Friday, June 09, 2006

Kicking the Can

In the evenings in summer as we were growing up, we loved strategy games such as Kick the Can and Capture the Flag. These were the wargames of our youth.

These games were played usually in the late afternoons, when the heat of the day was beginning to yield to the approaching night. Choosing who was IT or captains and teams was always a ritual that had the trappings of spontaneity, but were usually just variations of the same theme. Kick the Can was like Hide and Seek with the taking of "prisoners." Everyone would hide while the person who was IT counted to a hundred. If IT spied any one and called their name, they became prisoners. Prisoners could get released if one of the hiders could reach the can and kick it before being seen by IT. If you beat IT to the can and kicked it, he must start counting again while everyone hides, but if IT reached the can first, the person trying to kick the can became the new IT.

Capture the Flag was a more elaborate game. You needed a minimum of six players (three to a side), but it was much more fun if you had many players. Each side would hide its flag, and the opposition would send forays into enemy territory to find the flag. Touching the enemy while they were in your territory made them prisoners. Finding the flag and bringing it to your territory constituted a victory. This was a game that was especially fun at night. I remember countless nights beneath the bright Texas sky with moonlight flooding the terrain where we vied against each other.

This was what we did in the days before television. We made our own entertainment and found ways to engage with each other. Such times led to many side excursions, stumbling upon adventures and dangerous liaisons. As we grew older, we played these games with much more at stake. Our movements were in automobiles, and the city was the playground. These were dangerous times, since nearly everyone carried guns. Now real enemies emerged and often, lives literally hung in the balance. The innocence of youth dissolved into the bravado of many who had become so bored with life that the only excitement to be had was seeing how close you could come to death and still survive. Now it would take much more than Kicking the Can to escape to freedom.

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