It really is time that we all just embrace reality and recognize that young boys love to blow things up – with or without actual explosives.
Up on the great hill behind our grammar school, we had a copse of oak trees close enough together to allow almost any 10 year old boy to climb up one tree then out to where the branches crossed those of another allowing us to jump from one tree to another. Even with hours of climbing one would rarely need to touch the ground. On the edge of the grove was one special tree.
It was a rarer “Buckeye” tree. Buckeye trees are smaller than oaks. Their branches are softer and would break easily under our weight. We didn’t climb it often and pretty much left it alone.
However, late in each summer, the buckeyes, for which the tree is named, came out in mass and provided us with yet another source of enjoyment.
Earlier in the summer of one year, we discovered clubs – and no, not the kind you join. These were hand-held weapons made of old oak branches that had somehow broken out of our climbing trees and thus needed to be recycled.
We all had our own favorite oak clubs (mine had knob-like formations at each end and resembled a great dinosaur bone) and we spent many hours in mock battles with trees, fence posts or each other as the mood took us. There was even one epic encounter with the herd of cows that technically lived on the hillside and were sort-of willing to play the part of invading monsters for about an hour. (Disclaimer: No cows were harmed in the creation of this story. They were much bigger than us and, sadly, we only managed to annoy most of them.)
Each day we returned to the hill, we would sneak up into our secret hiding spot and recover our clubs for another day of defending the tree realm from those terrible cow-monsters – who mostly ignored us.
One afternoon, one of us realized that – oh cool – the buckeyes were ready for use. If you have not seen buckeyes fresh off the tree, they’re pretty neat. They have a soft leathery skin which splits and drops out the inner nut. Each buckeye comes out very smooth, shiny, milk-chocolate brown with one “eye”. Each one is a bit bigger than a kiwi.
We loved playing catch or war with buckeyes, well, because no one had invented paint-ball or air soft guns yet. They were the best size for tossing around, but today, we had a wonderful realization that brought club and buckeye together for gobs of fun. Forget those stupid cows – we were going to bat some buckeyes.
First; we held our club in one hand and tossed the buckeye straight up, like a baseball and clubbed it on the way down. This was cool because, buckeyes are much like a potato inside but less dense. When you succeeded in hitting one, it exploded into billions and billions (well before “billions and billions” was so funny) of pieces.
This meant, of course, if you snuck up behind your buddy, stood at the right spot and quietly pitched a buckeye up and belted it with your club, you could aim the cloud of pulverized buckeye meat to cover your buddy in white buckeye fragments – kind of like child-safe bio-degradable napalm.
And this proved to be lots of fun, leaving each of us with buckeye meat stuck in our shirts and hair and pockets and socks and (well, you get the picture).
I don’t recall who thought of it first, but one of us stepped back and told the guy closest to him to pitch a buckeye for him – you know – baseball style. This proved to be very cool, and in short time we escalated the process to one guy holding his special club and hitting buckeyes as we took turns pitching them at him. This was lots of fun with lots of buckeye meat clouds splashing around the kid who was “up”. It was great. No bases to run – just buckeyes exploding off the tips of our clubs.
Everyone knows that boys will push any game past all rational limits and today was no different, and I recall clearly how anxious I was for my next turn because I noted that my pals were indeed escalating and not staying within their turn to throw the next pitch, which resulted in multiple buckeyes coming at you at one time. Much more fun than baseball, especially since anything you hit exploded. So I decided I was going to be…
to hit two buckeyes with one sweep of my mighty club – YES!
When I got my turn, I swung like a mad-man or mad-boy trying to get every buckeye that was pitched at me. Soon it happened. I saw the pattern form in mid-air and with a wide sweep of my club I exploded two with one pass. I was instantly the hero – the man – the king of buckeye ballistics – and unfortunately – the guy to beat.
But, as it turned out, I was pretty good at this, and despite hundreds of buckeyes thrown, I remained the champ. During a later turn at bat, it got nasty. My “so called friends” were chucking buckeyes faster than I could possibly hit them. I did manage two more sweeps while hitting 2 buckeyes and the crowd went wild but threw more buckeyes even faster.
I was on a roll and unstoppable. The buckeyes came at an ever faster rate and few were getting past me. Hitting each one while planning on where I had to be to nail the one behind it was such a rush. Buckeyes were exploding faster than all the meat fragments could hit the ground.
And then I saw it.
It was the holy grail of buckeye patterns.
In the midst of about 7 buckeyes coming at me, were 3 that looked like they were perfectly spaced for a sweep of…
He’s going to go for it…
3 BUCKEYES IN ONE GREAT SWEEP!
I could do this and no one would be able to match the feat. I had to step to the right to make it work, quickly did so, letting one lonely buckeye pass unmolested but was in position.
I began my sweep, my club was indestructible against buckeyes and in a flash of supreme agility, speed and control I felt the familiar shock through the club as I hit each projectile – 1 – 2 – 3 pops of exploding buckeyes and the clouds of buckeye meat spread like 4th of July fireworks blossoms.
I had attained the unattainable! I glanced up to enjoy the defeat of my buddies who must have seen my accomplishment and noticed a stray buckeye – neglected because it wasn’t part of my perfect pattern.
It was sailing towards me – fast…
…only about 10 inches away from my forehead leaving me no time to …
Things went very dark except for some strange colored sparkles.
I recall seeing dark sky with colored images swing by. My arms and legs felt strange– kind of loose and flopping around behind me as I fell – or flew – not sure which. When I slammed into the grass, I got a blurred glance of my arms and legs following like crippled kite tails. Struggling to remain conscious, I had to blink several times to get the world to look right again but finally the full daylight returned and the sky cleared up – but my head – wow – that really hurts.
In mere moments, the guys were around me trying to figure out who threw the buckeye that nailed me and laughing about how cool it had looked. “Epic hit Wilson! You should have seen your legs flip up, just like you were shot in the head!” It’s what “good friends” do for each other – right?
When I could get up I verified that they saw me hit those three with one sweep, but it barely mattered. It was way more epic to see someone take a buckeye to the forehead. Such is the entertainment economy of young boys.
I managed to stand up, reorient myself and locate my club. Maybe I could also find that exact buckeye and crush it with my club, but before me was buckeye-snow-covered carnage and behind me were thousands of buckeyes that got past. There was no way to tell which one avenged all the others.
Okay, time to stash the clubs and wander home – the slow way for me. I needed time to figure out what I was going to tell Mom about this huge red welt in the middle of my forehead. I already knew she would not care much about my hitting 3 buckeyes with one swing.
Okay children – try to make a memory like this from your smart phone! What? No app? How tragic is that?