I was going to reblog Dan’s post today – the other Dan – the Dan that ran with a fast crowd of kids who lived close to the edge out there in the canyons of southern California in the time when ships were wood and men were steel. That Dan.
Anyway, Dan was talking about things that “could put an eye out” and, well that was just about anything when we were kids. A few comments were exchanged and then he asked a question that I’ve answered before. So, easy-peasy for me, I’m repackaging an older post. Ironically, Dan had already read it. Dan and I have been connected for a long time.
This post started a few years ago when a news story came on about a kid getting shot with a BB gun, Me and a guy at the bar both said:
“I was shot with a BB gun,”
followed simultaneously by:
“I wasn’t on the news!”
When we were growing up, being shot with a BB gun wasn’t newsworthy. In fact, it wasn’t parent-worthy. If you told your parents you had been shot with a BB gun, you would have been punished for playing with BB guns or for playing with kids who played with BB guns. Our parents were big into the whole guilt-by-association thing.
The BB that hit me in the leg did not break the skin. It left a welt that my dad would have recognized, but that was easily covered by jeans for a few days. The other guy’s BB had penetrated and was subsequently dug out by his dad. That probably involved a needle, “sterilized” over the flame of a match or a lighter. Given enough time, splinters, thorns, the remnants of bees could all be dug out with a needle. The gaping wound that remained after the digging was treated with Iodine or Mercurochrome, both nasty topical antiseptics alleged to prevent infection but which were essentially parts of the punishment for playing with the wrong things or the wrong kids.
One of the wrong kids in our neighborhood was my friend Mark. Neither he nor I had a BB gun, but we had knives we could throw.
I remember when I was given the first knife I could throw. You can’t throw pocket knives. Those are heavy multi-blade things that land body-first if thrown. Knives that can be thrown are single-blade items – dagger style. I was told which knives could be thrown. Tossing a good knife into the dirt is not a good idea. The instructions usually came with the “…I’ll take the knife away from you” warning.
In addition to trying to stick your knife in the ground or into a tree, there were two popular knife games: Split and Chicken. Split involved sticking your knife as far away from your opponent’s foot as possible. He would then have to stretch out until his foot touched your knife. If he remained standing, he would stick his knife and you would stretch. This continued until someone fell over. Chicken took the opposite approach. You tried to stick your knife closer and closer to your opponent’s foot. If he moved his foot he lost. When my father gave me a knife I could throw, he said:
“You can play Split but don’t let me catch you playing Chicken.”
Later that summer, Mark’s family went on vacation. When they returned, I ran to his house. He came to the door all excited about a new knife his dad had bought him. He yelled “watch how easy it is to stick this thing” and he threw the knife and stuck it in my foot. He threw it hard. The knife went through my sneaker and deep into my foot.
We didn’t know what to do. This was one of those times when an adult was required, but certainly not one of our parents. Our parents wouldn’t believe the truth. We went to the woman who lived between our houses. She took my shoe off and washed my foot in her bathtub. She said “this should probably have stitches” – “nooooooooo!” Stitches would require parents. A deal was made. She bandaged my foot (after a liberal application of Iodine) and I agreed to return later. If my foot was still bleeding when I returned, parents would be told. I can only imagine how a similar event would be handled today. I bet we could have all been on the news.
In the news around our yard: Snoopy has hatched her babies:
I can’t think of southern California canyons without thinking of Joni Mitchell