Besides the war in Afghanistan and the recently concluded war in Iraq the United States seems to be fighting all kinds of undeclared different wars within its borders. The ones that spring to mind immediately are the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Crime, and now with President Barak Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage some on the right are stating that he’s declared a War on Traditional Marriage.
I’m not here to opine on any of those. No dear reader, I’m here to bring us back to a simpler time when the wars I fought were amongst friends and the only weapons of mass destruction that were used were a Spaldeen rubber ball and a piece of chalk. Allow me to explain.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York back in the 1960’s was quite the learning experience. We had no computers or Xboxes to provide us with entertainment. Back then, we had to rely on our own imagination and invent our own games to play to keep us from being bored and one of them was called “I declare war!”
The rules and tools we used were pretty simple.
The first thing you needed was the rubber ball and piece the chalk I mentioned earlier. In a pinch a tennis ball might suffice but since they didn’t bounce as high as their round rubber friend they were pretty much frowned upon. You’ll see why in a little bit.
Next, you needed pavement and since there was plenty of that to go around it was never an issue. Now, go ring some doorbells (remember, no cell phones back then) and round up three of your closest buddies.
In the middle of the street draw yourself a circle. Usually it would be the about size of a typical New York City sewer cap and divide it into four equal chunks. Assign each of the chunks to the players and let them choose a “country” that they want to be. Write the name of each of the countries in the four chunks and you’re almost ready to start.
You need to decide who will go first. That was decided through a process known as odds or evens. You probably know it. The four people would do the old “one, two, three, shoot!” game and through the process of elimination the pecking order would be decided.
Now comes the fun part. Each of the players stands in their chosen country and the player who goes first takes the ball and slams it into the ground while saying “I declare war on (insert country name here!). The person whose country’s name was called had to stand there and wait until the ball came down. While the ball was in flight the other three players would take off and scatter to the winds. Once the ball came down and was caught the player would yell “FREEZE!” and those running away had to stop in place.
Next, the player with the ball would determine who his intended enemy might be. He would then take three GIANT STEPS (a matter of which was subject to much debate and charges of cheating) in their direction. From there he would take aim and fire the ball at his target. If his aim was true and he hit them the person struck would have to chase down the ball while the other players ran back to the circle. He would be the next one in line to declare war on somebody. If the player missed, he had to chase down the ball and would be stuck in the not so envious position of having to declare war on somebody again.
Usually a combination of three hits or misses for each player would indicate surrender of their country, annexation of their lands and elimination from the game. In true humbling fashion, the first player eliminated would usually have to buy ice cream for those that had vanquished him.
Looking back, that was a shitload of fun. Besides the friendly rivalries that were made we kids got us a good dose of sunshine, much needed exercise and some fond memories.
In my not so learned opinion, that’s a war that nobody loses.