Andrew Birden Credit: Andrew Birden

When I was a 4-year-old, my parents gave me and my older brother toy bows and arrows, one for each of us. Folks who were born before Jarts required a background check for a carry permit and when Nerf products were still in the future will remember these bows and arrows with their cloth bowstrings, Tinker Toy wooden shafts and rubber sucker arrow heads.

My memory of the time is fuzzy, but as I recall we shot the arrows at the pictures on the walls, knocked over a lamp or two, and generally brought chaos to the living room. Like many play sessions in my youth, it didn’t take my mom too long to throw us out in the backyard to whoop and holler with enthusiasm and ignorant cultural appropriation that would make a politician hide in his or her office rather than hazard a comment on whether two boys were behaving with any sort of political correctness.

Yes, we were being stupid.

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When we took the bows outside, we soon realized the rubber suckers refused to stick to anything in the yard.  Still, we could hit a tree from five feet away, usually hit a wooden fence from ten feet away, and couldn’t hit anything else because that was about as far as the arrows would fly.

So my older brother, who would later grow up to earn a degree in genetics, become a U.S. Marine and eventually a firefighter in Washington, D.C., showed how we could pull the rubber suckers off of the toy arrows, sharpen the ends of the wooden shafts with a steak knife to a wicked sharp point, and suddenly the arrows would stick into lots of things.

Yes, we were still being stupid.

Then we made two more modifications to the toys.  First, we replaced the string with some nylon fishing line from the garage, and second, we attached a small weight near the end of the pointed part with electrical tape so the arrow would not tumble in the air.

Now the toy arrows would go superduper far, and they stuck into all sorts of things with a satisfying thunk and the shaft of the arrow quivered just like in the movies.

Then we had the bright idea of lying on our backs on the ground in the backyard and shooting the arrows straight up in the air.  We watched the arrows launch into the sky like rockets from Cape Canaveral. We went “ooooooh” as the arrows went up, and then when the arrows came straight back down we dared each other to be the last one to roll out of the way as the arrow plunged into the ground where we were lying down.

We did that one time. We looked at the arrows deep in the dirt and quivering by our heads, and suddenly we stopped being stupid, put the arrows away and went inside.

Which just goes to show that a person can make one stupid decision after another, but once the evidence is right there in front of you, even a 4-year-old can finally make a smart decision to avoid disaster.