WRITTEN BY STEVE JOHNSTON
ILLUSTRATED BY PAUL SCHMID
Only kids can dare to be really, really stupid
WHILE GROWING UP as irresponsible children in Everett, my four brothers and I would play a game in the family home back yard. Now that I am older, I look back at that game and think, "Were we out of our minds?!?"
It's amazing that children can make it through childhood, especially if those children happen to be male. For some reason, young males seem to be dumber than young females when it comes to doing really dumb stuff.
But what the Johnston brothers did in the back yard of the home on Colby Avenue was completely nuts. Well, it's completely nuts now that I think about it, but at the time the words "completely nuts" didn't enter our tiny little brains. We were just having fun on a hot summer day.
You be the judge. Read on, and when you finish, pick the two-word description that best sums up your feelings: "completely nuts" or "really cool." Here goes:
My brothers and I would stand in different parts of the yard, then one of us would pull back the string on a bow and shoot an arrow straight into the sky. This was not an arrow with a rubber tip. No, this was an arrow with a metal point. We would stand very still, waiting for the arrow to land. It always came down with a thud. Whoever was closest to the arrow when it landed won the right to shoot the arrow back into the sky.
I can almost hear the collective intake of breath from parents as they think about any child doing something so "completely nuts" as shooting arrows up just to see how close they landed to their brothers, sisters and friends. Now, I think we were out of our minds, but there are adults who will read about the arrow stunt and say to themselves, "You should have seen what my (brothers, sisters, friends) and I did for fun."
I happened to think about this crazy part of my life while my children were telling me and their horrified mother, the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston, what they used to do at our house in Seattle. The children are all now voting age, and some can even buy liquor legally, so they felt safe telling Mom and Dad how they passed the time when their parents left the oldest boy in charge. We have to plead insanity for doing that.
At the time, we lived in a three-story home that towered over a rockery, so it was a good four stories above the street. That height made it all the more fun, they said, to crawl out on the roof and jump from one pitched part of it to another.
Sometimes they would toss a younger brother outside and lock the windows so he couldn't get back in. The younger brother would run across the roof, trying to find a window that was unlocked.
While the Johnston boys told this story, they all laughed at the wonderful memories and said it was fun. Their mother's mouth was hanging open, she was so amazed that her children could be so irresponsible.
I started thinking about parents worrying about their children and whether it's better to know everything they are doing or to hear about it all a decade later. Kids are going to do stupid things because they think it's fun and not dangerous. Plus, they know if they told their parents what they were planning to do, they would never get to do anything really fun and really stupid.
I could only imagine Mrs. Johnston's reaction had the kids told her they were going to climb on the roof, lock the window so the youngest brother couldn't get back in and then laugh as he ran around four stories above the ground.
Even my mother who was hardly ever surprised by her sons' actions probably would have said, "Are you completely nuts?" if we had told her that we were going to stand still while a brother shot an arrow in the sky to see how close to the others it would land.
Parents, it seems, just don't know how to have fun.
Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times reporter. His e-mail address is email@example.com. Paul Schmid is a Times news artist.
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