Fighting Boredom in Arkansas
The things we did to amuse ourselves...
Looking back on my life as a childhood Nintendo-Powered and Sega Genesis-dominating kid, I must admit I just didn't understand the appeal of a lot of things. My family moved to a 643 acre ranch in Booneville Arkansas complete with multiple ponds, and a 15 acre lake but I missed the sidewalks where I could rollerblade, and the streets where I could challenge neighborhood kids to street hockey. Oh, and our closest neighbor was a 'Lord of the Rings' type journey, and chances are they didn't have any kids our age.
I developed an unhealthy hatred towards cows.
They weren't the beautiful creatures that roamed the plains like my Kindergarten posters suggested, no they were snotty/smelly/poop covered foul beasts, and they had an uncanny knack for escaping their designated zones on our property, and it was up to me and my step-brother to lead them back...on foot...with sticks.
Thorns, ticks, chiggers, and worse.
I'd come home covered in smeared blood and dirt. Those cows were torturing us on purpose, I was sure of it. We were supposed to be getting paid for our retrieval, but my Uncle; the resident cowboy always jipped us on the money. My Step-Brother and I were too completely different people, and we couldn't force ourselves to get along despite the fact that all we had was each and an older cousin who tried his luck at things like bull-riding and high school football, which excluded most 11 year-olds like us.
We had all this land to explore, but honestly none of it appealed to me. I always had the worst luck fishing, and I was too clumsy and unsubtle to hunt for squirrels and birds that only seemed to show up when I didn't have a gun. I longed for the days of TV with more than 4 channels, and my neighborhood friends that'd share videogames with us. I was homesick for my California suburban home.
To help us get across the vast lands quicker, my Poppa let us drive one of his trucks. It was pretty cool learning how to drive at such an early age, but soon I found myself abusing the power. Speed became my bane, as I'd find little hills and speed towards them with the intent to jump
all stuntman style. I felt like a genuine Evil Knievel.
There was three houses on our property. One for my Mom, her husband, and us kids, one for my Uncle, his wife, and her teenager son, and one for my Grandma and Poppa. If someone in either house would see my Step-brother and I engaging in some dangerous vehicular activity, we'd be reported and my Poppa would give us a stern talking to about how that truck was a privilege, not a toy. We reasoned with him that if he'd buy us more toys we wouldn't treat his truck like one. We wanted an ATV, our own ATV's so we could race.
Sadly, our requests fell on deaf ears.
Now, like I mentioned before, I wasn't the hunting or fishing type, so really there wasn't much else to do on such a vast and isolated property. Growing up in California, you encounter crappy excuses for fireworks, but when they're all you have you marvel at them accordingly. In Arkansas, most fireworks aren't illegal, so we stocked up on some to last for years. Our born and raised in Arkansas cousin introduced us to an excitingly dangerous game;
BOTTLE ROCKET WAR!
Armed with a lighter, we'd shoot bottle rockets towards each other. Sure, this was by all means dangerous, and our parents probably shouldn't have let us have our own personal cache of Bottle Rockets, but few things were more exciting than having a sparkly missile zoom towards your head.
After an unfortunate accident involving a homemade flamethrower with an aerosol can, my stash of Bottle Rockets (and my back-pack that housed them) were destroyed in a loud blaze of lights. Bottle Rocket Wars aren't fun when they're one-sided.
I fear three things; water, snakes, and watersnakes. My fear of water thankfully does not prevent me from bathing, it simply makes me uncomfortable being submerged past my neck. I can swim, but I don't care to much. My fear of snakes comes from them being hell-spawned soulless creatures that have plans to lay their eggs in the skulls of your family members when you're not looking. Watersnakes are pretty self-explanatory. One day I was driving home from some exploration and I saw a gigantic black phallic-shaped creature catching sun-rays on our lawn.
I at first panicked, secondly let our a girlish scream, and thirdly headed towards my room to grab my 22 Rifle.
I shot at the snake like a madman. I hit him with a barrage of bullets, ending his terrorizing existence on this earth. No one told me that a snake's nervous system still causes it to move even after decapitation, so I thought I was battling a demon snake that could not die. I'd run back inside my house, re-load my gun, and try to end the snake's miserable slithery life once and for all. Finally, I worked up the courage to grab a shovel, and I severed it's head. The body still moved despite all of this, so I figure since it didn't have a head anymore it couldn't bite me. I grabbed some work gloves, and took it to my garage sink, where I took a cue from Predator and skinned my prey. I wanted this memento to remind me I conquered my fears and slayed a demonic snake that could have easily stolen my soul had I not been so trigger-happy and cunning.
My Mom came home and laughed as I proudly relayed the story of my heroism. Apparently the snake was harmless, and the notion of me skinning it with a steak knife was also humorous to her and the years worth of people she'd tell the story to. Despite my tale of bravery becoming an embarrassing joke, I still looked-upon myself as a hero.
When I was young, I used to entertain the notion that I was good at basketball. In reality, I was not, and my movements on the court made for some embarrassing moments. To help us get better at the sport, our family went and got us a basketball hoop we set up on our driveway. I'd spend hours trying to master the complexities of a lay-up. I came to the conclusion that White Men CAN jump, but very few of them could play basketball.
We'd eventually get a trampoline. That springy toy of goodness was the perfect cure for the boredom blues. I'd jump high, and learn different ways to flip my body while pretending I was a ninja. My Step-Brother and I would pretend we were our favorite Pro-Wrestlers and practice our signature moves and slams. We'd turn on the sprinklers and jump during those unbearably hot and humid Arkansas days, and often camp out on the trampoline and fall asleep under the stars. We'd wake up to find out that a vast assortment of bugs had made our bodies their gigantic buffet, but it was all worth it. It was almost too good to be true..
One day I attempted the much feared back-flip. My execution was seemingly flawless until I found myself over-rotating and falling flat on my face. I impacted with the left-side and got all thrashed up. I looked like Two-Face for a few days.
At the school we were forced to go to, the children weren't very inviting. Us being from California and all, we were always called "Hollywood", even though my Step-Brother was born in Bakersfield, and I in San Luis Obispo which is far from the glamorous life. They made fun of our clothes, and belittled our choice of shoes. Vans were hard to find in Arkansas back in 1997-1998, and we were accused of wearing Airwalk knock-offs.
They'd laugh at our funny accents, and challenge us to fights. My Step-Brother and I took some karate classes years earlier, and were capable fighters back in the day, so we used some of our teachings. Apparently kicking and using anything but your fists was cheating to them, and we'd find ourselves in trouble and often times defending ourselves from multiple opponents. Fighting became a pastime for us.
Where I was always waiting for someone to instigate, my Step-Brother was a bit more gung-ho and would purposely seek out fights. Sometimes we'd fight together, other times we'd fight on opposing forces. We were like the Ken and Ryu of the playground.
One day, while out shooting random stuff, we came across a beaver. Now, beavers would make dams in our lake, so we were encouraged to terminate on sight, so we unleashed a barrage of bullets, eventually killing the buck-toothed fiend. My Step-Dad's friend had often joked about how he'd show us boys how to eat a beaver. Always willing to try new things, I had my Step-Dad call up his buddy to find out how to properly prepare a beaver to be bbq'd. Little did we know that when he had told us he'd teach us how to "eat beaver" he wasn't talking about the dam building buck-toothed animal.
We found a large vine hanging securely from a giant tree. We'd use it to swing ourselves over a 20 ft cliff, and daringly swing back. Disaster was bound to happen, and when it did it was one of the funniest things I had ever witnessed.
Imagine that, except no water...just rocks...and dirt...and pain. The vine snapped, sending my poor Step-Brother off a cliff. He wasn't too badly hurt, but I had to go and tell my Parents so they could help him back up. I swear, it looked like a cartoon, down the the "OH SH*T!" expression he had right as the vine snapped.
We had many more adventures, such as the time I fell off a horse and cracked my head on a rock, instantly going concuss and twisting my ankle, or the time my Step-Brother cut the head off a copperhead snake and coiled it up in front of my Mom's bedroom door right before she walked out of the shower, or the time I found a tick on me attached to my most scared of places, but this article is long enough, and I'm done with it. I hope you enjoy a look back at the humorous extremes we went to in order to amuse ourselves.