Hand Grenades and Water Balloons


The water balloon hit my face with the impact of a baseball-sized rock! Sure, it stung — and slowed me down a little — but I wasn’t gonna let it stop the mission.

This was by far the largest battle of the summer, and one well-thrown water balloon wasn’t gonna knock me out. Running over to where Down the Street Bully Brad and his gang of three were hunkered down behind a hedge, I grabbed handfuls of ammunition from my bucket, jumped around the bushes, and thought, “One water balloon isn’t gonna make me sit on the curb crying like a baby for the rest of this epic event.”

Then I got hit by six water balloons all at the same time.

Sitting on the curb, crying like a baby, I watched as the others on Team Flamingo retaliated for the bombardment I had taken. It was a sacrifice diversionary tactic that Bubba Hanks had come up with, and unfortunately, I was the one voted to be the diversion and sacrifice to advance our position.

The plan worked perfectly.

I must admit, the sight of Bully Brad and his gang of three running away down Flamingo made the stinging in my face worth it. Soon, I was laughing with the rest of the kids on our team as they continued to chase and lob water balloons. It was the first summer my brothers, The Sister, and I lived on Flamingo, and our team had won the biggest water balloon battle of the year!

Little did I know the war between Bully Brad and me was just getting started.

For each of those seven magical years we spent growing up on Flamingo, summertime and water went together like the Fourth of July and fireworks. Our summers were always full of water activities: water balloon battles, flips off the rope swing into fishing lakes, cannon balls and belly flops into pools, and the ultimate cool off — a quick swim in the Arctic Plunge of Cripple Creek. And a water gun ambush was an everyday possibility inside or outside our house. Sadly, I left such fun along with my childhood back on Flamingo so many years ago.

Or so I thought.

With temperatures lately reaching high into the nineties, I thought one of the best ways to cool off would be with water — more specifically, water balloons.

The epic battle I planned would resemble those not seen since the days us kids all ran barefooted back on Flamingo. It would be me against the Girly Girls, and I’d even wear a name tag that said Bully Brad. It would be two against one, but with my years of experience in dodging spitballs, dirt clods, rocks, and water balloons — they wouldn’t have a chance. Or so I thought.

So, what does any of this have to do with hand grenades? Just keep reading, Dear Reader, we’re almost there.

The Girly Girls and I went to the giant party store with the pink roof for our balloons only to find a lot has changed in water balloon warfare in the last sixty years. Gone is the arduous task of filling one balloon at a time. Also gone is having to tie each balloon individually.

Now thirty balloons can be filled at one time, and after they are full of water, they somehow tie themselves popping off their individual fill lines before dropping into a bucket. It’s better technology than an iPhone! And on a ninety-plus degree day, more useful.

Unfortunately, seemed everyone else in this county thought it was also a good idea, so the only self-filling water balloons left on the shelf were — you guessed it — those that looked like hand grenades.

See, I told you we’d eventually get here.

We patiently waited until The Wife got home from work to have our epic summer water balloon battle on the front lawn. The battle raged on for over half an hour, and I learned the following:

First, if you have a pack of 100 water balloons and three participants, each person gets 33 balloons, leaving one extra.

Second, if you’re on a team by yourself, the only tactic is to not get hit.

Third, if you’re the only one on your team, you will get hit … a lot.

Fourth, no matter how good your dodging skills are, you can’t dodge water balloons if, instead of throwing them, your opponent runs up to you and smashes you with them.

Fifth, having the epic battle on a lush green fescue lawn is a great idea … until you need to find all the burst balloons afterwards. It seems that green hand grenade water balloons are impossible to see in tall fescue grass.

Sixth, getting hit in the face with a water balloon today stings as much as it did back on Flamingo. Next battle, I’ll wear swim goggles and a bucket with cut-out eye holes.

Finally, what was the most important thing I learned from our epic summer water balloon battle? Don’t tell The Wife, “Here, hold this. We have one extra water balloon. Don’t worry. It’ll be safe. No one’s gonna get hurt.”

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]