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.