Childhood Violence

It’s a common belief that violence on TV causes violence in children. While I’m all for cutting down on the amount of violence children see on the tube, I suspect that children would still be manage to be violent without it.

My experiences are an example. I grew up in the sixties when TV violence (and TV in general) was much tamer than now. The guys in the white hats won without killing any bad guys, for the most part. And for some reason, when the bad guys did get shot, they didn’t seem to bleed. Yet the boys in my neighborhood found activities that would have knocked John Wayne off his horse and made Roy Rogers wear black.

Cases in point:

The Gopher Hunt
An organized exercise of childhood violence, this “sport” required the use of baseball bats, a large field, unwilling gophers, a platoon of boys and many plastic containers filled with water. It required younger boys who could be pressed into service as water carriers. The older boys occupied the places of honor, wielding the Louisville sluggers. Back then, we used real Louisville sluggers – wood, not the aluminum things.

The first step was to run up someone’s water bill by filling up 10 to 20 jugs from an outside hose (preferably when the home owner wasn’t home). Then we all set all, like a small tribe of Vandals, for the baseball field.

Once a gopher hole was located, an argument began as to where it led, and the other holes were also found. Everyone knew the animals’ underground complexes had multiple outlets.

Then the older boys-the mentors of childhood violence-bats in hand, positioned themselves around one hole while the younger boys began pouring water down another. Very often the gopher came up out of another hole 30 feet away from either group of boys, or nothing came out at all, despite boys running back to the hose for constant refills. But if the terrified animal came up anywhere near the opening, the older boys would start pounding away, in no particular order, and without taking any particular care not to hit each other.

But childhood violence has its drawbacks, none of the bats in our neighborhood seemed to last long. For what its worth, I don’t actually remember any of the animals buying the farm because of us – but that may be something which, mercifully, I’ve blacked out.

The Pepsi-Can Cannon
The baseball bats we used were one of the simpler weapons in our arsenal, much more advanced weapon of my childhood violence was the Pepsi-Can Cannon. It was a kind of bazooka made out of soft-drink or beer cans (which we weren’t supposed to have). The tops and bottoms of the cans were removed, except in the case of the bottom can, which was fitted with a home-made mechanism that acted as a firing chamber. (I’m not going to provide technical details that’ll help my own kid make one.)

Into a hole in the side we added lighter fluid or charcoal starter or some kind of flammable liquid we had no business having. Then a tennis ball was dropped into the mouth of the device. The rest you can pretty well guess; a match was applied.

With a tremendous “boom” the tennis ball shot skyward for hundreds of yards. We especially liked it when fire flared out of the cannon’s mouth at the same time.

If childhood violence had erupted and kids from the next neighborhood over had ever attacked us, we would have been ready. The only drawback was that the tennis balls then had to be retrieved. Like the bats, they didn’t seem to last long.

The Bolo Hunt
A true masterpiece of childhood violence, this game should have required wildly painted faces and the beating of primitive drums. Instead it required only a softball, a large athletic sock and a rope. It was centered around a device which had somehow found its way to us from South America – the bolo.

Once the softball was stuffed into the sock, the end was tied off with a rope, using special knots only the older boys knew. The rope was left long so that the device could be swung like a lariat. But John Wayne and Roy Rogers had never known a rope trick like this.

Naturally, the bolo was given to an older, larger boy (a trend in all our games). Then the violence would commence. Twirling the bolo around his head, he would shout something simple and easy to remember, like “Bolo!” We would scatter as he began to hunt us relentlessly.

We ran and hid until we were roped, like calves, by the softball and sock winding around our legs. When one boy was caught, the others dramatized the situation unnecessarily by chanting “Bolo! Bolo!”

At that point the game always seemed to get stopped by somebody’s parent, as well it should have been.

So if you see your kid watching something violent on TV, maybe you shouldn’t worry so much. He could be doing something worse like inventing his own childhood violence.

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