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I loved war or army, as we sometimes called it. I’m not talking about real war, but the pretend war I played with my cousins on my Grandpap’s farm. It was so much fun and required nothing and everything.

W-2It required nothing because guns could be fingers or better yet, sticks that became machine guns. It required everything to imagine those sticks were guns that my cousins were enemies and the hay loft was a fort. We’d usually play Americans and Germans—Germans were mean and cruel. Americans were always good and on the side of right. We learned to mimic the sounds of machine guns… “rat-a-tat-tat, I got you, you’re dead!”

The farm was ideal. There was the barn, with hay lofts and endless places to hide. We’d make tunnels by stacking hay bales, complete with full sized rooms, often turned into prisons for enemies that we captured. Then there was the milk house and various other sheds—the chicken coup was rarely used because nothing on God’s good earth is as filthy or smells as bad as a chicken coup! At the back edge of the farm was a wonderful creek that sometimes transformed our play into pirates or “Huck Finn” type games.

My Grandpap took it all in stride—except once. He had put a large harvest of straw bales on the loft floor. We hollowed it out, creating a nice large room. Pap thought he had more straw than he did and was a bit perturbed when he discovered the cavity in the middle of the straw pile!

Days of hard play often ended up around the kitchen table with fried chicken (or rabbit), lots of breads, jellies, mashed potatoes and lima beans (that I hated at the time). Winter brought scrapple, a loaf made of pork parts that was sliced, fried and served with syrup—yum! After supper, there were usually games of hide-n-seek or kick the can or freeze tag or board games—Monopoly being a favorite.

Pretend war—nothing like it. Our imaginations were in overdrive and I can’t help but think that we’re better people today because we had to use our imaginations—no electronics, no iPads, no video games…just plan old imagination. It was play, but in those moments it was real to us and we were good guys and bad guys and the fate of the world was in our hands.