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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Rye Grass Missile War
By James Deaton


Summer afternoons and evenings had a routine in the North Fairfield section of Susanville, California. It was the slow year of 1956, when most men worked and most women held the exalted title of housewife. The Fairfield group of kids seemed to gather about 4:30, try to escape the “Mom” chore requirement, be present when Dad got home, eat and then exit the house to really play. Television was a rarity so games of skill and imagination were par for the course.

There were three fairly well defined groups of children in the area. The Fairfield Avenue group could muster up three kids on short notice and field 14 kids if the need was really great. West up Fourth Street, and I say up because Susanville had one part of the city anchored in the flat lands of sage brush and log storage fields, where we lived, and about 200 feet higher, the “uptown” was in the tall timber, so when you were going West you were going “up.” Spring and Sacramento Streets held about fifteen kids that played together. Down East was the Russell Avenue group and they had about 10 kids.

Well this evening started off like usual with me and Joey playing kick the can in front of my house. It was somewhere around 7:45, so it was unusual to see seven of the Russell Avenue group coming up through the log field. They weren’t moving like they were going somewhere but were moseying along and kept looking towards us. Several of them were pulling out clumps of green rye grass and throwing them into the air. That was a fun game we all played because a large amount of dirt would come up with each clump and you could really put some distance on it and usually hit or come close to your target. Joey and I went back to our can game.

The surprise attack came in the form of seven green missiles thumping down into Fairfield Avenue with one just missing Joey’s head. The challenge was answered in a moment as we sprinted for the grass along side the logging field and fired back at the four kids we could see in the log field. They had split up with four coming up Forth Street and three trying to cut through my Aunts back yard. We loaded up with four missiles each and charge the three sending them in full retreat back down the alley and spun to our left, ran down the alley to let loose with all eight shots. The four Russell Avenue boys in the log field broke and ran. We whooped and hollered until our sides ached. That brought Denny on the run for he knew he was missing some fun.

None of the other Fairfield group seemed to be home tonight so if it was war it would be us three against the world and our thoughts was let them come. The Russell group did come again and again. We moved out across Fourth Street because ammo was most available for both sides in and along side the log storage field. Back and forth we moved charging and retreating between Fairfield and Mesa Street, as we pulled grass and flung away. Denny happened to look up Fourth Street and I heard him let out a gasp. There coming down towards us was 10 of the Sacramento group. They were marching in a line and seemed ill prepared because they only had one clump of grass for each person. We looked at each other, turned and charged as one letting fly with three clumps each. Three direct hits and one especially satisfying hit to Charles Glenn right on the top of his head. He was fully covered with grass and dirt.

The voice of my mother cut through the dim light of the evening and all 20 kids knew what that meant for if one grownup was calling it was time to call it quits and get in because the remaining parents would be calling soon. We all stood up, wiped our hand, called out to our friends and turned toward home. I looked with surprise because most of the rye grass from the edge of the log field was now just wilting clumps scattered along three blocks of Fourth Street. Oh well, there would always be next year for another fun time of Rye Grass Missile throwing.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 09/13/09
Wonderful descriptions. You put me right there.
Shilo Goodson09/16/09
Great description. It's easy to envision the kids having this grass war.
Lisa Johnson09/17/09
What an entertaining story.