When our two sons were teenagers, I developed a deep appreciation for the many talents that those budding proto humans possessed. I am not only talking about ordinary things like their ability to produce grotesque armpit sounds or their penchant for beginning mealtime conversations with the words, “You know what’s really gross?”     
    The thing that awed me most was the knack that teenaged boys have for taking an activity that’s perfectly normal and turning it into something that’s insanely dangerous.     
    One summer, my sister, Janet – bless her misguided heart – purchased a trampoline. The sinister device was installed on the lawn at our dairy farm where my widowed mother lived. It’s not like Mom was about to take up aerial calisthenics, especially because she was well past 70 and had two artificial knees.     
    The idea was that the trampoline would be for the use of our two sons and Janet’s son, Adam, who was living with Grandma. The theory was that the trampoline would provide the three teenaged amigos with fun and exercise. It was hoped they would expend some of the youthful energy that boils off of teenaged boys like the midday heat shimmering from a blacktop road.     
    The main problem with this situation was that it assumed Grandma or I would somehow supervise the trio of scalawags. Right. Like I could stop fieldwork every few minutes, trot onto Grandma’s lawn and holler, “Quit it! Quit it! Whatever you’re doing, it looks like too much fun, so stop it!”     
    Once, when I actually attempted to do some parental snoopervising, I discovered two of the boys were jumping on the trampoline at the same time. They had found that by timing their respective bounces just so, one boy would get what they had dubbed a power boost. By using this method, they could launch one another to such altitudes that they would appear on air traffic control radar.     
    I marched over to the side of the trampoline and, in my best authoritarian voice, ordered the boys to cease and desist their mindless fun.
    “This might seem like mindless fun to you,” I warned, “but just think of what could happen. Look! The manufacturer even posted a warning sign about it. See this cartoon of two guys jumping surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it? That means, ‘Don’t do this, you idiot.’”     
    The youngest boy eyed me coolly and said, “Where do you think we got the idea?”
    That did it. I put my parental foot down and said, “Fine. But if you land on your fool head and become paralyzed from the neck down, don’t come running to me.”     
    Compounding the problem was that teenaged boys spend entirely too much time watching TV and consuming way too many extreme sporting competitions. We’re talking about shows that involve young people with supernatural athletic abilities performing all manner of dangerous feats using ordinary household items. They would pull off such outlandish stunts as jumping the Grand Canyon on an office chair or rocketing down a near-vertical ski slope on a pair of egg cartons.
    It’s my belief that these types of televised activities are responsible for promoting innumerable obnoxious phenomena like body piercings and “The Jerry Springer Show.”
    Not that I have anything against television. Like most baby boomers, I grew up with TV, watching such nonviolent programming as “Popeye.” Well, OK, that show was not exactly nonviolent. But none of us could stand spinach, so “Popeye” was relatively safe.     
    One midsummer day, I saw the youngest teenager rolling the giant inner tube from a rear tractor tire across the farmstead. At last, I thought, he has found something to play with that could not possibly result in injury. Wrong.
    Moments later, I heard the boy yowling in pain. I ran to the source of the howls and found him writhing on the lawn. Once his blubbering subsided and I had ascertained that his injuries were not serious, I asked what he had been doing.     
    It seems that he had placed the inner tube on the trampoline, folded the big rubber donut in half and tried to ride it. The inner tube had other ideas and summarily tossed him across the lawn.     
    “What were you thinking?” I scolded. “Where did you get such a lame-brained scheme?”     
    The boy snuffled, “Remember when you took us to the rodeo? That’s how they rode the bulls.”     
    Who would have thought that taking your kids to a harmless and peaceful event like a rodeo could lead to such behavior?
    An indelible lesson I learned from the trampoline is this: Whenever teenaged boys are involved with something, nothing is safe.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.