Posted by: chartroose | July 21, 2008

Child’s Play Is Not For the Fainthearted

I have finally almost caught up with my reading, and in lieu of writing a couple of reviews (because reviews can be quite dull at times), I’ve decided to write about one aspect of the sadistic side of childhood–violent play.  I started thinking about this today because I’m enjoying a wonderful book entitled The Shadow Year.  It’s a mystery featuring siblings growing up in the late 60’s and it’s kind of like a blast from the past.  The author, Richard Ford, writes about a dodge ball game during which the wimpiest boy in class ends up with a couple of broken ribs.  I can remember violent dodge ball from my own school days.  I can remember other violent games as well.  These games were ocassionally bloody and always great fun, unless you were the geeky kid.  I suppose these games must have been a kind of living hell for wimps.

Here are some of the killer childhood games I participated in (from the least to the most painful):

1.  Dodge Ball — This game is small potatoes compared to some of the other games we played.  Why do we even play dodge ball in school?  It doesn’t really have a purpose other than to make your opponents cry or bleed.  Maybe this is training for marriage ; ) or the workplace.  There certainly have been times when I’ve wished I had a big rubber ball with which to bop a coworker over the head.  I think Dodge Ball was devised by some bored, fat old gym teacher hundreds of years ago, because bored, fat old gym teachers are mean and they like to see their students suffer.  

2.  Slide Pile-Up 

We had a huge metal slide at my school and we’d fling ourselves down it as hard and as fast as possible so we could injure the kids waiting at the bottom.  The kid at the very bottom of the slide always got hurt the worst because he’d invariably end up flying off the thing and planting his face in the dirt.  We’d all either end up on top of him or remain seated until it was our turn to do the face plant.

3.  Chicken Fights Two of us would have a duel on the monkey bars where we’d try to wrap our legs around each other and pull each other off.  I usually lost this game because I was a lightweight.  If you’re skinny and you have some thunder-thighed classmate’s legs wrapped around you and pulling you down, you don’t last very long.  There were times when I felt like I had been tortured on the rack after losing the latest battle because my arms and shoulders were so sore.  Perhaps chicken fights are the cause of my abnormally long, double-jointed ape arm deformity.

4.  Swing Battles The thought of these feats of derring-do makes me break out in a cold sweat now, although they were great fun in the 5th and 6th grades.  Starting on opposite corners of the swingset, you swing yourself toward your opponent in an arc and entangle his swing with yours.  You then quickly wrap your swing around and around his until you hurt him by nearly squeezing him to death.  His feet should be totally off the ground and he should be so wrapped up that he can’t move anything.  This game is killer on the hands because they can easily get caught in the swing chains and torn up.  It’s also great for causing contusions and compression injuries.

5.  Rock, Scissors, Paper

This is not the gentle game that you may have played when you were a kid, oh no, this is extreme hand battling!  Every time you win a round, you get to take the first two fingers of your right hand, and, with the power of your entire arm behind them, bring those fingers down with humongous force on the left wrist of your opponent.  The other kids hated playing this with me because I would lick my fingers before I brought them down so they’d slide off the wrist with a satisfying smack.  I’d make sure to hit the same place every time so that the loser’s wrist would be swollen and bruised for days to come.

6.  Red Rover There was no way I’d ever let go during Red Rover, even if my arm was pulled out of its socket and my shoulder was squirting blood all over the place.  This was extremely excruciating, especially when some big ungainly boy came barrelling at you like a crazed bull and rammed into your clasped hands with all his brute force, knocking you down in the process.  I don’t know why we all didn’t die of our injuries after playing this game.

7.  Crack The Whip

This is the best violent children’s game ever invented.  We had a hill at our school, and there’d sometimes be a line of ten or fifteen kids snaking down it.  We’d all fight over being the last kid in line because that was the fastest and most dangerous part.  If you could hold on, you be whipped along so fast that it felt like your feet weren’t touching the ground.  You’d sometimes end up being dragged for long distances, embedding grass into your clothing so deeply that the stains were impossible for your mom to remove.  A quick change of direction would fling you down the hill where you’d end up in a heap at the bottom.  Bloody noses and scrapes and bruises were abundant with this game, and we welcomed them.  They were like a badge of honor.  I think DEVO had the right idea.  As children, and as adults, all we really need to do is whip it.  Whip it good.

There was also a game that I believe was exclusive to my school.  I’ll call it Throw the Kids in the Tires. 

Do to the extreme stupidity of some of our administrators, a couple of huge tires were placed on their sides in the middle of the playground.  I think the administrators felt wise when they made this decision, picturing all of the cute little first and second graders using the tires as a hidey-hole to play in.  Well, the little kids never really took to the tires because they were too big to negotiate.  The big kids loved them immediately, and what started out as a simple game of “King of the Hill” soon became a series of violent skirmishes, where opposing sides would capture some of their weaker enemies, hoist them up over their heads and fling them into the tire.  I was flung into the tire several times even when I wasn’t playing the game.  Once I ended up near the bottom of the tire and a bunch of other screaming and flailing classmates were thrown on top of me.  Jimmy H., who was a skinny little thing like me, elbowed me in the face when he landed on my torso, and I think I lost consciousness for a few seconds.  It was wonderful!  It’s too bad the bigger boys got stupid about it and started throwing the prissy little future cheerleader wanna-be’s in the tire.  Lori K., one of the cruellest and prettiest girls in my class, ended up with a broken wrist (hee-hee).  The tires were removed the next week.

Do you reacall any wicked games from when you were a kid?  If so, leave a comment.  If not, leave a comment anyway!



  1. Oh, yeah. My brother, sister, neighbor kids and I used to collect all the beer cans in our pastures. Steel ones. Not the aluminum ones beer comes in now. Then we’d divide up into two teams. One team was up up in the tree house, one on the ground. You can guess what happened next. Beer Can Wars! I accidentally got my brother right in the forehead when he stood up in front of one of my throws. It took me an hour to talk him into telling my mom and dad that he walked into a door. Not that they believed it.

    Those were the days! 🙂

  2. oh, no. You covered all my childhood games of torture and offer a few new ones. I so hated dodgeball – especially inside when it was raining. The walls trapped and held you. no where to run. I could hold my own with Red Rover but I hated Dodge Ball. and Kick ball for that matter even though it wasn’t quite violent. I hated team sports. Please let me go run and hide and read my book, thank you very much.

  3. How about the two-person game where one person holds their hands palm-up, the other hovers their hands palm-down over the top, and the person below tries to flip their hands over and smack the backs of the other one’s hands (I can’t think of the name, if it ever had one)? If you got hit, you just had to keep going until you had a clean getaway, and then it traded. We always played that if you flinched (AHA! We called it Flinch!) when they weren’t actually going for it, the slapper got a free slap, as hard as they wanted. It’s a pretty sadistic game, but we played it all the time, especially in the backseat on long car rides.

  4. I love violent games as a kid. Out of your list, I played dodge ball and yes, I have been hit more times than I can remember with that big, giant red rubber ball. Once, I walked out of the bathroom and then someone shouted “Incoming!” and I looked up to the sight of a big red ball sailing right toward me, but I wasn’t quick enough to dodge, and it bounced right off my head…in front of all my friends!

    I usually take pride in my ability to dodge, but that time, I wasn’t even aware I was in the game.

    Chicken fight! I think I sucked at that. Once, I had this big girl wrap her meaty, stallion-like legs around me and literally pull down my pants…in front of everyone again!

    Tether ball is also a violent game. One of my friends almost broke my wrist at that.

    But in the end, I think all these violent games toughens your hide for life. Should you ever have to dodge balls or bullets or have big girls try to crush you between their thighs, you can at least say you’ve had prior exposure in elementary school.

    Oh yeah, I must add a postscript. Tag is another vicious game, especially it the kid who is IT propels himself at you and knocks you into the cement and then proceeds to give you a Chinese back massage with his soccer clets. I thought boys weren’t suppose to hit girls! But I had boys pinch me, punch me, throw balls in my face, bop me on the head with soccer balls, look up my skirt on the monkey bars, trample me, kick me, and crush me between their legs…and not in an enjoyable way!

  5. Wow!! I loved Crack the Whip, and I’ve even been known to talk my college friends into playing it every once in awhile. It’s even more interesting with alcohol. 😉 And I was like you in Red Rover: I was tiny so the boys would always aim for me, but I had hidden strength.

    Let’s see…most of our games weren’t *quite* as crazy, but here are some I remember.

    We would hang upside down from the monkey bars by our knees, and then purposely fall off. The goal was to turn as much as possible while falling, and then not to cry out in pain when you hit the ground. Extra points for getting the wind knocked out of you!

    One person would be swinging and the other person had to try to run under them while the swinger attempted to kick you. This is how I got a concussion in third grade-there were some nasty rocks under the swings!

    We’d shimmy up the tall swingset poles and then sit on the top while attempting to pull the swing up so we could jump into it and fly down. So we weren’t actually trying to hurt each other, but many boys were revealed as utter wimps. 😀

    We had tires on our playground too: both ones sitting on their side like in the picture and ones half buried so they made little arcs. The sixth grade couples would go make out in those one during lunch hour.

    You know what? I don’t think I could handle having children, lol.

  6. Oh. My. God. I thought my stuff was the worst, but you guys have all beaten me in some respect or another. Why do we like to give and receive pain when we’re kids? Also, after reading your comments, I’m totally convinced that girls are braver and tougher than boys!

    Lezlie–I remember steel beer cans–they were quite heavy, weren’t they? I guess it beats beer bottles, but just barely.

    Care–I was one of the mean dodge ball kids, and I was a good shot too, but I still don’t see the point of it. I don’t see the point of kick ball either, for that matter.

    fyreflybooks–Yeah, I remember flinch! I was horrible at it. I’d play it with my Dad and he’d always beat me. We didn’t do the free slap part, though, Thank God! If we had, I’d probably still be bruised to this day.

    TY–LOL about getting your pants pulled down. How embarassing! I was good at both tether ball and four square, and yes, they could get violent, especially if your opponent was a sore sport. Jeez, I never had anyone pounce on my back in soccer cleats. Ouch! I’ll bet you were a cute girl, because it’s the prettier ones that are most often physically tormented by boys.

    Eva–Was the hanging upside down and falling thing called “baby drops?” I remember some girls spinning round and round a parallel bar and then letting go and trying to land on their feet.
    We never did the kick the runner under the swing thing. We would swing really high and then jump, but that was no big deal.
    Did you notice how the big tires always smelled terrible–like cat urine and ass. It was incredibly cloying in there. I’m sure there were a few claustrophic kids that had nighmares about them!
    Now, we need to have a discussion of the the swingset pole jump thing. MY GOD! I wouldn’t have thought of that in my most demented dreams. It’s a wonder you aren’t dead now, Eva!
    Please, don’t have any kids, ever!

  7. […] Original post by Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage! […]

  8. We used to play crack the whip on ice skates — on the huge bumpy outdoor totally-unsupervised free-for-all rink in the park across the street from my house. Once when I was the last in line I slammed into a metal barrel and knocked myself out. Who cares, just get up and go again!

  9. Ha these are cool, I haven’t heard of any of these games! I’m especially intrigued by chicken fight and feel kind cheated that we didn’t have any monkey bars!

    Our most popular sadistic games were ‘bunt’ and ‘british bulldog’. Bunt involved ‘pegging’ (throwing) a preferrably fur-less tennis ball against a large brick wall as hard as you could. You then had to catch the very quickly returning ball one handed. If you failed to cleanly catch the ball one-handed as rules dictated, then you had to quickly sprint to the brick wall (sans ball) and yell bunt. At the same time whoever was closest to the now discarded ball had to pick it up and attempt hit you before you got to the wall with said fur-less tennis ball, with extra points being awarded for ‘bunts’ to the butt or the head. if the ball hit you it would leave an imprint on the skin for days!I can still feel the sting of that fur-less ball pegged by some sixth grader!

    British Bulldog, was a modified version of red rover. Basically we dispensed with the linked arms, and added in its place full contact rugby tackles. With three codes of rugby played in Australia, and growing up in small country town most of us (boys and girls) at this age were rather adept at tackling. The rules of the games were very simple. Spliting into teams of runners and tacklers, the aim was for the running team to successfully get from one end of the oval to the other without being tackled by someone on the tackling team. If you were tackled you become a tackler and the games continued until no runners remained. A tackle wasn’t considered a tackle unless you were pinned to the ground unable to continue, and extra points were awarded for spear tackles which as the name suggest involved picking the person up and spearing them into the ground head first. in short if you were big, tough or quick this was totally your game. if you weren’t, not so much. How did anyone survive primary school!

  10. I actually liked Dodge Ball myself because I was a good dodger. It was the only sport I was any good at though… 🙂

  11. I was okay at dodging, but then I’d always wind up the only kid left on my team facing an entire army of the other team, with all of my teammates yelling at me to catch a ball so one of them could come back in… and of course I’d always choke.

  12. We used to love Red Light – Green Light.
    One kid was it and everyone else lined up some distance away. The kid would turn around and yell “green light” and everyone would run toward him to try to hit him. He would flip around and yell “red light” and everyone had to stop. If you were moving when the kid turned around, you had to start over.

    We learned it from Bill Cosby. One team would grab each other around the waist, then bend at the waist in a long line. The other team would run and jump on their backs, trying to knock them down. The team that held the most kids won.

  13. Good grief. Did any of you continue on to become grown up serial killers? I was the kid cowering in the library.

  14. Julie–I never learned how to ice skate. Do you think it was the brain damage that you incurred then that has made you the rather strange person you are today? Hey, just kidding!

    Owl–Those sound like really fun games! Bunt is kind of like a combo dodgeball/handball thing, and British Bulldog sounds altogether too violent. I can’t imagine someone flinging me headfirst into the ground, well, yeah, actually I can. Like I asked Julie, were you blain dramaged too?

    Yes Housewife, like you, I was a great dodgeballer, and took enormous pride in my sadism in gym class.

    Fyrefly–Man, that was the worst, getting hit last and losing for the team. It happened to me a couple times too.

    donstuff–I remember Red Light, Green Light, but never tried Buck-Buck. All I could think of when I was reading your explanation was how much it would kill my back now. I’d probably be laid up for a month!

    Har, Carrie! How could we have been so stupid and fearless then, and why are we so filled with fear about our mortality now?

  15. The school my kids go to have no swings (too dangerous) and Tag and Dodgeball are banned. This does not stop the kids from inventing new violent games to play- it’s what we did and what they all still do. Tether ball injuries are common around here, and I’ve got one kid who is great at chicken fights while the other is forever getting the air squeezed out of her and landing face first in the dirt. I tell her not to play that game since she’s always getting hurt and she just laughs at me. I guess it’s part of the fun. They do the slap thing after Rock, Paper, Scissors too and I’m always shocked at how hard my little angels hit their friends and each other.

  16. Lisa–Isn’t it funny that no matter how “safe” our society is supposed to be now, kids are still finding ways to torture and injure each other? My daughters used to do “slug bug” on road trips. (one would punch the other after seeing a VW beetle). Sometimes they’d hit each other so hard that they’d both be weeping–and these are girls! Heaven help the mothers of boys.

  17. You realized that vengeance was coming? lol.

    That’s why I think we’ll never reach that utopian peaceful society. People, for some weird reason, just love war games.

  18. Like I said Carrie, people are really just rotten underneath it all!

  19. Speaking of war games, some friends of our decided that they were not going to buy any kind of play guns for their kids – nor would they allow friends or family to give them as gifts. I had to laugh when we went to visit one day and their kids had created “guns” out of legos and were chasing around shooting at each other (the best laid plans…). If it hadn’t been legos, it would have been sticks or something else. My son used to make machine guns out of leftover sprinkler pipe and parts. Kids like war games.

  20. I forgot to add… I love your Devo photo on this post. You just have to love the the beehive hats and plastic hair.
    BTW, Mark M. – leader of the band – is now composing the music for movies and TV shows. Two of his best known are the Rugrats and Rocket Power cartoons.

  21. I gotta say… I LOVE dodgeball and I’m kind of sad that high school is over because I’m not about to form my own dodgeball team.
    As for other games when I was a kid, I just did a lot of talking to myself. I was a big weirdo

  22. Oh and in high school we used to play matball.
    Kind of like soccer/dodgeball and we’d do it on all fours and oh the bruises and burns we’d get on our knees
    it was pretty awesome

  23. Hey Steph–LOL! I was a big wierdo too. I never did the matball thing. Thank God! It sounds really painful. I’m heading over now to check out your blog…

  24. This is a message to the admin. Your website is missing out on at least 300 visitors per day. I have found a company which offers to dramatically increase your traffic to your website: They offer 1,000 free visitors during their free trial period and I managed to get over 30,000 visitors per month using their services, you could also get lot more targeted visitors than you have now. Hope this helps 🙂 Take care.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: