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Don’t fall over yourselves to condemn suburb dwellers

LaSalle News Tribune

Friday, August 11, 2017  |  Column  |  

Natural resources (23)

There was a recent fatal fall at Starved Rock.

No sooner did preliminary rumors hit social media than people began speculating that the man who tragically lost his life was a suburbanite or resident of Chicago.

It turned out he was from Indiana.

Even though it’s often wrong, I’ve seen the same logic applied to almost any unfortunate incident reported — the crisis was probably caused by some visiting menace.

If it’s a crime, the perpetrator must be trash down here from Chicago. If it’s a fall at a state park, it must be some mouth-breathing kid from the suburbs, who’s never stepped off asphalt in their life.

I think it’s time for an attitude adjustment regarding those convenient scapegoats to the north because you might be picturing things wrong.

I spent 15 years of my life in the northeast suburbs. Yes, there’s plenty of gross corporate sprawl, shopping malls and even a Six Flags, where fun goes to stand in line before dying, but there’s certainly more to it than that.

I grew up one block from a lake, within a mile of a forest preserve and 30 minutes away from a quarry where we would dive and swim.

You might not conjure up images of a swimmin’ hole when you think of suburban life, but it was part of mine.

As boys, we’d hunt frogs, catch bugs, bike and camp — we even camped at Starved Rock, and not a single member of my Boy Scout Troop plummeted into a canyon.

Life really wasn’t much different up there.

However, I will concede it is readily apparent that most of the people falling while going off trail at our state parks are from out of town.

But that probably has more to do with a disproportionate number of the park’s visitors being from out of town, and the reality of driving an hour or more to get out to nature and finding yourself part of a single-file march pounding pavement and climbing wooden steps than any innate deficiency caused by living north of Interstate 80.

Finally, even if in your heart of hearts, you want to crow, “I told you so,” every time someone from the suburbs is injured outdoors, you might want to keep it to yourself just for appearances.

I didn’t hear this much banjo-playing, “You ain’t from around here” isolationism when I lived in Alabama or South Carolina.

It’s not a great look, and besides, such rugged and able outdoorsmen and women don’t need to build themselves up by tearing anyone down.