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Yes, we played with sticks and rocks

September 6, 2011

When I was a kid, I wasn’t terribly burdened with a lot of toys.  My parents gave me things to play with but they weren’t overly extravagant.  Many of the things I played with were homemade.

My Barbies lived in a cardboard box that was covered with wood-grained contact paper with some windows cut out.  Wood paneling was the home fashion statement of the late 60s/early 70s, and my Barbies lived as uptown as anyone could who called a cardboard box home.

Most women kept some sort of sewing kit in those days, even if they rarely sewed.  Thread came on wooden spools, and once those spools were empty of thread, they became toys.  Stood on their ends, they were building blocks for making tall towers.  But my favorite thing to do with them was dip one end in a solution of dish soap and water and blow on the other end.  Homemade bubble solution.  The more soap in the solution, the bigger the bubbles got.  And they always had rainbows on their surfaces.

When we went to my grandpa’s house, the box of available toys never changed.  Wooden building blocks (and more spools, of course).  A funny tin train toy that spun around and around on a little track if you turned it upside down and righted it again.  A metal spinning top.  A metal jack-in-the-box.  A tin of assorted loose buttons, great for making spinning button-on-a-string toys. Dominoes. I suspect those toys had been around from the time my mother and her siblings were children.  But the best toys at Grandpa’s were the empty plastic cottage cheese and sour cream containers that were saved for some undetermined future use.  We always knew how to put them to use.  We’d grab a couple and head straight to the crick (that’s a “creek” for you citified folk).  Hours upon hours were spent catching minnies (minnows, which are tiny fish) and crawdads (also known as crayfish, crawcrabs, crawfish, or just plain crabs).  Sometimes we’d find a salamander, and in the spring we’d find frog eggs.  We knew how to catch a crawdad and pick it up without getting pinched.  And we knew that it actually hurt worse to get pinched by a tiny crawdad than a larger one.  We’d build dams in the crick in an attempt to pool the water enough to fake a swimming hole, which for us meant anything deeper than about eight inches.  And we’d scoop up mud to make mud pies on the big flat rocks that lined the creek.  We usually left Grandpa’s house filthy and almost always napped on the car ride home.  I don’t think my parents had any problem with this.

There was a particular “toy” that we loved that seemed to be peculiar to our family.  I now know it’s not peculiar to our family at all, though it is indeed peculiar.  I first time I saw evidence that this toy existed outside my family was in the movie The Secret Life Of Bees.  And then…I googled it.  And youtubed it.  And…well, just let me show you:

Why yes…yes, that young man is flying a June bug on a string.  Honestly, it’s a load of fun!  The hard part was always getting the string tied to the bug’s leg because June bugs are very squirmy and scratchy.  Apparently every month is no-shave November for June bugs.

I really do think simple toys are best.  Kids of all ages will use their imaginations to make up for any lack in their toy box if only given the chance.  And a bug and some string.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Laurie Wade permalink
    September 6, 2011 9:14 pm

    Justin said June bugs are fun to tie to bottle rockets. He said it pretty matter of fact. lol

  2. September 6, 2011 9:20 pm

    I want to find wooden builing blocks, lincoln logs, and those things for Ryland.

    • September 6, 2011 9:23 pm

      I’ll be glad to help you find stuff like that!

      • Liz G. permalink
        September 7, 2011 8:11 am

        Do you all have AC Moore Craft stores down there? They have the Melissa and Doug toys that are made out of wood. Simple and classic. I bought a huge crate of Melissa and Doug building blocks for my boys with a 50% percent off coupon at AC Moore one Christmas. It’s my go to place for Christmas shopping. You can print a coupon online.

        • September 7, 2011 8:15 am

          We do, Liz! I’ll have to check it out!

  3. September 6, 2011 9:21 pm

    I remember a summer spent building “stores” out of metal mobile home underpinning. Anybody let their kids play with corrugated sheet metal?

    When our grandsons come over the first thing they ask for is the big bin of wooden train tracks and simple trains. No batteries. No video screen. No sound effects. Just imagination and little boys at play.

  4. September 6, 2011 9:27 pm

    never heard of flying a bug! ha. my brother and I played with matchbox cars for hours. We made roads with dominoes and carton buildings.

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