“If I had of listened to everything my Mother told me not to do, what would I have to write about?”-Brad
Those of you who have been to Circle Square Ranch when I was program director have heard me tell the story of how hiding in a potato patch saved my life after my cousin, Chris, using a contraption called a rock slinger, hit a half-crazed teenager with a stone. For those of you about to groan, not wanting to hear this story again, don’t worry, this is a different tale, about Chris. He loved throwing rocks. He could never resist picking up a rock and slinging it into the distance, the farther the better. It was a passion of his, tied with his passion for climbing trees, and catching frogs. If he could only pursue one passion, rock slinging would be it.
I had a next door neighbour called Johnny and whenever Chris and I were in the mood to play army men, we would always knock on his door and ask him to come out and play, and bring his army men with him. Johnny had the biggest collection of little green army men of all the guys on our street. We would never use our own army men because everyone, except for Johnny, knew that sooner or later Chris was going to pick up a rock to use it as a bomb. That rock would send green army men flying. Once that first rock dropped it was too late; Chris could not stop. That first rock was followed by second, then a third, then a bigger one as the war of the green plastic men turned nuclear and Chris had his fingers on the forbidden red button. With maniacal laughter, despite the screams of Johnny’s protest, Chris would raise a boulder over his head and slam it down on the military formations at our feet. Johnny’s green army men would fly through the air in one direction while their arms and heads and stands would fly off in the other direction. Johnny would snatch up the mangled torsos of his obliterated warriors, tears in his eyes and curse unlike any eight year-old you ever heard curse before. Then, in rage, he would start picking up rocks and sling them at Chris, who would run off in laughter, easily dodging the poorly thrown stones; the tears in Johnny’s eyes making it hard to aim successfully.
It seems there was a lot of rock slinging in my childhood.
Despite the warnings from all our mothers, not to throw rocks because it could take someone’s eye out, stones were still slung.
Behind Chris’ house there was a bog and a stand of juniper trees in which we and a few other guys from our end of Lind Avenue were building a tree house. Some of the kids from further down the street, including my best friend, John, different from the army man Johnny, snuck up behind Chris’ fence and started slinging rocks at us, upset that we had a tree house, and they didn’t even have a tree at their end of the street to build a house in.
Chris jumped out the tree and started slinging rocks back, but the guys were using the fence for cover. So Chris simply lobbed the rock up in the air so that it would fall behind the protecting wall. We heard a soft thud, then a scream. All hostility ceased. The scream was real. Then we heard the word’s that our Mother’s warned us about, “My eye!” One of the guys from down the street came around the fence and shouted at Chris, pointing an accusing finger. “You took John’s eye out!” Chris laughed, not believing what he heard until John stumbled around the corner holding his hand over one eye and bright red blood pouring down his cheek. Chris turned and ran; he was not seen for days.
Several days later, Mom took me to the hospital to visit John, who had been there since he was hit in the eye by the rock. His eye was bruised and the white in the corner of his eye was still red with blood, but he could see. He told us that the doctor said he would be okay, as long as he didn’t strain his eye. “The doctor told me,” he elaborated, “that I could still go blind if I were to put a book on the floor and try to read it while standing up.”
I told him then it was a good idea not to do that then.
Mom asked, “Who ever reads a book like that anyway?” She had a point. “You shouldn’t be throwing rocks,” she couldn’t resist an opportunity to show she was right. “I warned you what could happen.” You know, moms know what they are talking about.
John eventually got out of the hospital and healed to the point where he could read books on the floor if he so desired. Chris eventually came out of hiding (or punishment; he doesn’t speak of that time), and for a brief time, the amount of rock slinging slackened on Lind Avenue.
Until one day, Chris and I sat around, bored, trying to figure out what to do.
“I’m in the mood to play army men.”
“Let’s go get Johnny!”
Needless to say, rock slinging occurred before that day ended, and green plastic army men lay broken in the dust.