Lawn Darts, Bullwhips, And Other Childhood Tools Of Torture


On the list of things we didn’t seriously consider in the 60’s:  you can maim yourself with childhood toys. And some of us did. I hurt myself in self-inflicted accidents more than most. Draw your own conclusions.

To be fair, we were dealing with the continual threat of the Russians attacking our country on any given school day. My family lived 3 doors down from the elementary school, which had a fall-out shelter built under it, so we had that going for us. If you’re old enough, you probably recall the advised countermeasure to a Russian missile attack was to hide under your school desk. It is this type of instruction about personal safety that encouraged us to throw lawn darts as far into the air as we could.

One of my childhood Christmas gifts was a wood-burning tool. An excellent choice for anyone with a desire to burn marks on wood. Or a variety of other materials. Or life forms. I can’t say whether the 8-inch electrical cord was a safety feature or a cost-saving measure for the manufacturer but I can attest that a wood-burning tool will cause latex wall paint to melt. You can imagine the glorious carnage when it was deployed in an battle with those little green army guys.

Years before Indiana Jones movies it was fairly easy to acquire a real leather bullwhip. I firmly believe I was the envy of all the boys on my street when I sauntered down the sidewalk popping my whip. Yessir, I was armed and dangerous. A little too dangerous. Eventually I popped myself in the eye. There was some concern I might lose my eye. I didn’t, but I did lose the bullwhip. One of many reasons I’m still jealous of Indy.

Like many kids, I had a bicycle. And like many kids, I spent a good portion of my allowance modifying my bike. I learned how to create sound effects by clipping playing cards to the spokes. I had the only metallic-gold banana seat in the neighborhood! I spent hard-earned money on “slicks” – tires with virtually no tread that could leave tire marks 10-feet long if you slammed on the brakes hard enough. It wasn’t necessary to get store-bought toys for one’s own self-destruction. One of my brilliant ideas was to stack cinderblocks on the sidewalk and lean a metal grate against them to create a ramp. With my proven capacity and intellectual prowess to become airborn, it was obvious I was a genius! I was creative! I was innovative! I was in serious pain when the ramp collapsed, my feet flew off the pedals, and gravity pulled me down… onto the crotch-high bar of my bike.

Forget the Russians. I was more dangerous to myself than any Russian.