I Could Have Been Newsworthy

“Careful – You can put an eye out!”

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


  1. Ha! How universal a topic is this. And you guys don’t have the market cornered on knife and BB gun tales. When I was 9 a favorite uncle gave me an Annie Oakley BB gun which I was quite proud of and a very good aim. As all kids will do, some roudy neighbors(whom my Mom eventually forbade us to play) while I was practicing my skills by shooting an inncoent young tree sapling along the back fence. Let’s call her Sylvia (cuz tha was her name) decided to make a bonzai run across the fence in front of me as I was taking aim. Fortunately the BB bounced off of her oh too tight pink pedal pushers and left an indentation and a sore spot which we quickly stuffed into the vault of kid secrets. Not so secret was my 8 year old brother finally getting a Swiss Army knife, only to take it outside, proceed to stab the dirt (between his feet) and bury it in the top of his foot. Bye bye Army knife. Oh, and we had an unfortunate kid across the street in another neighborhoof whose sister accidentally shot him in the side of the head with a BB gun. After a hospital stay it was decided to leave it lodged in the space between his skin and skull rather than risk openeing him up. I don’t think it’s eyes we have to worry about after all, Ralphie. 😏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quite the little cowgirl, Cheryl. Doesn’t sound like it was all bad influence by neighbors. I’m now picturing you drawing a bead on poor Sylvia’s bottom.

      So, your brother stabbed himself? I’m guessing no one gave him a gun. Thanks for adding to the pike of fun memories and narrow escapes.


  2. Hi Dan. I got shot in the buttocks (being polite here:-) when I was about 10. Walking down our road to the shop on the corner and – wow, that hurt! Never told my parents. That would have opened up questions all down the street trying to find the culprit. If I have it right, we call them air rifles.
    David – from the UK

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll still play chicken with anybody ;)
    Mine and my little brothers version was a little different though (and a bit more dumb, but we were kids so whatever, lol) We’d put our forearms together and drop a freshly lit cigarette between them and the first to flinch lost. We both still have the scar from the last time we played 20+ years ago. We let that smoke burn down to the filter.
    To say that ma was ticked would be an understatement, but not so much so when she saw we both had the same burn in the same place. Never did ask us about it though. Just made sure we kept it clean, Lol.
    Oh, and I was 19 at the time. He was 13. :P

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never heard that, sounds like an interesting twist. I think i’d rather be stabbed than burned. I mean, if I had to choose. The weird thing about my dad, is that it would have been hard to take a hard stand, because he did all these things when he was a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan, this is without doubt one of your best. Nowadays the kids would land in “juvie” and the adults arrested for child endangerment or worse.
    Who knows what would have happened at my house… when they found my 2 year old self toddling along the side of a main highway, or great grandpa giving me whiskey for teething. Or…
    Have a great new week. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My husband has always carried a knife in his pocket. Started at an early age…..boys and their toys! Did your parents ever find out about the knife in your foot? That was one nice neighbor you had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To my knowledge, Lois, they never found out. The neighbor wasn’t entirely nice. She and her husband were our goto parent lookalikes, but they always followed their performance with requests for us to help them with chores. I think my dad picked up on that trend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We used to call the knife game “stretch” because in our version, you could lay down and touch a hand to the furthest spot. You have to believe that “split” or “stretch” or whatever kids called it, inspired the game “Twister”

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good observation. Split without the danger factor. I’m glad I wasn’t laying down when he threw that knife. Who knows where that would have landed.


  7. There are so many things today that I roll my eyes at. Yes, the crazy “nothing” things that end up on the news, as well as injuries that today are treated as life or death emergencies, which when I was a kid, a pat on the back and a Popsicle could cure.

    I was about 4 when I got my first knife. Amazingly, I don’t ever remember cutting myself (and thank God I never heard of the games you mentioned!). Though the irony is that now, I’m constantly cutting myself! I can’t even look at a knife without starting to bleed. I think maybe it’s a hereditary problem: my mom had the same penchant for getting cut and burned no matter how careful she was. One day we were in the garden pulling rhubarb, and while sitting on a stool, she yanked off a piece of it — while holding the knife towards herself. I just remember a gasp, I looked down, and the knife was sticking out of her knee, blood trickling down her leg. Then we both started laughing, I made a crack about “you and knives!” (I guess I can’t talk now! ;P), I ran inside, grabbed a kleenex and a band-aid, came back out, she cleaned it up, and we finished with the rhubarb. If that happened today, the person would be taken by air ambulance to the hospital, where they would be given an x-ray, tetanus shot, morphine drip, and a month’s worth of antibiotics. Then the person would sue the makers of the knife, and win $500,000 in punitive damages. Not to mention the $200,000 awarded by the judge for pain and suffering. Then they’d go on unemployment insurance for the rest of their life. Oh, and while all these things were happening, someone would have been filming it all, then uploaded it to YouTube where it went viral, and they make even MORE money for absolutely nothing, the end.

    Pft, I didn’t even bring my mom a Popsicle. My, how things change… ;P

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Walk it off” “Let the air hit it” and “you’ll be a man before your mother” were my dad’s favorite comments when we would get cut or scuffed up. I went to the hospital for a nasty gash above and below my left eye. That required a bunch of stitches, so good call on mom’s part. But yeah, getting cut while working resulted in a band-aid at best. Usually after “if it doesn’t stop bleeding on it’s own…”

      I love the scenario you laid out on the events as they would happen today.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Aha that knife game is surely one of its kind! Split and chick…too funny! None of us during my school days was playing anywhere near knives, perhaps not that I know of…haha…another insteresting story! Thanks foR sharing! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I was young, I was sitting behind a box while my cousin tossed darts at it. Yeah, one missed and stuck in my arm. I shrieked. My cousin’s mother came down, saw what had happened, and smacked me on the behind for scaring her. “I thought you put your eye out!” Then she took me to the doctor for a tetanus shot — she was a bug for tetanus shots! That might be why I’m allergic to tetanus shots now, from getting too many of them when I was young, ya think?

    My husband, who is a bit older than I am, was more from the “whatever” culture. When he jumped off the shed roof playing Superman and got a nail through his foot, they just wrapped his foot in bacon and ignored it until red streaks shot up his legs. THEN they took him to the doctor.

    It’s a wonder any of us survived to procreate, isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I guess you shouldn’t have screamed – that’s funny.

      Tetanus shots are supposed to be good for 10 years. I’ve had one in every decade of my life. I’ve had a dart stuck in my head and I’ve had cuts near my eye but escaped with everything working. I had my knee wrapped in bacon when I had a Boil. It did draw the gunk out, but it seemed like a tragic waste of bacon.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. All the boys carried knives in those days , jack knives or Swiss Army knives ( show offs ! ) , to sharpen sticks with or carve their names in trees ( bad kids ! ) . My crown didn’t play Chicken or Stretch , though . Maybe that’s an east coast thing ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, the easy going west coast kids. We carried pocket knives, but, as you say, for carving, cutting and shaping. Thanks for the inspiration on this one, Dan.


  11. My husband and his blades… How would I even write that post? Something to ponder.
    Great post for Know Your Audience! Your story’s a funny one, and only funny to people who lived without constant intervention from parents and who knew their neighbors, hm? That’s a whole other post or five, right there.
    I never did anything like that. I think the most dangerous thing I ever did was jump from a second story window.
    Also, I miss Mercurochrome. It worked.
    Last night I was tryin to think of the stuff we got sprayed on us as kids. That stuff that burned at first, but then took the sting out. You remember that stuff?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. OUCH! I’ve had a few wounds doused with Mercurochrome and Iodine. That stuff stings, but was effective. :)

    My Dad was an avid hunter, and shot competitively when we were growing up so when my brother was 8 my Dad gave him a BB gun. My brother wasted no time taking it out to practice after listening to my Dad’s lecture about what he could and couldn’t shoot.
    My brother went to a couple of empty houses in the neighborhood and shot holes in the windows. Of course he got caught. He got the strap and his BB gun taken away for a time. He was just practicing he said. He also had to pay for all those window repairs. I can’t remember me ever trying it out, but I was a lousy shot and couldn’t hit the side of a barn.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dan, I got stories of near misses from my sons when they were middle-aged! When they were kids, if it was a serious target hit, I was told, not Dad! I’d be the messenger, starting with the kids are alive, but…(shaking head) so many hair-raising adventures we parents are told years later though. Yikes…for your posts too! Happy week! 🎶 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  14. How did we every survive…and even thrive??? No seat belts, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood, playing outside all the time, going to parks without our parents and when falling off something on the playground wasn’t grounds for a lawsuit, etc. I can scarcely believe there are any people left alive.


    Liked by 1 person

  15. I had these huge set of G. I. Joes figurines which I collected one by one and I was too busy creating my own stories and warfare and rescue missions. Not much into guns.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Mercurichrome….. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! Supposedly was less painful than iodine… yeah, right. One of our favorite curses when I was, “I hope you slide down a 50-foot razor blade into a vat of mercurichrome!”

    Dad showed us how to play mumbley-peg once, then told us “don’t let your mother catch you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I don’t like to see kids playing with knives. When I was a youngster, I stuck a knife in my big toe. It didn’t leave any permanent damage but I remember how scared my parents were.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is so chock full of stuff that would raise hairs and attention, Dan!
    I had two brothers. . . Need I say more? Lots of pain and strange accidents. . . Going to work with a small chuckle and hoping you and the family are going to be OK. I was very sad about what I missed in terms of love and family. (See last message. . .) Hugs xo

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Instead of boys will be boys, my Dad said, “Kids will be kids.” I lost a fingernail by dropping a cement block on a thumb. Have a scar but managed to use the cement “step” to reach a branch I couldn’t reach not did I shimmy up trees like my brothers. My brothers had a lot of similar knife experiences. . . My son had a beebee gun and I am sure he shot in the attic when I was a single mom.
    Ouch!! Dan yours was quite an accident. You never tattled on your friend either! Hope you are enjoying a hamburger or ribs. . . We’ve had hamburgers on grill and BBQ chicken, too. Happy Memorial Day, Dan and family.
    (Randy cooked up Friday, Rich on Sunday. Mom loves attention and going today to say see you in end of June. Micah is a jewel at 8, but we did have two beach afternoons and lots of fun!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robin. We had BBQ chicken yesterday, and it turned out really well. I have some mini burgers and sausage for today, but the grill might get rained out. Still, I’ll take them off the stove, with a cold beer just as easily. Enjoy the days with your family.

      Liked by 1 person

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