Friday, December 15, 2006

Lawn Darts Were Real

When I was about four I was traumatised by an incident at a Norwegian Hotel. There was a game of lawn darts by the shores of the Fjord and I remember one dart missing the target completely and burying itself in the knee of a little boy who happened to come round the corner just at that moment. Over the years, never having seen this game anywhere else, I came to assume this was a dream with all sorts of banal Freudian overtones. Judge, then, of my delight, when I discovered this. Not only does this wonderful site confirm triumphantly the reality of the game of lawn darts, it also provides a glorious, seasonal list of the most lethal toys of an earlier, simpler, happier time before the health and safety commissars sucked all the fun out of boyhood. Don't you just have to have that Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab? First, however, you'd need to bring down the in-laws with enfilading fire from that Johnny Reb cannon.


  1. We played with lawn darts when I was growing up in Ohio. They were sold under the brand name "Jarts." It was fun to throw them suckers as far as you can and watch them sink into the dirt. Never maimed anyone, however.

  2. Thanks, Bill. It is strange to be discussing I had long ago decided was a childhood dream. I'm not thinking of seeking out some Jarts. The fact that they were in Ohio and Norway is satisfyingly odd. I always liked the sound of Ohio.

  3. Where I grew up, we used to play a game every fall when the acorns and hickory nuts lay all around, deep and crisp and even. It was a war among all of us neighborhood kids; a couple of us would be soldiers together, but mostly it was every kid for himself/herself.

    The game began with kids pelting each other with acorns. Then someone would catch a sharp tip in the face and the game would escalate to hickory nuts (know these? They are much bigger & heavier and a head hit *hurts*). Sooner or later, someone would get hit hard with one of those and *then* the bb guns & air guns would come out and siblings would usher the younger kids home.

    We had numerous butt-shot kids in our neighborhood in the fall, though jeans worked pretty well as deflectors.

    Yeah, in the end, there's pretty much only one point to these games! See Tobias Wolff on archery in _This Boy's Life_.

  4. I don't know hictory nuts, Susan, but we used to jam hawthorn berries into the end of cycle pumps and then blast them out. Not accurate but effective

  5. Had a friend in Virginia with whom I spent a memorable day firing high velocity rifles -akin to loosing off lightning bolts- who had a working civil War cannon for the day the Yankees came up his hill. Nice man, ex-Cold War fighter pilot, who alas succumbed to too many Marlborough 'lites'. my favourite toy was a pump up rocket- fuelled by water- which went up with a woosh and then a little man with a parachute came down. Sundry boats too, which explains the course of my destiny.

  6. All this puts me in mind of the Belgian traditional sport of vertical
    archery - firing arrows straight up into the air - I'm quite sure I've
    seen this on TV and mentioned in a book, but now I can't find a single
    reference to it. Was this too a dream (replete with the crassest Freudian
    symbolism)? Anyone out there ever heard of it?

  7. Virginians do seem drawn to excess, and, Nige, as for Belgians.... What, exactly, was the sport element in this case?

  8. Good question on vertical archery. Targets suspended by skyhooks seems unlikely - perhaps the prize was simply to survive the rain of falling arrows. We're talking Belgians here.

  9. Nige, I believe there's an episode of The Sopranos where a kid fires an arrow up into the air and it comes down and impales another kid.

    Also, am I remembering correctly that in real life actor David Niven was involved in a game of "William Tell" on Montserrat where he and others were trying to shoot an apple off someone's head? I have a memory that he may have killed his wife or seriously wounded her doing that (and I have to have read it in one of his autobiographies).

  10. Thanks for that, Susan. I don't think anything quite so unpleasant happened
    to debonair David Niven, but it certainly did to William Burroughs, who
    shot and killed his wife (with a gun) in a drunken game of William Tell.
    None of which sheds any light on the Belgians - but then what does?
    There's a museum of lifts in Brussels - alas it was closed when I was last

  11. What a downer about the lifts museum, Nige....

    You are right about Burroughs shooting his mother. Niven's wife Primmie died while playing Hide & Seek in Tyrone Powers' house. She opened a door, dashed in, and fell down a steep flight of stairs. Tragic, and weird.

    And yet this arrow thing keeps coming back to me and I picture Niven and Rex Harrison drunkenly playing this game with their wives. I hope this isn't my memory inventing stuff again. I found the Primmie story on the Net, but I'd probably have to reread "Moon's a Balloon" or "Bring on the Empty Horses" to find the other ref. Does anyone else remember this, or is it like Robert Penn and the Warrenettes on the Gong Show?