May 04, 2009

The Bamboo Stand


We were young... maybe twelve or thirteen at the most. My cousin Patrick lived not too far from here, he's the guy that my son is named after. We played in the woods all the time, and this Saturday was no different.

We had gotten a ride over to their house with my parents and were hanging out in the yard when all the other kids from the neighborhood began showing up. There was the usual discussion of what we were going to do, votes swung from a rock fight to playing army... Playing army won out... Given that the last rock fight ended with my brother getting a sizable wound on the top of his head and me getting into sizable trouble. Yes.. we actually chose sides and threw real rocks at one another... Hey, he raised his head and I took a shot...

Problem was, nothing we did ever turned out quite the way we intended.. Somebody always got hurt too bad, or came near enough to death to scare us into sitting in the den with innocent looks on our faces waiting for the phone to ring. My dad always looked at us constantly at these times with that, "Oh damn... how much is this going to cost me" expression on his face, waiting for the other shoe to drop. In his defense he had good reason.. I mean WE thought the arrow attachment to the slingshot was a good idea... All of us watched in awe as that arrow flew high, arched over and began its rapid descent... Straight toward Kevin's dad as he was on the riding mower... The arrow hit the ground about three feet behind him as he passed the edge of his garden, the thud accompanied by the collective, "Holy shit" of relief we all said.... Patrick took off as fast as he could and plucked the arrow out of the ground, in a slide straight into the garden, before Kevin's dad made the turn on the mower to come back.. He took cover in the vegetation and laid still until the mower passed, then ran back, Kevin's dad never knew a thing... So.. no harm done...

When it was decided what we were going to do, the usual flexing of the testosterone began when it came time to choose sides for the impending battle to the death. That day it ended up being me and Patrick against everybody else. Each team went their own way to begin strategy discussions, consultations of maps, and to gear up. We took our war gaming seriously...

Patrick had several stashes of supplies we raided and we made notes of where other caches of back up material were kept throughout the woods surrounding the neighborhood. So we were good to go. The game that day was to capture each team until all members were dealt with. The winners would be the survivors, thus ensuring our control of the known universe by midnight. So we set to work.

We applied the best tricks we had learned from all the war movies we had watched and all the stories we had managed to wrangle from relatives that had served in Vietnam the sixties and seventies, Korea in the fifties and Europe during World War two. The art of camouflage is indeed a learned skill. The day progressed and one by one the enemy fell. With each capture we would tie their hands and walk them back to an area we had selected among a stand of bamboo, we took turns - one holding on to the captive while the other ran point. There wasn't much undergrowth there and it made it easy to tie them to the small pine trees in a circle so they could look at each other in their humiliation and try to escape as we made our way out for the next victim. We knew that David would be the hardest to catch, and he was... Yet, like all who went against us that day, he too fell... Once we had him back at "base camp" we were all talking about the day's adventure when we heard distant shouts through the trees...

It was difficult to make out what was being yelled, the voice traveled on the wind and we were pretty far back in the woods, but the words "my property" were clearly heard... Then with no warning we heard a gunshot... then another... and another... Then the ground began exploding all around us... Damn.. we were actually under fire...

Patrick and I looked at one another, then without a thought given to our prisoners we took off at a dead run... It still amazes me that we never thought to untie anyone... As we ran, the bullets zipped by us and hit trees near us.. The conversation we had still sticks in my head as Patrick yelled out, "If we hit this trail up here we can circle around and come at him from a flank, we'll split up and hit from both sides!!!" He was still in game mode... My response was a simple one, "Bull shit!.. He's using a real gun and all we have are daisy BB guns..." A tree exploded just to my right as I yelled that out and Patrick retorted with "Point taken!!"

We did nervous pacing at the edge of their yard after we got back until one by one the other team emerged from the woods. We could hear the shouts, the gunfire and the limbs crashing as they made their way back. David had gotten loose first then assisted everyone else. The haggard expressions on their faces told the tale of their trip from the bamboo stand, yet each one had to give us an earful for leaving them.. all they got in return was an awkward shrug... Hey.. war is hell...

I thought about that afternoon today as I watched James running around our front yard geared up with his goggles, guns, canteen, and hat... I had stepped out onto the porch to make sure he was still in the yard. The rule is that he can't go up the driveway or beyond the boundaries of the trees at the edges of the yard, or behind the house, although he did get caught three times doing just that... That was alright though, he used his "inside time outs" to refuel... I must tell him that when he starts taking prisoners to be sure to untie them before he runs off when the real bullets start flying... But knowing him he will take a page from Patrick and seek out the offender to exact his revenge... Damn I miss being a kid...

8 comments:

wendy said...

Good story.

The Angry Georgian said...

Reminds me of the bottle rocket wars we used to have.

tina hawkins said...

I remember comming over to your house when I was younger and playing army and star wars. My kids arent into any of that. We sure had fun, I miss those days!!

Eve said...

Wow, things sure could have turned out different! I've been snipe hunting before ;P

Betty BeadBug said...

I wish I could have met your Patrick and that is one of my favorite stories about him. I love that you can tell it to our Patrick and share that family history and the incredible feeling behind how you picked his name. Names have power and the love filled within his is something he will be able to draw on forever. xo

Just me... said...

Sheesh... The worst that ever happened to us was a guy threw a shoe at us for riding minibikes on the paved road in front of his house.. Which just made us ride by more often and in first gear.. :):)~

Anonymous said...

Great story. Reminds of my own childhood

Pelmo said...

Clay there is a very sad part to your story. To many kids now adays will not get to experience what childhood is really supposed to be like.