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Way back in 1954, TV had not really kicked in as primary entertainment for eight-year-old boys like me and my best friend Jerry. We had to entertain ourselves with various "pretend" games using what we could find. This wasn't that difficult because Jerry was a farm, so there were always many things around.
Anyway, the biggest kick we got all week was when our parents gave us seventy-five cents and sent us to a matinee at the Fox Theater. It was the only theater in town, and it contained a nice big screen. Matinees were perfectly set up to get rid of children for an entire afternoon as well. We got a cartoon, a news reel (during which we would buy candy with our leftover money), a series or two, and then the main feature.
One weekend our parents sent Jerry and me to meet Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. This was a fantastic movie, and it captivated us both in total. The impact the sword fight scene had on us was monstrous. It was even more so because we did not like with lots of TV. Than. That's all we could talk about when we got back to Jerry's farm. Our parents went back to the living room to play cards, and Jerry and I went out to see if we could figure out any way to play Robin Hood.
The first thing we needed was swords. We found an old orange box and made a pretty good pair of slats. Jerry announced that he should be Robin Hood, because it was his house. I had no argument with that, and we started to hit each other with swords.
Now I can imagine that every single boy from that era, at least once, made swords of boxes. And you all know what the problem with them is. When you beat them in the heat of battle, they do not make the lovely ringing sound like from the movie. No, they make a kind of "thunk" sound which is also a kind of "splintery". It was fine with me, but Jerry thought we could do much better.
What you need to know about my friend, Jerry, is that he was not only a farm child, but he was the middle child of four siblings, all of whom were in and out of various kinds of problems most of the time. That meant he was pretty much without any adult supervision until he did something wrong. So when Jerry got an idea, it usually came with an equal measure of fun and danger. Jerry said, "Follow me."
We crawled into the kitchen. Our parents were deep into their card game and we could hear the usual "card talk" that didn't mean anything to us except that we probably wouldn't care for a while. Jerry went to one of the drawers and pulled out two of his mother's heaviest carving knives. Jerry turned to me and said, "Sir Knight. Choose your weapon."
I remember thinking, "What a GREAT IDEA. Jerry was the BEST." With these two, beautifully beaten swords, we could really play Robin Hood! I carefully chose mine and we crawled back outside.
Now those of you who know the movie, Robin Hood, know that the film's very best scene (and perhaps the very best scene in any movie ever filmed) took place when Errol confronts Basil in the big castle where they engage in a sword fight to death. They fight among the castle's towers with dramatic shadows thrown here and there - swords clinging to each blow.
Jerry and I went to the silo, which was not far from the small courtyard. They looked like castle towers. I got really excited.
Then Jerry looked at me with the most serious expression he could gather and said, "On duty!"
He hit me as hard as he could. I saw the wonderful flash of good Sheffield steel as the blade arched down to my head. I paired the cut with my own blade just in time, and they made the most wonderful blade when they crashed together. We both just stood there for a moment, smiling at each other. What a great idea. I still remember the sound and feel of the mighty leaves crashing into each other as if it happened yesterday. It was wonderful!
Then the battle began in rage. Our fine leaves cling together like ringing church bells --- CLANG, CLANG, CLANG. We were two fearless knights locked in deadly battle for the very future of Old England ... Norman against Saxon. Saxon v Norman. Each one loses almost the advantage and gained it again as the mighty battle proceeds. There was real glory on the day the conflict played out - just like in the movie!
CLANG, CLANG, CLANG as we moved between the tower of the mighty castle. CLANG, CLANG, CLANG ... we were English knights. We were back in Old England. Our leaves flashing and clinging ... we were completely taken aback by the beauty and glory of this mighty fight against DEATH!
Suddenly we were frozen in the middle of the swing by a horrible scream. We looked over to see the frightening sight of Jerry's mother screaming with her hands clenched to hard fists. As we stopped the fight, Jerry's mother stopped her screams. I guess she had heard the ringing sounds and came out to see what was happening. With her scream, the card game was forgotten and the rest of our parents poured out the door with deadly expressions on their faces.
We just stood there, totally unsure what to do. This did not happen in the movie. Our once mighty magazines showed yet another strike when Jerry & # 39; s mom asked the question that I have been asked all my life and that I have never had a good answer, "WHAT are you doing?"
How can we explain the norms and scissors to a woman who looked like she was eating her young? We were just stuttering. Then my dad said, "It looks like you two are trying to destroy a perfectly good carving knife. Are you a couple of knuckleheads?" The sad truth was that we were actually a couple of knuckleheads - not lovely knights - just knuckleheads. And yes, we destroyed a couple of good carving knives.
I don't really remember much of what happened after that. In fact, I don't even remember what our punishment was, although it must have been quite spectacular. Jerry later told him that his dad took the knives out to the machine shop and sanded out all the notches on a large grinding wheel. The leaves were even better for carving after that because they were kind of grooved and his mother used them for several years. I only wish Jerry could have inherited them.
The only thing I still remember alive is how wonderful the mighty leaves felt and sounded as we fought between the towers of the English castle. Yes, like many things I did in my youth that brought about punitive waves, it was totally worth it.