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Friday, October 28, 2016

We Played Fake War—Sometimes with Real Rocks



We played lot of war. I was born during World War II. While I have a few wartime memories, I have no memories of the war itself playing out in my life and neighborhood. Only much later was I able to look back and realize that a few of my memories are from when the adults around me must have been preoccupied with the war—that war had something to do with why my Dad was working so hard on the railroad, and the railroad had something to do with while he was not a soldier.

The Korean war was very much a part of my early life. I experienced it mainly from radio news reports, and because Jim Forcier an older brother of my friend was fighting with the Marines in Korea. I remember the daily radio reports with the reported count of saber jets skirmishing with communist MIGs. I remember feeling the Forcier family's worry. Genie Forcier and I were in his back yard playing when the middle brother came out with the report that Jim had been wounded.

Mostly, however, we played at war. I had a “cowboy rifle” which worked pretty well for war games. But improvised sticks and crudely-cut-from-boards, and invisible, pretend guns worked just as well. I embarrasses me to think of how we practiced different ways to die, how we attributed different ways to different peoples, how we had fun playing at something so sad and frightful. But, we did it as I am sure little boys have done it for millennia in all corners of the globe and history.

What scares me is to think of how we endangered our own wellbeing in our war games—during at least one summer of war games. Nearby Hamline University was building a couple of new buildings that summer. Of course each started with a big hole in the ground, and around that hole were mounds of dirt. The hills and hollows of the mounds made a perfect stage for war games. Funny, I don't remember construction workers, just the hills and valleys, and clods. We must have played there in the late afternoon and on weekends. I can imagine we were kicked off the premises at other times.

The clods? you ask. Yes, the soil must have been damp with a lot of clay because we had no trouble finding lots of small clods that we could pick up and throw at each other.

Other kids from the neighborhood would show up, establish forts or expand our forts on opposing mounds and commence to hurl clod-bombs at us and each other. That was dangerous, but, on at least one day, we resorted to throwing rocks when the clods ran out. Nobody had the courage to say this was stupid and dangerous, lest he appear to be a “chicken.” So we rose and threw, ducked and rose to throw again. Occasionally somebody actually got hit, but nobody got injured. I think we were all relieved to survive to fight—perhaps more sanely—another day.





(c) from date of posting, by Bob Komives, Fort Collins 

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