Boy, it sure was hot that day.

Guess you got to expect that when it’s July in Kentucky.

Hot or not, two young boys ain’t gonna be denied the chance to spend the day out­side, look­ing for adven­ture wher­ev­er it springs up.

Jake and I got togeth­er that morn­ing, as we did just about every morn­ing dur­ing sum­mer when one or the oth­er of us wasn’t havin’ to go to sum­mer school to make up for bad grades durin’ the reg­u­lar school year.

Don’t know why but teach­ers just seemed to be more ‘onery dur­ing the sum­mer.  Reckon they didn’t want to be in school any mor’n we did.

Looks like today was gonna be one of those days for some pea shootin’.

But first, we had to find us some Indian “see­gars” and have a short smoke… after we snitched a few kitchen match­es from the house and found a place where our moms weren’t like­ly to look.

Don’t real­ly know why we smoked those awful things.  They did­n’t taste good at all.  I guess it’s just ’cause it’s some­thin’ to do that might make our par­ents uncom­fort­able. And we nev­er had mon­ey to spend on cig­a­rettes even if some store clerk would be inclined to sell some to us.  For us, cig­a­rettes were those chalky things that came in a nick­el pack, white with red tips that you could pre­tend to smoke and then chew them up since they were just can­dy anyway.

So off we go to har­vest a few cig­ars and head back to the alley for a lit­tle thrill.

The ones we found were real­ly “ripe.” They’d been layin’ on the ground quite a while I ‘spect cause when I lit it up and took a draw, I did­n’t git much ‘sept hot air that tinged my ton­sils.  Sucker mus­ta been most­ly hol­low, with noth­in’ to slow down the smoke.  Well any­way, maybe I won’t have to ever wor­ry about havin’ my ton­sils tak­en out seein’ as how I done cooked ’em.

After sev­er­al min­utes of hackin’, cough­in’, and spit­tin’, Jake and me head­ed on up the alley to where the tree with the good “peas” was located.

Doin’ “paper, rock, and scis­sors” to see who was goin’ up the tree to col­lect the peas, I start­ed climbin’, skin­nin’ my shins all the way up until I reached a stur­dy limb that I felt rea­son­ably sure would hold my weight, and start­ed gath­er­ing a good sup­ply of mis­siles for the both of us.

Sometimes one has to reach pret­ty far out to get the best of the crop and it can get a lit­tle hairy dan­glin’ there, but gath­erin’ peas ain’t for the fainthearted.

After sev­er­al min­utes of defy­ing grav­i­ty, and taunts from Jake tellin’ me to hur­ry up, I shin­nied back down the tree with two pock­ets bulging with tiny green pel­lets, which I quick­ly split with Jake (although I made sure he got the pock­et­ful that I knew had a few less).

Next, we had to find a crop of pea shoot­ers.  We did­n’t know then that these came from Queen Anne’s Lace… and we did­n’t care.  All we knew was that a good sharp pock­et knife would har­vest a sec­tion of the stalk that was sized just right to pro­pel a pea to max­i­mum veloc­i­ty and pro­vide a sting­ing rebuke to a near­by opponent.

Now, armed to the teeth, we moved apart, took a hand­ful of peas from a pock­et, placed the not-too-pleas­ant-tast­ing shoot­er to our lips, and began the sport of shoot­ing one another.

An occa­sion­al “ow!” would sig­nal a hit on some exposed part of the body, most like­ly the ear, neck, or cheek.  Body parts with clothes did­n’t count for much, and a hit there could be shrugged off easily.

As the sup­ply of ammu­ni­tion dwin­dled, we had to decide whether to col­lect more or to call it a day.

It was pret­ty hot, and we had already engaged in two activ­i­ties that would annoy our par­ents. So we chose to head home for some Kool-Aid or lemon­ade, know­ing that tomor­row would bring new chal­lenges and that the sup­ply of peas and shoot­ers would hold out for a while yet. When mom asked how I got all those small red marks around my head, all I could reply was “Oh, Jake an’ me been playin’.”

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.