I don’t remember warning labels on toys as a kid.

I remember warnings like, “Don’t be late for dinner,” “Don’t you ever do that again” or “Don’t let your mom catch you doing that.” I just don’t remember warning labels on toys.

Playground equipment should have come with labels. It was adults who installed those devices. What were they thinking? Merry-go-rounds needed labels that warned you that you were about to throw up. Jungle gyms needed labels that told you you were about to break you arm.

As a kid growing up on the Hill, we were unfamiliar with the term WMD. The acronym for us might have meant “Weapons of Minimal Dismemberment.” Our weapons — or toys as we called them — consisted of sticks, hunting knives, hatchets, rocks, BB guns, snowballs, slush balls, etc. There were combinations of those items. Combining snowballs and rocks upped the potential for pain and suffering, as well as the number of stitches.

Most of our injuries weren’t the result of hostile forces but self-inflicted. Can you imagine a warning label for a wooden stick?

“This stick may cause lacerations,” or “Do not hit your sister with this stick.”

Heck, what’s the use of a stick if you can’t hit something or someone with it? That’s simply a waste of natural resources.

A friend and I were walking down the road one day when we heard a blood-curdling howl from nearby. We later found out that one of the kids in town had been performing surgery on a grasshopper with a hatchet. He was trying to do a lobotomy on the little hopper and missed. Instead of removing a portion of the grasshopper’s frontal lobe, he amputated his index finger — hence the terrible cry from his woodshed. That may have been one of many factors that led me to become a safety trainer some years later.

Maybe the grasshopper needed a warning label: “Do not use this insect for scientific experiments in combination with a rusty, old hatchet and a clueless 9-year-old.

Through it all, we seemed to survive these near-death experiences. The scar tissue has diminished a little with the passage of time. Most kids still pursue odd forms of recreation and scientific discovery with little regard to their personal wellbeing. When I hear someone say “Watch this,” I still step to one side and wait for the scream.

Ward, 71, lived in Headquarters from 1948-70. He graduated from Pierce High School and received a bachelor’s degree in education at Lewis-Clark Normal School (now Lewis-Clark State College). He’s now retired and living in Columbia, S.C., with Beth, his wife of 47 years. His goal with this column is to share the bonds of community developed on the Hill. His stories are fairly true, with thanks to the many friends from Headquarters, Pierce and Weippe (and all the little wide spots between these towns) who enriched his life and fueled these memories.

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