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.