Magazine article Risk Management

Mortal Combat

Magazine article Risk Management

Mortal Combat

Article excerpt

When I was a kid, nay brother Tom and I watched a fateful documentary about cattle-herding gauchos in Argentina. Rather than use a lasso to tie up their cattle, they throw a device called a bola, which is just two weights on either end of a string. The string hits the leg, and the weights wrap around the legs a moment later. Instant hogtie.

Naturally, this was something we had to try for ourselves, so we poked holes in tennis balls and forced knotted rope ends through them. Voila. Tennis ball bola. Since they were so easy to make, within a week every kid in the neighborhood had one. Small bola wars soon followed, and I have to say, we all got pretty good at it. Just like in the documentary, if you got hit in the legs with one of these things, you went down like a sack of potatoes.

Unfortunately, shots did go wide from time to time and they had a funny way of hitting overhead power lines. After the third time the local electric company technician cut a bola off the line, he rounded us up and explained that if he had to come out here again, he was going to tell our parents. So ended the bola wars.

What now? We had an arsenal of these things that we couldn't just throw away. Thankfully, Tom had the perfect solution. He simply cut off one end, nailed the rope to a stick and made a flail. Armed with those and garbage can lids, we began playing a game called Spartacus that was basically nothing more than a bunch of kids running around and wailing on each other with tennis ball-and-chains.

That was fun while it lasted, but once again the authorities interfered when various parents disapproved of how beaten up their garbage can lids were getting. One by one, the neighborhood kids retired from the gladiator circuit, leaving only my brother and me. Our flails were showing serious wear and tear and by now our parents had the foresight to keep tennis balls out of the house, so once more, we were forced to improvise. For a while, we went through a series of replacement games until we settled on a winner called Knight Versus Peasant. The game was a strangely lopsided affair in which my brother, the Knight, rode around on a bike with a garbage can lid in one hand and a Wiffle ball bat in the other. Somehow, he managed to steer the bike and swing wildly at the same time. …

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