miles only to dead-end and then resume a mile further North after a huge gap of missing road. The only way to get there was to ride our bikes a mile East to North Star and go North for the missing mile, then back to the West for a mile. But the three-mile detour was worth the effort because right smack in the middle of that great expanse of nothing was Ray Miller’s Wrecking Yard — a goldmine of adventure.

Miller’s Wrecking encompassed several acres of picked-over automobile hulks that resembled turkey carcasses the day after Thanksgiving. It even included the gruesomely twisted wreckage of a 1961 Rambler station wagon in which a friend’s older brother had died the previous summer.

The place was a veritable Southern plantation of used car parts which were harvested by low-wage serfs, working for only enough money to purchase their next six pack. The motor oil-soaked dirt prohibited the growth of anything but the most determined weeds and lent to the scorched-Earth atmosphere of an apocalyptic Mel Gibson movie. There was even an actual mountain of bald, rotting tires. This was before anyone ever heard of the EPA.

Right smack in the middle of that wasteland was a tower of three delivery van shells, stacked one atop the other via the use of a humongous forklift. With no wheels of engines, only one or two remaining doors, and absolutely no interior parts, they offered the ultimate jungle gym experience to anyone daring (or stupid) enough to climb them. Alan and I were game.

Even with the bottom van partially crushed and widened from the weight of its two siblings, the whole stack was wobbly and could only be scaled via the rear door openings lest the entire heap tumble sideways to the ground. But we were young, lean, strong and yeah, stupid, so up we went.

The rusting interior of the top van was completely barren with a dashboard whose empty gauge sockets resembled the toothless grin of a NASCAR fan, but 15 feet up with an open windshield area, it felt like we were flying an airplane — which is precisely what we were pretending to do until a panicked parts picker spotted us and began screaming his head off.

Alan was more athletic than me so he swung down to the middle van, leapt out the back door to the ground, rolled once and took off at an impressive gait. Even so, that skinny alcoholic mechanic caught up with him and grabbed him by the shirt. Who’d have thought that guy could run? I climbed down the way we had come only to reach the ground about the time Mr. Killjoy returned with a squirming Alan in tow and exactly the time a great ape of a man in greasy overalls rounded the van tower.

The hairy-knuckled grease monkey clamped a vice-like fist around my upper arm and threatened to throw us both in the pen with his angry dogs if he ever caught us on his property again. We acted suitably frightened, then laughed all the way back home. But we never again ventured into that wrecking yard.

So, what does that have to do with today?
Just like those two adolescent morons who focused solely on their desire for adventure, with no regard to the irresponsible nature of their actions, we’ve somehow become a culture of self-absorbed performers, committed solely to showcasing our latest exotic vacations or gourmet meals on social media to impress our “followers”. Meanwhile, we’ve lost sight of commitment to doing what’s right and we’ve settled for expediency.

From “quiet quitting” to disposable relationships, we’ve sacrificed the determination and persistence that drove great thinkers and inventors to forge on in anonymity amidst repeated failure. By chasing the instant gratification of low-hanging shiny stuff, we’re in danger of becoming a throw-away nation every bit as apocalyptic as old Ray’s wrecking yard.

How do we learn to honor commitments that require more than a passing effort? How do we start reversing the current ego-centric trend, so our culture survives long enough to outgrow this adolescent lack of foresight? Or is that even possible at this point? I can hear those angry dogs barking.

Let’s talk. I’d really like to hear what you have to say, and it might even give me something to write about. Email me at guy@lawsoncomm.com.
I’ll buy you coffee and we can compare notes. I promise not to steal your ideas without permission.


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The Anxious Generation

— Jonathan Haidt

This book could easily be titled “How to Kill Your Kid in Three Easy Steps”. Unfortunately, it describes exactly how current parenting trends are doing just that. And, unless you skipped everything above and went directly to this book recommendation, you can probably guess what lies behind an epidemic of childhood depression and suicide.

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