Barbed Wire, Safety, and Assholes

Barbed wire?

By now, I imagine most people in NWA heard about the 72-year-old man who was badly injured when a strand of barbed wire across the trail in South Fayetteville caught him in the neck as he rode his bike.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of trail walking in the dark. While I’ve walked primarily along Springdale’s incredible portion, I’ve spent some time on some of Fayetteville’s trails, too. I’ve joked about the endless spider webs across the trails on some early mornings, so the idea of hitting wire does give me pause. But only for a brief second.

It’s always a possibility that someone will misbehave. In fact, it’s likely. I know I run the risk of booby traps, nails, or weirdos (weirder than me, even!) accosting me as I enjoy the trails. Barbed wire is a particularly criminal item to use to hurt those who walk, run or cycle. There are situations where I would never see it as I approached, especially at 3 a.m.

As for Springdale, I routinely see patrols on the trails. I’m not sure how it is managed in Fayetteville, but anyone alleging that Springdale isn’t doing a great job of maintaining visibility isn’t paying attention. Even with the best vigilance, though, it’s impossible to guarantee that lesser people won’t attempt all manner of shenanigans. The police can’t be everywhere – but we can.

Yesterday, as I walked around part of the new George Park complex, I surprised a family sleeping in a white sedan. Based on the what I saw, they were probably homeless and using their car to park in less obvious places. When I came upon them, I had just emerged from the blackest part of the trail in that area, the one I wrote about a few weekends ago. When I was going through it, it went through my mind that someone could have put up 147 strands of barbed wire and that some anonymous person might find me crawling out the next morning, looking like Rambo after round 11. As for that family, it didn’t occur to me to react to them with suspicion, just an appreciation that the weather wasn’t an additional discomfort for them.

On the other hand, two weekends ago, I almost stepped on someone who was sleeping inside the covered bus area in front of the public library, after I walked past a large man who was intoxicated as he haphazardly ambled along the pond at the park. I wasn’t nervous, as the only danger he presented was the one he did to the English language as he tried to speak to me as he passed me. People are generally great. It’s up to us to follow through when we see things. People walking while intoxicated are amusing, not threatening, even if they look like defensive linemen.

Which brings me to my poorly-written point…

I’ve walked mile after mile in the last few months, seeing so many sides of this great city. As you might have noticed, I’m a huge fan of the trail system and of all the changes in Springdale.

However, there’s a lot to be done here. In my own neighborhood, I watched as a 4-wheeler careened around my little corner of Springdale. He jumped the curb, rode the sidewalks, and made a car come to a screeching halt as he cut in front. Kids were walking home from school at the time, as the buses had just emptied at the side entrances to the neighborhood. It’s not the first time he’s done this. A family down the street gets on dirt bikes and rides at 80 mph, doing wheelies down the middle of the street. Another neighbor drinks and drives. A few weeks ago, I watched as an obviously drunk driver tried to use his clutch ran over the curb and stalled his Honda. (I wrote about that, too, as a humorous anecdote.) Dozens of people witness the idiots such as those on the 4-wheeler, motorcycles, or careening vehicles. Until we stop looking the other way and tolerating them, it can’t get better.

I could list more, but you get the idea: people are going to be assholes. It’s up to us to let the police know there’s a problem. Before you ask, yes, I’ve called the police when I observe these things – and not anonymously, either.

One final anecdote, if you don’t mind. I wrote a story one afternoon this week, one about the futility of insisting that one area is safer to walk than another, or that it’s better to walk in the daylight. I didn’t post it, though, because I struggled with the implied prejudice of it. There are some beautiful places near my house and I love walking them. But to say that it is ‘safe’ to be anywhere is simply not true. The opposite side of Friendship road isn’t within Springdale city limits. There are some strange residents on that side, ones dedicated to a life of crime, if not mayhem. Some of them are the “AFTER” posters you would see during a drug PSA. A driver, for whatever reason, decided that he was going to spew his venom on me as he exited the Springdale city limits. He thought I was Latino, and I think he hesitated from escalating his anger because he might not have been sure who I really was or if I was armed. I might have had to throw him across the field, WWE-style if he attacked me, or run away, screeching. Those who know me well can imagine how ridiculously fast I would have been running through the field at that point.

I don’t look at the angry driver or the minor idiots and lessen my view of people. We’re always going to have miscreants and assholes making our life more difficult. Safety and security are the goals of those we pay to protect us. Safety, though, is an illusion. I’m as likely to get injured on the sidewalk outside my own house as I am to be decapitated by barbed wire on one of our excellent trails – and probably by that biscuit-eating idiot on the 4-wheeler.

For those who asked, I’m not concerned about barbed wire along the trails.

If you recall, I had a plane crash on my residence almost 30 years ago, on a clear Saturday, September morning.

You can’t take it personally when life drops the anvil on your cartoonish head.

You can, however, let someone know if you see someone putting the anvil up in a tree.

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