Road to lawn darts is filled with potholes

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Column: Tales from Exit 22, by Al Batt

It was back when I had the energy to want things.

And I had no compunction about asking for them.

I wanted lawn darts. I had to have them.

I asked my mother if I could have lawn darts. She told me that I’d put an eye out.

That was a long version of “no.” Mothers learned to say such things in Mom School. She thought that ownership of such things brought one to the brink of madness.

I thought that the denial was a stumble on the march of progress.

A guy named Marvin Stone patented the paper drinking straw in 1888. The straws are good, but no straw ever sucked as much as not having lawn darts.

It had been another tough day of third-grade schooling. We’d spent much of the morning learning big words like “a,” “an,” and “the.” Uffda!

The school cafeteria used disposable paper cups, conical jobs with sharp, pointed ends that nestled comfortably in metal holders.

As I watched a classmate fill a paper cup with water, I had an idea. As I made my way outside for recess (a glorious respite from the stresses of an academic life), I grabbed one of those paper cups. Outside, I found a small stone and placed it in the bottom of the closed-end funnel. I mashed down the big end of the cup and then twisted it so that the rock was locked in place.

This done, I tossed the paper cup dart into the air. It zoomed upward before reaching its zenith and falling back to the earth where it stuck in the ground. It doesn’t get much better than that for a young boy. We kids were on our own during recess in those days. The teachers were happy to be rid of us and didn’t hover around us in the playground. They were inside the school. I believe recess had been developed for their benefit, not ours. I suspect that there is a church somewhere that teaches that heaven is recess.

I quickly made a game of the darts. I fashioned fallen tree branches into small squares. They were the targets. If the paper cup dart stuck in the middle, it was a ringer similar to that in horseshoe competition. We kept score and held tournaments. Paper cups darts were even better than lawn darts.

One day, I was having a perfect day. I’d gotten every word right in a spelling test and we’d had tater tot hotdish for lunch. Recess rocked. No matter how I launched the paper cup dart, it landed in the exact center of the twigged square. I could toss it right-handed, left-handed, behind my back, with my eyes closed, and it didn’t matter. It was a ringer every time because I was having a perfect day. I threw the paper cup dart so high that it became a Fourth of July fireworks. Kids oohed as the dart zoomed upward and aahed when it began its descent. I threw it so high that first-graders fell over backwards attempting to see it at its peak.

I pointed out the location where the dart was going to stick just as Babe Ruth might have pointed to where his home run was going to land. A crowd gathered. Even the fifth and sixth graders showed up. They were street-smart, world-weary kids. It was hard to impress them. They were impressed. Even the fellow who farmed near the school and the custodian showed up to watch.

Life was good. I thought that this was just the first of endless perfect days that would constitute my life.

As I tossed a paper cup dart so high that I should have contacted the FAA in case there might have been a jet airplane flying in that area, I discovered that my dreams of a perfect life would not be coming true.

I threw the dart high and it came down and struck one of my friends right on the top of his noggin. He’d obviously suffered a brain cramp as he’d been standing smack dab in the middle of the targeted square. The chances of those two points, the point of his head and the point of that dart intersecting in a large playground, were infinitesimal, but it happened.

My friend wasn’t seriously injured, but my perfect day came to a screeching halt.

It became illegal to possess a paper cup outside the school cafeteria.

Perfect lives are found only in fairy tales.

Paper cup darts are not found there.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.