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How And Why Little Boys Have Rock Fights

Recently, I was part of a conversation involving several men of my age group. We discussed different things we’d done as young kids – trying to jump bikes over things, marathon wiffle ball games and some things that we’d done that should have killed us, but didn’t. One gentleman piped up – “did you ever get into a rock fight?”

Sedimentary sandstone with iron oxide bands

I would throw this at you, but I wouldn’t mean anything by it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About 70% of us had been in a rock fight during our elementary school years. I was part of that majority. The shared experience gave the majority an excuse to mock the upbringing and manhood of our non-rock throwing (and smarter) brethren.

In the interest of discussion, and to preserve the game for future generations, I am going to lay out the rules of a rock fight.

The Book Of Rules *

Rock fights are spontaneous – they start with a group of boys with nothing better to do.

One member of the group will generate the idea. Almost always the others will happily accept that idea. The only time a proposed rock fight will be rejected is when the memory of the last rock fight is too fresh in the minds of the participants.

Preparations will start as soon as the group decides that having a rock fight would be good fun – These things are not scheduled in advance.  One does not pencil in a rock fight tomorrow at two. This is one of the reasons there has never been a professional rock fighting league.

This is a friendly activity – Boys who rock fight do so as a game, not to injure or out of malice. This is a fun activity.

I recognize that being hit by a chunk of stone doesn’t sound fun. It is. Because rock fights are for fun, they are never played with people who are true rivals. Being hit with a rock thrown by someone you don’t like hurts more and is not fun. Also, such people can’t be trusted to follow the rules.

Teams must be chosen – A good rock fight requires a group. There has never been a one on one rock fight, ever.

Once chosen, teams build a “fort” or designate an existing feature – like a low wall – as their fort. Forts can’t be too large. They should be just big enough for the players to duck behind. Forts can’t completely enclose players. Rocks are stockpiled in the fort.

The fight begins when both teams agree that they are ready – Throwing rocks before the other team is ready is so uncool. It is important for players to be able to dodge thrown rocks. Being hit by an unexpected rock hurts more.

Rocks will be thrown up and over the opponent’s wall. High arching throws give players time to avoid flying stones.

If a player is hit by a rock – There are several acceptable reactions. Players may laugh hysterically if the way that the player is hit is sufficiently funny or if his reaction warrants laughter.

If a player is injured, laughter is no longer appropriate and a cease-fire ensues.

Ambulance. At this point, it is no longer funny. Maybe it will be tomorrow. (public domain – Wikipedia

A hit can also be funny and not funny. For example – a throw arcs high, hits the wall of the opponent’s fort. The rock deflects off the wall and into the groin of a player. Laughter ensues from both teams because groin hits are always funny. If the player remains on the ground and seems truly injured, the hit becomes no longer funny.

No hard throws – Some of you are reading this and wondering how you’d throw a rock softly. Eight year old boys can do it. Perhaps it isn’t that they can, it is that they believe that they can. Believing it possible is enough. I’m pretty sure that, given the chance to get into a rock fight at my current age, I could still softly throw a rock.

It isn’t ever acceptable to throw a rock at anyone like you would throw a baseball. That sort of throw imparts a dangerous level of force and accuracy. An arching, lofted throw removes accuracy and, in the logic of boys, keeps the rock from gaining enough speed to impart significant injuries.

No aiming for the head or groin – To do so is ungentlemanly.

No getting angry at unintentional head or groin hits – This is the issue that ended most of the rock fights I was in. Injured flesh sometimes led to injured feelings. Someone would get hit by a rock that was properly thrown and become upset with the person who threw it. Players on both sides would point out that the thrower did not mean to hurt anyone. The ensuing discord would bring the game to an end.

The Sociological Analysis

As I wrote about this game, I began wondering what it meant about me and society.

It occurred to me that it might mean that women and girls are smarter than men. I never found myself in a rock fight with a girl. I’ve never met a woman who nostalgically recalled being hit in the head with a piece of granite.

It’d be easy (and likely correct) to conclude that women are born smarter and keep that wisdom by being smart enough not to get involved in a dangerously silly game. I kept thinking, hoping that I could spin this in a way more favorable to my gender.

Even though I was on the receiving end of a number of miraculously well targeted rocks, I found the conclusion that I was looking for. While it may be true that girls being smart enough to avoid this game says something about the sophistication of the female mind, I think that the game indicates that men are optimists.

We want things to go well. There is no other way to explain this game and that men nostalgically recall it. We so desperately wanted this game to succeed that we tried it over and over. We ignored the fact that it ended horribly every time we did. Each time we played, my friends and I were sure that would be the time it worked out well.

Maybe it can. I claim the picnic table as my fort.

Who else is in?

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26 Comments on “How And Why Little Boys Have Rock Fights”

  1. Despite the fact that you have presented a thoroughly detailed analysis, I still don’t understand this anymore than the day that a very angry policeman came to my door to tell me that my son had just thrown a rock at him as he was driving by.

    My son? MY son? Surely, he must have been mistaken. My son inherited too much of his mother’s sensitivity. He would NEVER throw a rock at someone, especially not a policeman.

    The only thing he was mistaken about was — technically speaking — it was not a rock. It was an ice ball and he had happned to drive by the back of our house where my son == MY son — and his little leopard sidekick — were crouched behind the privacy fence and had just locked “the enemy”, hidden in the woods on the other side of the road in their sights.

    I was in a daze as the whole thing unfolded: who throws ice balls??

    When said angry policeman got the story from my son — MY son! — there was this glimmer of childlike recognition in his eyes and they were cool.

    I never got all the details. The leopard remains quiet on the subject. There is a Calvin & Hobbes loyalty there.

    I still don’t understand boys. Or grown men who drive around with their windows down in the middle of winter.

  2. Betty says:

    See, this type of activity could never happen today because some kid’s parents would inevitably retain an attorney to sue an 8 year old.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’d have hated to have to retain counsel to hang on to that sweet GI Joe space capsule I had.

      But yeah, see, this is why rock battles only happen with friends. You know that their mom and dad are just going to say “what’s wrong with you?” and tell your parents.

  3. Memories are flooding back. Or hurling back. Ouch. That one got me.

    Lots of rock fights as a kid. And dirt clods. Those were cool because they might break apart when they hit you. Then you’d have multiple chunks to huck back.

    Going to share these rock fight rules with my kids, although I’ve already seen it can be a bit different with siblings. There’s a bit more malice to it at times.

    (I’m in.)

  4. Wendy says:

    ” I’ve never met a woman who nostalgically recalled being hit in the head with a piece of granite.”
    To me, this seems like a “chicken or the egg?” kind of statement. Having grown up with two sisters, I am frequently baffled by the things my son does. Thanks for the insight!

  5. Thank you for clarifying the rules and such. I’ve been going about it all wrong.

  6. Blogdramedy says:

    You need to go look up the definition of insanity and see if something hits home…hopefully home is not in the groin area. 😉

  7. Just last night I was trying to have a conversation with my son about the best way to have a conversation with an adult who was not receptive…my son was angry and wanted to approach the manner in away I didn’t think would lead to the outcome he hoped to achieve. In the course of the conversation I was reminded again… that boys and moms…men and women see things so differently. No I don’t get throwing rocks at someone unintentionally..throwing to mame someone I get. BTW do you have that Moonies number? I have a boy I would like to introduce her too.

    • omawarisan says:

      One of the things I teach in my communications classes is that you have to learn the difference between saying what will feel good at the time and saying what will get you to the position you want to be in.

      A lot of people mess themselves up by calling a name or dropping a humiliating line on someone who they need to come over to their position. Gotta keep your eyes on the long term goal, not the immediate gratification.

      Enough of my gibberish. Rock fights rock.

  8. spencercourt says:

    My most memorable rock fight was one-sided.

    In kindergarten, I was part of a posse which chased down the class bully because we reported some infraction to the teacher and she wanted to see him but he’d not come peaceably. After we cornered him, he picked up a rock and said he’d throw it at whoever took another step.

    Even at that tender age, I was calculating probabilities in preparation for my poker stardom. My calculations were: he was already in trouble and throwing a rock would add to his trouble. No sane person would do that. I enunciated these facts to him. He insisted he would throw the rock. I stepped forward. Next thing I know, I am on my back with a huge throbbing pain on my forhead. I was carried to the nurse. He was expelled (and possibly is homeless today)…

    Hey…even pocket Aces have “only” about 87% probability of winning against any other two cards, including 2-7 off-suit….How could I know I was dealing with an irrational person….?
    And, he could have missed me anyway… I’d do it again!

  9. Debbie says:

    Hmmm, rock fights with no intention of hurting someone? Sorry, I just don’t get it. Pulling hair? Scratching? Slamming doors? Those I get! Must be a woman-thing. Thanks for educating me today — thankfully, Domer and his friends got this right from the get-go.

  10. omawarisan says:

    We’re born throwers. It comes with the y chromosome.

  11. Laura says:

    Girl rock fights are completely different. We just whisper and gossip about how ugly and stupid the other team’s rocks are.

  12. The most fighting we got into was whose turn it was to have to be Ken when we played Barbies and where they were going in the motorhome. Also, sometimes we argued because I made them practice too much for our dances to Donna Summer. No violence though.

  13. Lenore Diane says:

    Oma… I have two boys!! I’m scared! Then again, I have Joe. I can easily see him picking up a rock someone else had thrown and analyzing the layers. Oh lord. I’m scared again. He’ll get pelted while engrossed in the rock. ACK! When you retire, I’d like to hire you as a body guard for my boys. Thank you.


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