By Charles Towne                        

Why is it that little boys like to play with sharp and pointy sticks?

When I was five or six years old and growing up on the Fox River in Illinois I always played with sharp and pointy sticks.  I am sure that this tendency for little boys to play with almost anything sharp and pointy goes far back in time, probably to the first little boy.

I can just hear his mother, Eve, admonishing him with the words, “And don’t you play with sharp and pointy sticks or you’ll poke out both of your eyes and you will be blind for the rest of your life!”

This declaration in all probability only whet his appetite for a sharp and pointy stick to play with, and so it has been for all of human history.  Thus it was that my mama admonished me with the words, ”… and don’t play with sharp and pointy sticks, if you do you are liable to poke out both of your eyes and you will be blind for the rest of your life!”  And quite naturally I went out and began searching for a sharp and pointy stick.  From this, I have concluded that it is mothers that plant the idea to play with sharp and pointy sticks into the minds of little boys, to begin with.

Thus it was that I carried “OL’ EYE POKER,” my eye-poking stick everywhere I went as a little boy.  Every little boy, in accordance with the little boy bill of rights, should carry an eye-poking stick.  As I pointed out I must have been five or six when I took one of my frequent jaunts on the Fox River.  I turned over rocks to catch crayfish and hellgrammites and I caught a big, old mean water snake and teased it until it slithered away in terror.  I skipped stones and threw rocks at a big bald-faced hornet’s nest until the hornets became so angry they made me run for life.   Boy, those things can sting!  Through all of this, I carried my eye-poking stick, “Ol’ Eye Poker.”  Now it should be understood that “Ol’ Eye Poker” was no ordinary stick, no sir’ree!   It was about four feet long, and I had used my finger-cutting knife to sharpen one end to a real fine, needle-sharp, eye poking point.  “Ol’ Eye Poker” was enough to make any mama scream, “You’re going to poke out both of your eyes with that stick!”

“Ol’ Eye Poker” could, at my least whim, be transformed into a spear, or a sword, or if the occasion warranted, a rifle that could shoot all day on a single loading.  I lunged at dragons and hacked my way through bunch’s of pirates and black knights and always walked away victorious.  Then one day I discovered a most wonderful treasure.  The thing captivated me, gripping my attention as nothing had since I found the maggot covered dead chicken.  (I bet you never popped maggots between your fingers.)  My discovery lay there in repose at the river’s edge.  It was irresistible and most tantalizing to any normal little boy’s curiosity.  There, washed high and dry by the last tide was a huge pile of unprocessed lard!  Enough bacon for a hundred robust breakfasts, sausages galore and enough leather to make a dozen pairs of shoes!

In case you have not guessed, what I had found was a huge, very deceased, passed away, barnyard dead, pig, that had surpassed its life expectancy several days before.  Piggy had reached its final state of deactivation through some mysterious malady, perhaps leprosy, plague or something equally exciting, sometime before.  This was evident by the fine degree of bloat it had achieved as it lay there in the hot summer sun.  Yes, time, combined with the sun’s rays had transformed the dearly departed porker into a lovely methane gas generator.

At that time I did not have a clue what methane gas was but I was soon to find out.  I stood there admiring the dead hog with its eyes all bugged out and staring and its legs jutting straight out, and wham!  That curiosity of mine did it again.  Very carefully I stood on the pig.  It jiggled, burbled and quaked under my feet.  And suddenly my imagination switched into overdrive and raced out of control as I pictured ‘my’ pig floating down the river with me standing on top of it.  I could just picture the ‘Good Ship Swine’ floating down the river with me at the helm and ‘Ol’ Eye Poker’ in my hand as I sailed to faraway ports and distant lands.  But first I had to launch my ship, and then I could run home and get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

After all, a fellow setting off on a long journey such as I was planning needs to have food along.    I grabbed a leg and tugged.  The pig added hissing to its litany of sounds and it creaked a bit, but it would not move.  Hmmm, it was obvious that if I couldn’t get it into deep water it probably wouldn’t make a very good ship.  I puzzled on it some and even thought of getting mama to help drag my pig ship to the water but I dismissed that idea real fast when I remembered that she had taken the maggot covered dead chicken away from me.  I could have understood if she had wanted to play with it but she threw it down the toilet hole and dumped lye on it.  What a waste!  You should be forewarned that if your mother is the type that won’t let you play with a dead chicken she certainly won’t let you play with a dead hog!  I reached out and thumped the sweet swine with “Ol’ Eye Poker.”

Wonder of wonders, a drum!  ‘Whump, whump, whump.  Dum, dum, dum,’ and the sound resonated out over the Fox River.  But, as such things seem to happen to little boys, and little boys being little boys I soon grew weary of this lovely musical interlude.  This, by the way, was the extent of my experience with a musical instrument.  It was about this time that things took a dramatic change for the worse.  What had began as a big, beautiful, dead bloated pig and had miraculously changed to a ship and then to a drum was now transforming itself into a fierce, fire-breathing dragon, and it was about to attack!

Swiftly, realizing the terrible danger that I was in, ‘Ol’ Eye Poker’ became a spear.  And I, with no thought for my own safety, charged the ferocious beast!  As I have been saying all along, and I am sure you will agree, little boys should not be allowed to play with sharp and pointy sticks.  I mean, there definitely are worse things than poking your eye out!  ’Ol’ Eye Poker’ struck the dragon a deadly blow.  The terrible beast roared with pain and fury!   ‘Ol’ Eye Poker’ stuck that sun-ripened pig and as my stick went in the huge porker exploded in my face.  I do not know how many people have had a dead pig explode warm, smelly pig juice all over them but I will say this, you might at least warn a fellow.  I mean, seriously, mothers should warn little boys.  Is that really too much to ask?  When little boys go out to play mothers should admonish them with the words,   “And don’t you poke any dead, rotten pigs with your sharp and pointy stick!”

Dear Lord God, thank you for a mother that taught me the value of soap and water at a very early age.  Also, thanks for my guardian angels because I am convinced that it was only due to my mama’s prayers summoning them to rescue me from the mayhem that mama’s precious little darling, at 80+ years still has both of his eyes.  Amen

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Love your story Charles! Too bad Mothers can’t always be around time with their good advice!

    Sure glad I never found a bloated, fat porker to spear! I did manage to find a small sink hole that was loaded with BIG bullfrogs. I knew I had heard that frogs, especially BIG ones, were tasty and good to eat! So, one day me and my dog Boliver decided to take a few home for mother to cook. I had a nice air rifle, and thought I would harvest a few. I soon found out that after you shoot one you have to wait awhile before you try to pick them up, or they will jump back in the pond. After Boliver and I had six nice BIG frogs, we headed home to have mother cook the legs. BIG Mistake! As soon as the frog legs hit the hot bacon grease, they started to move around and twitch! Needless to say that ended my frog hunting days. Mother told me to NEVER bring home something that would move around in her frying pan that was still alive!

  2. Thank you for sharing so many of your memories of a time when boys would be boys. They help to bring back memories of a time when you didn’t have technical devices and used your mind to carry you to places to have fun. So many ways to get into trouble also.

  3. Oh my dear Floretta, we boys didn’t purposely go looking for trouble but I think trouble went looking for us! One might say we were innocent bystanders, same way with you sweet little girls. Thanks so much for your appreciation and your comment! Chaz

  4. Hmm, reminds me of little boy days, mine and my son’s. My son got a finger cutting knife for his birthday from his grandpa. He quickly tried it out on the nice leather back seat of my new Oldsmobile. Needless to say, mother disappeared the finger cutting knife for all time.

    Wasp nests and big sticks were great fun too. As long as you could run fast.

  5. George, I could never figure it out, why it is that mama’s do the things they do? Always interfering with little boy’s fun? I can’t imagine her taking your son’s finger cutting knife away from him, and the one grandpa gave to him! There oughta be a law against such irresponsible behavior! Thanks pal, Chaz

  6. Oh my!! What delightful reminiscing of my brother and cousins, while reading about
    Ol’ Eye Poker!! Every summer ,my brother and I would jump in the car with my parents, heading for our grandparent’s farm in KY. They had big, rotund pigs and of course, lots of sticks that we converted into Ol’ Eye Pokers. We would spend 2 glorious weeks playing with our cousins, but never did we get to experience an exploding pig!! Thank you for making me laugh until my stomach hurt. Your stories are priceless!!

  7. Oh dear C.S.G. It is people like you that make my day! Isn’t it fun to remember, to look back and cogitate on yesteryear? I am compiling a collection of stories that will eventually be published. They will be along the order of the Chicken Soup books but glimpses into my past. I am about to have a book published inspired by fifteen years of taking care of my darling wife. This is going to be tentatively called, WHO CARES, and it is written for caregivers. See you next time, God bless you, Chaz

  8. Another great story, Charles, thank you. I was not prepared for the exploding pig but I could picture it so clearly. Yuck, yuck, and more yuck! Good times.

  9. Dear kristin, you have never yucked until you have yucked with a smelly old pig! Thanks for your encouragement. I have had a lifetime of yuck. I will try to bring more yuck next time. Yuckingly yours, Chaz

  10. Thanks Reminded me of the time my kids and I went to the Beach, A mountain of Sand was waiting to be explored! After a few minutes of

    playing on this my they took of running for the water of the Ocean. The sand Was covering A Dead Decomposing Whale, they were in up to their Knees in Yuk by the time they realized what was happening! Thanks again for the Memories!

  11. E.J. I came upon a dead whale down on the east coast of Florida years ago. The seagulls were having a most delicious feast! And a yucky day to you and yours sir. Stay tuned for more. I have to be careful ’cause I don’t know how much yuck Apopka can handle? Chaz

  12. The things we do as children… Moms should start Speaking in Reversed Psychology….

    Glad I was able to keep my sandwich down….


    ~Empresś Love

  13. Dear S, I can just imagine what the S stands for, Sweety, Salubrious, Sinky, etc. etc. etc. It is people like you that inspire writers like me. Keep on smiling. Chaz

  14. Aaahhhh,the memories! I was a city boy so the only wilderness we had was at a park several blocks from home But we were well versed in woodlore from watching Davy Crockett on tv! We didn’t have eye poking sticks but we did have sling shots! We either made our own from inner tubes or collected bottles for 2 cents each untill we could buy a “real” slingshot made by Whammo Inc. There were crabapples in the park so we had a supply of ammo for whatever battles were necessary to fight! One time a kid actually got hit in the face,an accident because we had rules,and had to wear an eyepatch for a while! We all got the “putting out an eye lecture” and because we were young boys, we knew what we had to do, a buddy with a real eyepatch…We were PIRATES!!! Thanks for the memories, Chuck!

  15. Richard, Yeah, slingshots! My buddy Dootsie Bobo and I built a real big slingshot one time that was so strong we had to use daddy’s fence stretcher to pull it back. We used green cow flops for ammunition! We used the back of the barn for target practice until it was green with cow caca. That monster slingshot is a story for another time. I appreciate the comment and your memories as well. May God bless all little boys and us big boys as well, and please Lord, keep us safe, Amen. Chaz

  16. Richard, I remember the Whamo company very well. They sold all sort of real neat stuff that a boy could maim himself with. Do you remember the Whamo blowguns? They shot six inch steel darts with just a puff of air. Lethal they were, yep, lethal! But the government got involved and pretty soon, yep, that’s right, no more blowguns! They went the same route as those real neat lawn darts that had a tendency to give folks lobotomys. What else did Whamo manufacture that went the way of the great Auk and the Dodo? Chaz

  17. Enjoying your stories…always love a good story! Keep writing! And I am one that can say thank goodness for mothers who keep their sons alive to raise children of their own! I wouldn’t exist otherwise!

  18. Dear, dear, Mudhen, aint it the truth! my gear sainted mama, your Grandma, once in great exasperation, said to me, “I hope you grow up to have a bunch of kids just like you!” I did my dear daughter, Praise God, I did! And you were all wonderful, well behaved children just like me. I love you all, your Pops. Daddy Chaz


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