How And Why Little Boys Have Rock FightsPosted: September 12, 2012
Recently, I was part of a conversation involving several men of my age group. We discussed different things we’d done as young kids – trying to jump bikes over things, marathon wiffle ball games and some things that we’d done that should have killed us, but didn’t. One gentleman piped up – “did you ever get into a rock fight?”
About 70% of us had been in a rock fight during our elementary school years. I was part of that majority. The shared experience gave the majority an excuse to mock the upbringing and manhood of our non-rock throwing (and smarter) brethren.
In the interest of discussion, and to preserve the game for future generations, I am going to lay out the rules of a rock fight.
The Book Of Rules *
Rock fights are spontaneous - they start with a group of boys with nothing better to do.
One member of the group will generate the idea. Almost always the others will happily accept that idea. The only time a proposed rock fight will be rejected is when the memory of the last rock fight is too fresh in the minds of the participants.
Preparations will start as soon as the group decides that having a rock fight would be good fun – These things are not scheduled in advance. One does not pencil in a rock fight tomorrow at two. This is one of the reasons there has never been a professional rock fighting league.
This is a friendly activity – Boys who rock fight do so as a game, not to injure or out of malice. This is a fun activity.
I recognize that being hit by a chunk of stone doesn’t sound fun. It is. Because rock fights are for fun, they are never played with people who are true rivals. Being hit with a rock thrown by someone you don’t like hurts more and is not fun. Also, such people can’t be trusted to follow the rules.
Teams must be chosen – A good rock fight requires a group. There has never been a one on one rock fight, ever.
Once chosen, teams build a “fort” or designate an existing feature – like a low wall – as their fort. Forts can’t be too large. They should be just big enough for the players to duck behind. Forts can’t completely enclose players. Rocks are stockpiled in the fort.
The fight begins when both teams agree that they are ready – Throwing rocks before the other team is ready is so uncool. It is important for players to be able to dodge thrown rocks. Being hit by an unexpected rock hurts more.
Rocks will be thrown up and over the opponent’s wall. High arching throws give players time to avoid flying stones.
If a player is hit by a rock – There are several acceptable reactions. Players may laugh hysterically if the way that the player is hit is sufficiently funny or if his reaction warrants laughter.
If a player is injured, laughter is no longer appropriate and a cease-fire ensues.
A hit can also be funny and not funny. For example – a throw arcs high, hits the wall of the opponent’s fort. The rock deflects off the wall and into the groin of a player. Laughter ensues from both teams because groin hits are always funny. If the player remains on the ground and seems truly injured, the hit becomes no longer funny.
No hard throws – Some of you are reading this and wondering how you’d throw a rock softly. Eight year old boys can do it. Perhaps it isn’t that they can, it is that they believe that they can. Believing it possible is enough. I’m pretty sure that, given the chance to get into a rock fight at my current age, I could still softly throw a rock.
It isn’t ever acceptable to throw a rock at anyone like you would throw a baseball. That sort of throw imparts a dangerous level of force and accuracy. An arching, lofted throw removes accuracy and, in the logic of boys, keeps the rock from gaining enough speed to impart significant injuries.
No aiming for the head or groin – To do so is ungentlemanly.
No getting angry at unintentional head or groin hits – This is the issue that ended most of the rock fights I was in. Injured flesh sometimes led to injured feelings. Someone would get hit by a rock that was properly thrown and become upset with the person who threw it. Players on both sides would point out that the thrower did not mean to hurt anyone. The ensuing discord would bring the game to an end.
The Sociological Analysis
As I wrote about this game, I began wondering what it meant about me and society.
It occurred to me that it might mean that women and girls are smarter than men. I never found myself in a rock fight with a girl. I’ve never met a woman who nostalgically recalled being hit in the head with a piece of granite.
It’d be easy (and likely correct) to conclude that women are born smarter and keep that wisdom by being smart enough not to get involved in a dangerously silly game. I kept thinking, hoping that I could spin this in a way more favorable to my gender.
Even though I was on the receiving end of a number of miraculously well targeted rocks, I found the conclusion that I was looking for. While it may be true that girls being smart enough to avoid this game says something about the sophistication of the female mind, I think that the game indicates that men are optimists.
We want things to go well. There is no other way to explain this game and that men nostalgically recall it. We so desperately wanted this game to succeed that we tried it over and over. We ignored the fact that it ended horribly every time we did. Each time we played, my friends and I were sure that would be the time it worked out well.
Maybe it can. I claim the picnic table as my fort.
Who else is in?