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!