So, Robs installment on The Woods triggered me to recount another “game” we thought up during our summers in Lake Hopatcong. This will probably be my last “Hopatcong” entry for a while, as, believe it or not .. we have come to the end of summer! I may repost my entry about returning to the city after our long, wonderful summer for my next turn.
But , for now, it is still summer and we kids are thinking up new and exciting games to pass the time. Rob did a great job of describing our somewhat insane wars on momma rock and pappa rock. Sticks were used to push back attacks on our stronghold resulting in many cuts and bruises. It really is a wonder there were no more serious injuries as we
Hurled sticks at each other from close range.So, logically, we had to up the ante, so to speak, by creating a game with greater danger. Makes perfect sense, right?
This one we called “chucking rocks”. Chucking ( throwing, flinging, hurling) rocks became an instant classic.
Allow me to set the stage. Looking out from the porch window of our bungalow, if you glanced to the left, you would notice a large patch of pretty dense Woods. It was roughly a mile long and just as wide. We never played in these Woods because they were simply too dense to really enjoy . In the early days there were some blackberry bushes there and that’s about as far as we got.
As time moved on and a few new homes were built as Hopatcong Hills began to develop, the township decided to cut a road through the previously mentioned Woods.This road would eventually be a shorter route to town and to the lake itself. As kids , we never witnessed the completion of this road and truthfully all I remember is the very early stages of its construction.
It’s the early stages of its construction that was the catalyst for “chucking rocks “.
The bull dozers cut a path about two lanes wide through the woods. Then, for some reason, construction stopped leaving a uneven, red clay path through the woods.Thus, our brilliant and creative designation of this road as “the Dirt Road”. (I know, our creative talents were already beginning to show!)
Now, this road split the woods almost directly in the center, but the entire square mile of Woods was not an “even” square mile : it sloped left to right. Thus if one stood on the dirt road, the Woods would be above the road on the left and below the road on the right. Remember, this was the very early stages of construction and no grading had taken place as yet.
Ok, I hope you have somewhat of a mental picture of our dirt road. I say ” our” dirt road because we quickly adopted this new piece of geography as a play area.
Here was the concept of our game;
One team,consisting of 2-4 kids would enter the dense woods that were on the right side. ( these were the woods below the dirt road.) The team objective? Make it all the way through the woods to the point that the dirt road ended . So, roughly make it a half mile in the dense wood parallel to the road.
The other team, consisting of about the same number of kids took their position on the dirt road overlooking the woods. Their objective ? Prevent the team in the Woods from accomplishing their objective.
How, you may ask, would the team on the road prevent the team in the woods from making it a mere half mile? Very simple answer: by chucking rocks at them.
Some of the subtleties of the game that are important to know.
1. The Woods were so dense , that the team on the road, unleashing hell on those in the woods, could not see their targets . Once the Woods team entered the woods they were basically invisible, making the chucking rock team rely on sound,not sight.
Obviously, this made the Woods team rely on stealth and silence more than anything else.
Any talking was to be kept to the bare minimum, lest they reveal their position to the chucking team.
Walking slowly and carefully was critical for the Woods team as well. Broken branches, shuffling leaves, etc could easily give up their position. Clearly, keeping absolutely quiet is the the strong suit of young boys, so inevitably, someone would try to stifle a laugh, decide they had to pee or walk into a pile of dead branches, bringing down upon them a shower of lethal rocks from the chucking team. Once a position was totally given away, there was not much the Woods team could do other than hunker down under cover or make a mad dash for it, which was treacherous in the thick woods.
The chucking Team had an abundance of ammo as the bulldozing of the woods to create the road turned up an abundance of rocks of all sizes. They would wait for the first slip-up by the Woods team, the first sound, and then they let fly in the direction of the that sound.
Until a noise was made, the chucking team adapted a strategy used by navel vessels hunting for known submarines in the area. As the subs “ran silent” the ships would drop Depth charges hoping to hit one. That’s what the chucking team did when there was no sounds. They Fired off round upon round of rocks hoping to come close to an opposing kid. The team in the woods would hear the incoming rocks as they cut through the canopy leaves in the large trees, usually giving them at least a few seconds to find cover.
Once , Bobby, on the Woods team, found himself in a situation in which the chucking team had guessed right and was pummeling his position. He could contain himself no more and let out a desperate yell to his team mates.. “I’m pinned down!!! Help!”
Of course no one did, not wishing to give away their position. So, poor Bobby remained pinned down behind that tree until late afternoon … resulting in a glorious victory for the chucking team when he was forced to surrender.
In hindsight it’s a miracle that none of us got seriously hurt . A rock coming at you from that distance and height could cause some serious damage. There were plenty of sizable gashes and bruises , but no broken bones or serious head injuries. I don’t know how you feel about guardian angels, but in looking back , my belief is validated.
They must have sighed heavily to themselves as they witnessed this nutty bunch of kids chucking rocks at each other.
Just Another day in Hopatcong summers, chucking rocks.