A little over a week ago, the Mistress of the Manor and I traveled to a local water park for our grandson’s birthday. Although his name is Malachi, I labeled him “Wild Man” once he was old enough to walk. The reason is simple, once he learned to motor, he was into everything. Well, he’s now 13 and still going full bore.
He is a very bright, energetic, young man, who often fails to heed advice, unless he is told somewhere in the vicinity of 4,000 times. This was never more evident than during his birthday celebration, which involved riding paddle boats. Wild Man and his friends can swim, but, as a grandparent, you always worry about the young of your ilk.
Now, there was a list of rules at the pier. Among the activities that were forbidden were; riding the boats without a life jacket, standing up in the boats, jumping from boat to boat, and ramming into other boats. So, of course, Wild Man and his friends were doing all of the above when the Mistress of the Manor and I took a stroll down to the pond to check out the action. There were two boats full of younguns, who had assigned themselves roles before taking to the high seas. Although virtually all of the positions of a normal crew (captain, engineer, cook) were filled, no one wanted to be the navigator. The need for a navigator was making itself very apparent by the constant colliding of boats when the Mistress of the Manor and I arrived at the pond.
It was also apparent that no one had chosen to be the safety officer, since one boat listed badly far to the right because one of Wild Man’s friends appeared to be big enough to play offensive line for the New York Giants. His side of the boat was almost under water, while the side where three other partygoers sat was two-feet above the water.
We finally got their attention and lured them closer to shore on the pretense of taking a photograph. Once within earshot, we convinced them to dock for a bit, then made sure everyone put on a life jacket. They were also instructed not to stand up in the boats, jump from boat to boat, or to ram each other. They adhered to these instructions for all of three minutes, just long enough to get far enough away to claim they couldn’t hear us.
After leaving the party, I voiced my concerns to the Mistress of the Manor. “What in the name of Leonardo DeCaprio were they thinking,” I asked. She then reminded me of the tales of my youth that I, of course, have shared with Wild Man. Well, I should say, some of the tales; after all, his is just 13.
When I was a young spit, I was lucky in that there were a lot of kids on my street, as well as nearby boulevards. In addition, there was a factory nearby that was backed by a large field that always seemed to be mowed. We played the normal childhood games, football, baseball, steal the flag, but we also veered from the norm at times.
A couple of friends down the street were big fans of wrestling, so we would stage tag-team wrestling matches. It was always a good thing to get to pick first – you were either the good guys or the bad guys. As everyone knows, good guys are always on the up-and-up, no dirty business. However, bad guys are always looking for an unfair advantage. Since there was a stack of trash metal parts next to the factory, it was easy for the bad guys to hide a nasty piece of metal in their shorts and smack you on the head if they were losing. More than a few times, I went home with blood running down my forehead.
Army was also a favorite game at one time. However, it eventually went stale, and looking for a way to spice it up a bit, we decided to use our BB guns, loaded, of course. We made a rule that shooting at someone’s head was not allowed, but sometimes in the heat of battle, BBs go astray. No one lost an eye, although a couple of friends came close, but our parents decided to disarm us anyway.
It seemed I could get in trouble without even leaving my yard, though. Once a group of us decided to take up polo, substituting our bicycles for horses and croquet mallets for whatever you call the things polo players use. This resulted in bruised shins, broken bicycle spokes, and the beating to death of my mother’s rosebush. I tried to explain it to her that it was just a stroke of bad luck, old chap, that the ball got stuck in the rose bush, and in our frenzy, things just got out of hand. You guessed it, no more fancy-schmancy job creator games for us.
When my cousins and I spent time at my grandfather’s farm, on the pretense of helping him with his chores, we usually ended up in a rock fight with the boys across the creek. As in BB army, we were not supposed to hit each other in the head, but … well, you know what happened. The Mistress of the Manor, as well as a few other folks, have suggested these type of games may be the reason I am the way I am today.
So, after I thought about my seemingly endless desire to put my eye out as a youngun, I realized Wild Man was only continuing a family tradition. And all I could think of was, that paddle boat fun would have been even better with BB guns.