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The folly of youth? Maybe not.

 Using little more than their imagination, do children still play in the make believe world that was so dear to my generation? Our imagination was so finely tuned that Peter Pan had nothing on us. Of course there were no electronics available or we might have fallen into the same trap our kids now accept as normal childhood development.

Not to be indelicate, but we grew up post-World War II and the forgotten Korean conflict and even though I cannot remember ever fighting an imaginary Korean Commie, my 3 brothers and I sent a lot of “Japs” and multiple thousands of “Krauts” to an early demise and we went to war with them very often and for a good number of victorious campaigns.

Our favorite rifle was quite often a stick and not just any stick, but a hand-hewn stick that each of us took pride in selecting. On a daily basis, we would watch Sergeant Saunders of the TV series Combat and this would recharge our imaginary fantasy batteries.

While we lived on the corn farm in Michigan, we spent hours in the high cornrows patrolling and often sustained heavy casualties that we rapidly recovered from. Now I don’t know what you imagine when I say playing in growing corn, but it can be a very scary place. A lot of animals and reptiles live in a corn field, including snakes, turtles, fox, deer, raccoons, and coyotes and besides all that, it is very easy to get turned around and lost. Needless to say, it was the perfect place to play army and fight the crafty Huns.

Moving to the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio, we found ourselves immersed in deadly urban warfare which pitted a good number of soldiers to help us along with the same number to be “the enemy”.  In the city we all carried plastic guns or Cadet Rifles and the evening war began each night when it was too late to play baseball and lasted until about 8:30 pm when our Mom’s would call us home. I can say without bragging that these city boys didn’t have much of a chance against the band of brothers who cut their chops in the corn rows of south Michigan.

By the time Junior high rolled around, we were still hard at it and spent hours upon hours in the piney woods of North Georgia hunting the Boche and believe it or not there was still evidence of the Civil War battles in those hills. We would run commando style from pot hole to pot hole, where either cannon balls had blown a hole, or soldiers had dug down for cover.

We knew every crook and nanny on the trails through the bushes and dense thickets like we were on a sidewalk and where exactly the ambush we be so it didn’t catch us by surprise. If it did, we would all make gun fire noises in the true style of a cross between the monkey house and the blistering gunfire of the Jeep mounted machine guns of the TV series Rat Patrol. What I’ve described thus far is only a small portion of the games we played that took us outside the house and didn’t cost a dime.

When we lived in Ogden, Utah it was very hot and there were cactus and succulent type plants, as a lot of other vegetation would not grow. Our house set on a hill and abruptly behind it was a 60 degree slope that dropped down about 20 feet. My 3 brothers and I would take off our shoes and basically slide down this sandy hard-packed slope onto the desert floor and lifting each foot to keep from burning it, attempt to run up that 60 degree slope. Sometimes it took 4 attempts and we would grab the brother and help him up. It hurt like the dickens… but what fun! We would then dip our feet in cool water and do it again. Now that I think of it, the sand was probably about a 120 degrees.

Did I mention Wiffle ball? Does the Wiffle ball still exist? We played it whenever there were too few of us to play regular baseball or on the suburb streets under the street light (when Fritz wasn’t around to shoot at us). What a great game and at my present advanced age, I could probably still be a contender (as long as Jim Finley wasn’t on the other team.) I imagine Ol Jimbo has played his fair share of the tricky game and would snuff out my attempts at personal glory.

Mom’s and Dad’s back in the day didn’t feel obligated to provide every luxury under the sky for us and for the most part, couldn’t afford it if they did. We found ways to entertain ourselves and everything worked out just fine. The trophies we got, we actually earned. The money we had come from recycling soda bottles, or mowing lawns. Most of us grew up with rich imaginations ready to move out when the time was right and make our own way and most of us have prospered… after 30 or more years.


Anonymous said…
MM: Very nice. See the adventures you had.....
living in many places.
Anonymous said…
James Haley: Thank You Bert.

Great Memories, No matter if with brothers, friends, in town or country. you could always find a pine thicket,(Sam)
that were great for cover, and a lean to shelter.

Anonymous said…
DDC: Wonderful column in The Baytown Sun this morning, Bert. It brought back wonderful memories of battles always won. A lot of mine were fought in the Adams St. ditch and in the acreage between it and Cedar Bayou.
Anonymous said…
Melvin Roark: I couldn't imagine the same scenes we created as young boys and what it would do today, the neighbors would call the swat team down on us... with our 6-shooters and stick horses.... Good article Bert.
Anonymous said…
PG: Great memories Bert! I too was big into playing 'war', mostly by myself because my brothers were 5 or 6 years younger than me and had no imagination at the time. I was real big in playing the Alamo because Davy Crockett on Disney was really big, back then & even had his 3 big comic books. Have no idea what happened to them, but I sure wish I still had them now.

We had an old log building on our property that we called the 'barn'. It had a tin roof and spaces between the logs to 'shoot out of'.

We also had a small cornfield that Daddy planted...about 10 or 12 rows, less than 50 yards long and about 10 yards wide. Some of the 'hazards' I encountered in there were some pretty sharp leaves and some sort of biting multi-legged, strange looking critter that Daddy said would eat the leaves or the corn, I forget which, but he sure hated them.

When he got old enough, my middle brother & I did play some baseball in our backyard. I remember once I hit the ball and it right into our kitchen window. Mom had been sitting there a couple of minutes before, so luckily she wasn't hurt. But I sure thought that I was going to be whipped by her or Daddy. THAT was the only time either one of us ever hit the house or broke anything...playing baseball that is.
Anonymous said…
BAM: Bert, this is really good stuff.
Anonymous said…
That was a fun read. Thanks Bert.....Debi

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