I had a good time at Arkansas Writers’ Conference in Little Rock last weekend. Ten Village Writers attended, and some of us also won awards in various writing contests. I was thrilled when my entry, “Fun and Games,” received a first place prize in the Grand Conference Award calling for a “humorous and creative essay about an experience involving a sport.” The guidelines also said to “make the reader think and laugh.” I hope you will enjoy it.
FUN AND GAMES
Madelyn F. Young
Shouts arose amid billowing clouds of dust at the far end of the playground. Valiant contenders raced helter-skelter, swinging their sticks at a crumpled can skittering back and forth across the yard. One player attempted to hit the makeshift ball into a center hole, and others moved to block his shots by sending the battered object flying out of the playing area. Sticks and legs collided in a frantic battle.
The boys called their game “Shinny.” Every few moments, a stick slammed into a shinbone. The hapless recipient jumped up and down, yelping and clutching his injury. He yanked up the leg of his overalls, examined his bruises, checked for blood, and then scurried back into the game. Only sissies stayed out of the action.
To outsiders, the game appeared dangerous. But there were definite rules which all Shinny players understood. One could use only straight, smooth sticks from the woods—jagged, crooked ones with knobs were not allowed. No strikes could be made above ground-level, and players could not whack opponents on purpose.
When the fellow who was “It” managed to get the can into the hole, he picked it up and threw it as far as he could out of play. All defensive players raced to a distant tree and back. The last one to return became the new “It.” He ran out to retrieve the can, shuttled it back with his stick, and the next round of furious activity began.
Recess time at the small rural school provided a stunning showcase for male bravery. No girls dared to participate in such a melee, which made the game an ingenious device for excluding their classroom rivals.
My husband laughs when he recalls those daily skirmishes. However, I wonder if there hasn’t been a holdover. He’s older now and retired, but he still enjoys a sport which I believe is nothing more than a glorified game of Shinny.
Three or four times a week, he and his cronies do battle. Instead of dirt, their playground is a manicured lawn with green fairways and smooth greens. The sticks they swing are more expensive, made of titanium and graphite, and it’s not a crumpled can they hit, but a little white ball. However, the point of the game is still to knock the object into the hole. They may not swing their clubs wildly around each other’s legs, but competition is still intense, and, if a shot goes awry, yelping can still be heard. Girls can play now, but usually, the boys still play with the boys.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this. No matter how old we get, we are all still kids at heart, and the games we play don’t change much. In this chaotic and confusing world, that’s a comforting thought.