Surviving Childhood


Considering some of our misadventures, it’s truly a wonder how any of us kids growing up on Flamingo survived our childhood. To date, there are seven occasions where I should’ve met my maker, yet I’m still here.

But this story isn’t about any of my risky behaviors that put my life in jeopardy. Nope, this story is about some of the things my parents did inadvertently that injured us kids.

My parents never bought us a BB gun during those seven years we spent growing up back on Flamingo Street. And if asked back then, we would’ve said it was one of their greatest failures as parents. They never bought us a Super Ball either. But as far as I knew, no kid living on Flamingo ever shot their eye out with a BB rifle or lost an eye playing with a Super Ball. (Big Brother Richard did get injured when my stolen Super Ball hit him below his eye, but that was a story last week.)

Still, there were other toys we sustained injury from … toys our parents happily bought us.

Our parents had no problem giving us bows and arrows, indoor dart boards with real darts, or that ginormous lawn dart game. They also bought each of us clackers and the dreaded paddle ball “toy.” Here’s how each of these “safe” toys weren’t so safe after all.

Bows and arrows. When shot outside at targets, arrows are rather safe. Not so safe when shot straight up into the air. Note to Reader: after shooting then losing sight of them, running around with your hands over your head will not protect you when the arrow plummets back to earth.

Lawn Darts. The ginormous darts thrown at targets on the ground are rather safe — unless the target is directly between your feet. Also, throwing giant darts at your brothers when they are trying to run away isn’t safe either, but that’s what we did. I blame Mom and Dad. They should’ve known we were likely do such a thing and that someone would eventually get hurt and have to take a ride to see Doc Jim.

Clackers. This was a game with two-inch tempered glass spheres attached to the end of a two-foot string. The object of the game was to hold the string in the middle and then move your arm up and down so the glass balls could slam into each other! The faster you moved your arm, the louder the glass ball slammed. After an hour or so, the glass balls shattered causing shards to fly everywhere. Yes, even into your eyes. Many years later they were officially banned, but it was long after we moved from Flamingo.

Darts. What happened was Dad’s fault. We were throwing darts at the end of the hallway when he came home. In our defense, we’d only missed the target about ten times. But it was okay; the darts didn’t fall and stick in the wood floor — instead they stuck in the wood paneling. Dad got mad and told us to take the game outside and nail the target to a tree.

We knew driving a nail to hang the dart board would harm the tree, so we took turns holding the target against it. “It will be safe. No one’s going to get hurt,” Big Brother James said.

No, it wasn’t, and yes, he did.

When it was James’s turn to hold the target, he knew I wasn’t very good thrower. Still, I hit a bullseye on my first throw! My second throw came withing an inch of another bullseye. Embolden because I was doing so good, on my last throw I closed my eyes. And hit another bullseye! Unfortunately, it wasn’t the target. It was James’s elbow. Even yelling and screaming while jumping around didn’t dislodge the deeply stuck dart, but it did get Dad’s attention. After he and James came back from the hospital, the dart game was thrown away. Ironically, Dad used one of our broken games to punish me.

Injuries from all the toys above pale in comparison to the injury and pain inflicted upon us kids by the paddle ball game. The game consisted of a wood paddle with a small rubber ball attached by a rubber band. (Yes, it was exactly the same size as a Super Ball.) After playing with one of these for less than an hour, the thin rubber band always broke.

Parents were left with just a wood paddle — a paddle the perfect size to use when kids got into trouble — like throwing ginormous lawn darts at your brothers, using clackers as bolos, or having someone actually hold a dart board up against a tree as you throw darts at it with your eyes closed. (Still feel bad about that last one.)

Note to Young Readers: if you are ever paddled with a paddle ball paddle, don’t for any reason reach back trying to protect your bottom. Unless, of course, you want your finger broken, which brings up the reason why my three brothers, The Sister and me came up with the eleventh commandment.

Thou shalt not, for any reason, buy your kids a paddle ball game.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]