There's a chance in the not-too-distant future, if you're hanging around a major Southern city or on the open highway one evening, you'll happen across a mile-long caravan of low-slung, three-wheeled, two-seater vehicles of every neon hue and likely wonder if a carnival is in transit.
Folks around Memphis the other day found their city aglow in one of the fastest-growing motoring and social trends called slingshotting.
Nearly 400 people from states all around had come to drive in the Memphis "Slingshot Madness." A growing number of large cities are sponsoring "Slingfests" where strangers convene for a weekend, ride together, compare their vehicles and establish friendships.
Manufactured by Polaris, Slingshots are three-wheeled, open-air quasi-cars that are selling like, well, hotcakes. They aren't cheap, ranging from $21,000 to $37,000 plus accessories such as custom lighting kits, paint jobs, hardtops to match and sound systems.
And don't be fooled by the size when it comes to performance. A Slingshot with either five-speed manual or automatic transmission is built to travel up to 120 miles an hour. The fuel tank holds 10 gallons, delivering about 200 miles of travel.
My daughter Anna and her husband Stacy, who live in a suburb of Memphis, have purchased one and are using it regularly. She told me the other day they've named their Slingshot "Venom" after the Marvel character by that name. Giving these recreational sportsters names and placing emblems on them is part of the fun of having one, she said.
"I just feel so free when I'm in it," she said. "Everything is open and it sits low. I enjoy that open feeling of being in it a lot." She's in it more often lately than behind the wheel of her comfy, airtight Cadillac.
The latest event at the Wolfchase Mall in Memphis was one of the larger such regional gatherings. Anna said the biggest part of the fun is meeting other owners with different customized touches and learning from each other. Plus vendors are on-site to make customizations of all kinds.
"Meeting all these people at Slingfest who share in the same fun has been a big part of the enjoyment. You build friendships and camaraderie with people from all over."
I'm happy for them and their newfound toy. At the same time I feel queasy over how flimsy their two-seat Venom is (1,600 pounds and little support), knowing they are one bad accident away from serious consequences regardless of how well and safely they drive it.
There I go again, being a 77-year-old father.
Frederic Bastiac wrote his timeless book "The Law" in 1850. Since then its brilliant messages have been cited by noted jurists and even a modern-day president. His comments on the perversion of law, which I suspect would strike a chord with millions of Americans today, seem increasingly relevant in our nation, arguing that because life, liberty and prosperity don't exist because of man-made laws, government is just an extension of these natural rights, and its main purpose is the protection of these rights. Overstepping that role places government at war with its own purpose.
Bastiac also points out that those who resist plunder become targets of the very law that was supposed to protect their rights in the first place, such that laws are passed saying that opposing plunder is illegal.
"The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it. The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!" Bastiac wrote.
"If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow citizens to it."
Does anyone else today feel like the law has been perverted and weaponized for political purposes?
Bastiac continues under the heading "Life is a Gift from God": "We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life--physical, intellectual and moral life.
"But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this He has provided us with a series of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.
"Life, faculties, production--in other words, individuality, liberty, property. This is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation and are superior to it."
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.