My sister, brothers, and I spent seven adventurous years at 110 Flamingo Street. During that time we enjoyed a neighborhood full of friends to play with except Down the Street Bully Brad. Unless you consider running for your life a game, Brad never played with us. Then again, we never really asked if he wanted to. Now looking back, maybe that’s why he was so bad.
As kids, we enjoyed all the traditional indoor and outdoor youthful activities. Darts, dodgeball, and water balloon fights, just to name a few. And yes, dodgeball and water balloon fights can be enjoyed inside. Unfortunately, the destruction they cause to the house and the ensuing punishment from angry parents is not so much enjoyed.
Even so, rarely did anyone receive injury from these traditional games, whether played inside or out. It was the injuries from the non-traditional games that sent us on almost weekly visits to see old Doc Sims. To be fair, it wasn’t just my brothers who invented injury-plagued games; we had a lot of willing accomplices.
Neighbor Thomas suggested the first ever frozen water balloon flight. To a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds, this seemed to be a very logical game. After all, it was the middle of July, and a cool bucket full of ice balloons seemed harmless enough. Besides what could possibly happen?
Thomas only lost one tooth, but it was due to fall out soon anyway. It took a week before Bubba Hanks was able to see out of his right eye again, luckily with no permanent vision loss. And Goofy Steve’s arm was only in a sling for three days before he was able to move it again.
As far as non-traditional games go, the frozen water balloon fight didn’t mount up the injuries as most and certainly not as many as modified darts (a game really started by my dad).
After most of the summer patching countless holes in the wood paneling, Dad had had enough. If we wanted to play with darts, it would be outside. So outside we went with darts and dartboard to the giant oak tree in the front yard. Instead of hammering a nail to hang the board, Bubba Hanks just held it. After all, we weren’t stupid. We didn’t want to hurt the tree.
A few misses to the target and two bull’s-eyes to the back of Bubba’s hand, we quickly learned it was more fun to run and throw darts at each other than at a dartboard held up against a tree. After the fourth trip to Doc Sims and three stitches in my elbow, Dad finally put an end to our outdoor run-and-hide dart game. Next up was a little harmless game of lawn darts.
Some really smart person, obviously who never had children, sat around a laboratory table during the ‘60s and came up with the idea of lawn darts: giant darts that are thrown underhanded to a round hula hoop on the ground some 20 feet away. Arming kids with giant lawn darts and telling them to go outside and play. Now what could possibly go wrong?
It was Bubba’s idea to create the dodge a giant lawn dart game. Quickly he discovered that, thrown underhanded, lawn darts are fun, but thrown overhanded, they become deadly spears, and the wide fins make them extremely accurate. One trip to Doc Sims for lawn dart injuries and Dad realized the folly of giving giant darts to a bunch of bored kids. All lawn darts were quickly confiscated and, in a preemptive injury move, so was our hula hoop. A lucky thing, the non-traditional hula hoop game invented by Goofy Steve was going to be really dangerous.
And lastly, I don’t think the person who came up with lawn darts invented the most dangerous toy of all — bolo paddles. It must have been a scientist who had a bunch of kids at the house. Don’t confuse bolo paddles with the bolo, two glass balls connected to each other by a three-foot string. Hold the center of the string and try to bang the balls together. Get bored? No problem, simply run and throw the bolo at your brothers and friends — hours of fun for the entire neighborhood.
Bolo paddles were vastly different. They inflicted more harm on us than all the other non-traditional games combined. A large wooden paddle with a rubber band attached to its center and on the other end of the band a small rubber ball. The object was to see how many times one could hit the rubber ball without missing. That number was intentionally around 50. Then the rubber band always broke. This was the brilliance of the design.
Dads all over Flamingo Street turned the bolo paddle into just a paddle.
For all you parents out there, be warned. Summer will soon be upon us. When you can’t stand kids in the house another second, tell them to go outside and play, but remember — any and all traditional games can quickly be converted into non-traditional injury-causing games, and then you too get to play a game: the insurance deductible and co-pay game.
And if the need arises, keep in mind that they still sell bolo paddles.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]