57 Orbits of the Sun
I was thinking this morning about my early birthday parties, and a place called WEE Wild West came to mind. It was the kind of place we used to call a "Kiddie Park" although this one was larger than most. There are still a few kiddie parks around,there is one here in Austin called "Kiddie Acres".Wee Wild West was really something. It was located on the spot where the Houston Gallariea now sits. Like all Kiddie Parks it had a bunch of gentle rides that probably would not kill you if the machine misfired. They had little motor boats that were attached to rods and looped around a tank of water, a very small train,a merry go round, a small and short roller coaster and a few other rides.
The attractions I recall best were the self propelled mini trains and the Shetland Ponies. I don't recal the real name of the mini trains. They were small scooter like objects, attached to a metal track. A three or four year old could sit down on them without discomfort. A tall five year old could not. To propel this item of torture, you had to bend ove the front of the machine and grab onto two wheels on the front side of each scooter. Then, while painfully hunched over, move your arms as fast as you could, clockwise, to propel yourself forward (counter clockwise for a backwards trip.By the way, the seat of the thing was solid iron (burnig like fire in the Texas sun) and the wheels were always rusted.These items were used at Guantanamo on terrorists but that has been hushed up for obvious reasons.I never understood what was fun about this painful self propulsiom in that Houston heat. I'd have rather been water boarded.
The Shetland Ponies were the same as Shetland Ponies at every kiddie park. They were sad looking specimens with mangy hides and delapidated saddles. They were forced to spend all day, every day with a child on their back, often beating upon them, walking slowly around the outer fence at the park. They were the saddest looking animalss I ever saw.Imagine spending every day of your life, cicling and circling, one kid after another spilling popcorn and cotton candy all over you. Then you get a short night of sleep and tomorrow it is more of the same.Still, the ponies were the highlight of the park.
Could you take a seven year old to a place like that today ? Kids raised on video games,multi tasking and microwaved food. You could not keep a 21st century kid at a place like that for five minutes before the whining would start. I doubt that with current hygiene standards any mom would allow a kid on the back of one of those ponies.Times have changed a lot over the last 33 billion miles. PETA, of course would not allow the Ponies to stay at the park for any length of time.The park itself would have to carry about ten million in liability insurance which would cut out any profit they might make.I don't know how they stay open over at Kiddie Acres.
Regardless, here we all are,turning our rusty wheels in a clockwise fashion, circling the sun and trying not to fall off.We circle and we circle and end up 365 1/4 days later back where we started, a little older and with our back sore.That's the bad news. The good news is that it's a miraculosu thing to move around the sun, to see the weather change,the plants bloom and to hear the birds sing, not knowing what any new year will bring, but knowing that at the end, it was damn sure worth the ride.