Not unlike feral baby animals, kids from Arizona have to learn a few life lessons the hard way — most of these involving sharp natural objects, viciously toxic desert critters, and irradiated swimming holes. Here are some memories that Arizonans can look back on and wonder how we got out of the inferno intact.
1. Watching “Wallace and Ladmo” was a ritualistic household activity.
Or at least you heard about it all the time from your parents. One of the longest-running shows in the history of television, almost every Arizonan child has a fond memory of appearing on the kids’ program and getting their very own Ladmo bag.
2. You checked your bedsheets for scorpions every night after your bath.
You learned to sound the alarm to your parents only if the bug was an inch long or shorter.
3. You built an inch-thick layer of summer foot calluses from going barefoot on 130-degree asphalt.
You would hang out and play on the bubbling hot blacktop and limp home in pain.
4. You remember every stretch of the exactly six-hour drive to the beach.
Either Rocky Point or San Diego, depending on your parents’ style. There was desert, desert, desert, and more desert, and then…voila! The Pacific Ocean emerged, glittering in all its glory. Your car probably overheated on the way home, but we can gloss over that part.
5. You hung out at Slide Rock before anyone knew it was full of some gross toxin.
You have never paid the $20-per-car fee to get in, you had no idea it was a historic apple farm until you were an adult, and you’re sure it’s never been thoroughly cleaned up. But your childhood weekend swimming trips on that stretch of Oak Creek totally explain you and your friends’ indestructible foot fungus.
6. You hoped and prayed for one snow day a year.
Knowing it would only require an inch of accumulation or some report of black ice to cancel school.
7. You played in the sprinkler, the Slip ‘N Slide, or with Willy Water Bug on the AstroTurf lawn.
Until you were finally allowed to go to the public pool.
8. You lost a dog to a rattlesnake bite, a javelina goring, or a black widow nip.
Arizona kids’ Old Yeller stories are just a little more badass than people who grew up somewhere else.
9. Every June you and your family kept the tradition of frying eggs on the sidewalk.
And if you were a jerk, maybe you crisped a few unlucky ants with a magnifying glass too.
10. You got Rodeo Days off from school.
But due to state priorities maybe not Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
11. You kept a horny toad or tarantula as a pet in a loosely covered aquarium from which they continually escaped.
Sure, maybe they weren’t the snuggliest critters to cuddle up with, and maybe they didn’t do cool tricks, but by golly, they were loyal when you caught them.
12. The first car you learned to drive was a stick shift, and you practiced on dirt roads and/or in an abandoned strip mall parking lot.
Luckily, we have the wide open, overbuilt spaces for that.
13. It was always freezing on Halloween, but at least that meant the end of summer.
“Freezing” means it got down into the 50s.
14. You went along with your family to Bashas or Smiths.
Maybe you even licked and stuck stamps on the yellow Bashas thank you cards for prizes unknown, which seemed to make your mom really happy. You cut coupons out of the Republic or maybe the Citizen or Star, but probably the Republic no matter where you lived.