Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stick and Rock

I’ve been walking and running at the beach lately, in the late afternoon during low tide. Along the water line I always stop to throw a piece of driftwood thirty or forty feet into the surf. Then I pick up some larger-than-thumb-sized rocks off the sand to throw at the stick as it slowly recedes from shore.

I do this for awhile, stopping only when I get close enough to the stick to call it a hit. I call the game Stick and Rock.

Most people we see who determinedly toss rocks into water are trying to skip the rock with a sidearm throw, seeing how many “skips” they can get. It's a common thing to do, but that trick’s no longer for me, although I have fine memories of skipping rocks with my granddad--and even once with my uncle--on the rocky bend of a creek in rural Missouri.

For months now, when I go down to the shore at the end of the street, I’ve been playing Stick and Rock exclusively. In all that time I’ve seen lots of skippers, but never seen anyone else play my game. Until today.

It was a man in his thirties with his son about five, right behind me as we made our way down the beach, to just beyond a swath of perfectly-sized rocks laid parallel with the waterline by the last rising tide.

I was searching for a suitable stick--if you find one too close to the surf it'll be waterlogged and won't float--when I heard the man tell his young son to “pick up a piece of wood to be your battleship". I sensed what was going on, so grabbed one of my own and hurried down to the water, feeling--for some reason--that it was important to get established in my own game before they began theirs.

Unaccountably I had begun to feel competitive about how my aim would compare with the dad's. Not his son's.

Anyway, my hunch about what they were up to was confirmed a few minutes later when I heard the man urging his boy, as he demonstrated by throwing a rock, to “see if you can sink the battleship with your bomb.” By this time I'd drifted down the beach a bit, and my stick had been going out with the tide. My rock had come within a foot a few times, but no direct hits.

Glancing over, I saw that the boy's aim wasn't bad, and the man's was dead-on. I heaved a couple more rocks near the limit of my range that--generously judged--landed not "too far" from the stick, which, by this time, was bobbing maybe eighty feet from shore. Their "battleship"--barely eight, I noted.

Three generations of us were out there on the beach, amusing ourselves in a fine way by just throwing rocks into the water, trying to hit a piece of wood, whether you called it a stick, or more metaphorical battleship.