Highlands NC History: Must Have Media
Almetta Picklesimer Brooks, who told the story of riding sheep for fun with her sister Irene Picklesimer James when they were children in the 1910s. Courtesy of the Highlands Historical Society.

My seven-year-old grandson visited me this summer.  I did my best to engage him, but he lumbered about like a mesmerized computer zombie mumbling, “Must have media. 
Need computer.”

Slither, a phone app in which a colorful wormy-snake eats other wormy-snakes, growing in size and power with each gobble was his fav.  I played it.  Dang thing
was fun. 

But here’s the rub.  Many parents are using computer games to keep kids occupied so the adults can go about their business… like net-surfing.  I get that.  Parents need a break.  And let’s face it: we are living in a digital world.  Pandora’s Box is constantly hurling shiny, addictive objects at us.  They are hard to resist.  My gut reaction, however: Be afraid.  Be very afraid. Asimov couldn’t have written a better plotline for society’s creation of a monster within.

How does this tie-into history?  I recently read an interview with older adults reflecting on Highlands childhood occupations in Ran Shaffner’s “Heart of the Blue Ridge.”

Frank Potts’ favorite memory was of candy pulls at friends’ houses.  They’d boil sugar down to thick syrup. As it cooled, each grabbed a handful, paired-up, and began to pull until the candy turned into white, delicious taffy.  What a concept.  Burn the calories before you eat them. 

Kids rode sheep, played house, caught hoppy toads, hand-crafted corncob dolls, went on hayrides, fished the rivers, climbed trees, skipped rocks, jumped rope, played hopscotch and jacks, went on scavenger hunts, helped with the harvest, played tag, sat around campfires, told tall tales, tied rope swings to trees to sail across a creek.  The options were endless.  With all that activity, very few kids were overweight and even fewer were bored. 

Officials tell us our kids need more exercise, less exposure to media violence, and more one-on-one time with parents.  There is much to be learned from reading history. Thanks, Ran, for documenting the reminders. 

To learn more about Highlands’ past, visit highlandshistory.com, email [email protected], or visit The Highlands Historical Museum, 524 North Fourth Street.