Childhood Toys
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 by Frank Shortt
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          “What did you play with when you were a boy, Poppy? Kenny, my grandson, wanted to know. Did you have any video games?”
          “No, Kenny, I replied. Things were much different when I was a boy in the 1940’s. Video games had not been invented then.”
          Hardly a day passes that I don’t think back to some phase of my childhood. Memories of an Appalachian Mountain raising are forever engraved in my mind. Although I have strayed far from my roots, I am still a part of the soil and rocks of the Virginia terrain.
           “Did you have toy stores then?” he asked.
          “Most toys were bought at department stores which sold a variety of other things. We couldn’t afford to buy toys then as we were a large family. We barely had food and clothing.”
          “So, what did you get for Christmas?”
          “I usually got an orange or two and some hard candy. My boyhood toys were not bought at Toys r Us. My coal trucks were shoe boxes or any other small box we happened to find. My guns were carved from a soft pine blasting powder box or a forked stick. I used finishing nails for the hammer and the trigger. My slingshot or “gravel shooter” was made from a forked maple limb and pieces of cut up inner tube for the flippers. The “flap” was made from a discarded shoe tongue. We wore leather shoes in those days.”
          I related an incident regarding home-made toys which haunts me to this day.
          “My brother, Wendell, myself and a few of our friends and relatives decided to play Indian. We had read that bows were made from ash saplings and arrows from smaller versions of the same. We proceeded to make them. Our crudely fashioned weapons were fairly accurate at close range and we had no idea they could be dangerous at a longer distance.”
          “Did you shoot at each other with them?” My grandson asked.
          “We’re getting ahead of the story, Kenny. Don’t ever think of trying what we were doing that day.”
           I hesitated to finish the story, but at Kenny’s insistence, I relented.
          “Carl and Don Helbert, brothers of my Uncle Bill’s wife, were playing with us on this particular day. We were actually shooting sticks at each other with no thought of danger to our persons. Trying to escape from his brother Don, Carl climbed up a tall maple tree, growing up through a bed of jagged rocks. Don was up the hill a ways and as he saw his brother through the branches he let fly his arrow striking Carl in the middle of his body. Carl fell from limb to limb finally ending up in the rock pile below.”
          “Did he cry or have to go to the hospital?”
          “No, His only wounds were a few scratches. We didn’t go to the doctor then for every little bruise. We had few cars and doctors were too far away. He simply got up, brushed himself off and began playing again. The miracle was, he didn’t break his neck.”
          “A few weeks passed and Carl was riding along with a neighbor on the neighbors’ tractor, I continued. Somehow, the tractor flipped over in a ditch. Carl was thrown from the seat, pinning him underneath the overturned tractor taking his life. The neighbor received not a scratch.”
          Events, such as this, are too difficult to understand.