A couple of months ago while we were visiting our kids on the west coast, they took us to DOG BEACH. That's right. A beach just for dogs and their owners.
Probably half of the people there were throwing balls for their dogs to chase and fetch. However, hardly any actually threw the balls using just their arms and hands. They had a dandy gizmo called a CHUCKIT which is a plastic stick with a holder for the ball at the end of it. They could launch those balls quite a distance!
As soon as I saw a Chuckit I knew exactly who came up with it. It must have been a kid who lived in the country and grew up with sharp sticks and apples. Back then we called these sharp sticks "APPLE CHUCKERS". And September would be the time of year that we'd make them.
Step one was to find a good straight branch of a tree - about 3-4 feet long. Then you'd whittle (I can't believe I'm actually using the word "whittle" - it feels ancient) a sharp point on the smaller end of the stick.
Step two was to divide the kids that were hanging around that day into two teams. Once everyone had made their apple chucker - we headed off to the meadows where there were a couple of apple trees.
Step three was all out war. We'd be about 30 yards apart (or however far the two trees were that supplied our ammunition). Each team would quickly load their apples onto the sharped stick and chuck 'em as hard as we could at the other team. We were surprisingly accurate with these weapons over time.
We learned basic strategies. Nothing that would impress Rommel or Patton, but we felt clever. Two or three would load up, spread out and then start slowly advancing toward the other team. You'd fake throwing your apple, and make the other guy commit. Once you sidestepped it - all three of you could chase the unarmed kid and pelt him in the back as he ran.
We also learned to find dropped apples that were getting rotten but still had enough life to stay on the end of the stick long enough to get chucked. Get hit with one of those? Pretty gross.
Over time, our weapons were more refined. We all got sling shots from Ganem's Sporting Goods. I can still smell the thick rubber and the leather pouch that held the shots. Those were simply amazing - the range and accuracy that we had with them....
Sling Shots were put aside for BB guns. And yes, we had wars with those as well. We had rules so that no one would get too hurt. Only two pumps of the gun were allowed. Each pump of the gun compressed more air behind that BB. One pump and the BB wasn't going too far or fast. Two pumps and it would sting if you got hit. Three pumps and up were serious.
Nobody got hurt UNTIL...
We were hiding behind the rocks on either side of the pasture shooting our BB guns at each other. I still remember my best friend Kevin's scream: "GUYS!!! GUYS!!! STOP!!!!" And he was holding his glasses which had shattered. Don't ask me how he didn't lose an eye that day - but we shut down the war with Kevin as the only casualty. He had a pretty good cut right above his eyebrow. I think about that scene every year when I watch A Christmas Story and the kid wants a Red Rider BB gun and everyone says: "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!"
I don't remember the excuse that Kevin gave his parents, but it sure as heck wasn't that we were playing war with BB guns. HECK NO. We would have all lost those guns forever. We all eventually took NRA Gun Safety classes and ended up with 16 gauge shotguns, that were used 90 percent of the time to win frozen turkeys at the TURKEY SHOOT and and 10 percent of the time to shoot clay pigeons at skeet. No - we never played war with them...
Isn't it fun to think back on some of the things we did as children that (we hope) our parents never found out about? Every week I get the most wonderful emails telling me how my stories have touched my readers. Never hesitate to share your thoughts with me.
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