Friday, August 06, 2010

Weaponry

When I was a kid, we played with all manner of old weaponry -- slingshots, slings, spears, atlatls. We all had BB guns. We could throw rocks and dirt clods pretty well. We had peashooters. Drop a firecracker down a sealed-on-one-end steel pipe and a marble on top of that? A mortar. A roman candle? Yeah, you weren't supposed to hold them in your hand, in case they blew up or backfired, but we all did.

Sometimes we turned these things on each other, having mock battles, and even the commercial toys of the day were often dangerous. We had bows and crossbows that shot rubber-tipped arrows or quarrels. Dart guns with suction cup darts. You could get a Lash Larue bullwhip, and cap pistols from Mattel that would shoot spring-loaded plastic bullets. Cork guns. Spud guns. There were lawn darts ...

When somebody got beaned too hard with a dirt clod or a rock, we had to stop those wars. One kid caught a bamboo spear, with a fire-hardened point, in the neck, and we had to lay down that arm. People got hit in the eyes with the little hard berries we used in our peashooters. Even a top or a yo-yo could be made into something dangerous.

This was in the days when you could buy real guns out of the backs of magazines or from Sears and have them mailed to your house. I remember one little toy that was about the size of a 35mm film can with a rounded rubber pyramid on one end. You put a BB in it, stretched the dome back with the missile gripped between your fingertips, and you could let fly and break a window with the BB from across the room. Called, I believe, a "jonny popper," you could make one using a section of tire inner tube and a short length of pipe.Weaker versions could be constructed using the tip of a rubber glove, a condom, or even a party balloon.

I went to a museum once when I was about ten or eleven, and saw a boomerang, this back before you could find them in the U.S., then went home and cut one out of plywood. I filed and sanded the top as I remembered it, but I got the design slightly wrong -- it went out and came back, all right, but not like I thought it would. Took out the neighbor's car window with it.

It's a wonder any of us survived childhood ...

6 comments:

Brett said...

One of the benefits of those "dangerous" toys that generally gave you a few lumps, bruises or a minor injury of some sort but were rarely fatal was that it was an early lesson that life can hurt but that doesn't mean you stop just because a little pain is involved. Something I see going downhill in a big hurry is the willingness of people to work through difficulty to accomplish something. If it is hard, don't do it or pay someone else to do it and degrade them for being willing to take your money for it.
If you've seen the movie WALL-e, I'm seeing the blob people on the spaceship as a not too distant future. Call me a pessimist but all I could think at the end of that movie was that 98% of those people getting off the ship were going to be dead within a month if they actually tried to live on that Earth.

Mendur said...

"It's a wonder any of us survived childhood ..."

Some kids didn't. And in a horrible way, that helped the rest of us. We learned that dangerous things are ... well ... dangerous, and there are consequences. The kid who got to close to the wolf cage at the zoo and got mauled by them taught us not to go putting our hands or feet near wild animals in cages (true story).

The near misses taught us as well. With every stray lawn dart and misfired arrow, we learned, "Gee, that could have been really bad. Better not do that again."

Nowadays, with so much of life child-proofed for the adults as well as the kids, it feels like fewer people understand that their actions have consequences, and they are behaving accordingly.

Sometimes, I think our society is protecting people's bodies at the expense of their souls.

Some guy said...

Good memories. In Germany a lot of the sod is covered with this thick moss so the dirt clods are much more cohesive than here. So you can have the greatest dirt clod fights - like snowball fights all year long. Forty years later and I still remember the sheer fun...

William Adams said...

Agreed.

I've gotten back into archery since my son made a bow out of a mulberry branch my wife had cut and have been making bows for myself:

http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/topic/36869

and my kids:

http://www.archerytalk.com/vb/showthread.php?p=1055131626#post1055131626

William

Ed said...

I wonder the number of humans killed by the old rock compared to uhhhh modern weapons or for that matter saved?

James said...

I was working the Babe Ruth Girl's Softball World Series (hey! It was OT) and noticed the new playground equipment. It was all curves and soft areas. Next to it was an antique set of monkey bars, all bare metal and right angles. Those monkeybars taught you things about life like there's consequences for your actions. Kids today are subtly getting the message that the world will take care of you. Marc Denny of the Dog Brothers refers to this kind of coddling as "the pussification. of the American male". Danged if I don't agree with him.