The only guns you see in toy stores — or, rather, toy departments — are squirt guns; and the only squirt guns you see are like weapons from the 25th century, not the translucent plastic Lugers and Colt 45s of my tender years. These new jobs look like fun in a waterpark sort of way, but what about good old childhood war simulation? Do kids today have to join gangs and obtain real handguns to have the sort of summer’s day described by Mark Twain? Here’s a passage from Tom Sawyer:
“…he would be a soldier, and return after long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No— better still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and the trackless great plains of the Far West, and away in the future come back a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into Sundayschool, some drowsy summer morning, with a bloodcurdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his companions with unappeasable envy. But no, there was something gaudier even than this. He would be a pirate! That was it!”
He gets his friends to be pirates with him for the afternoon, but after a time spent in murder and plunder he goes back to his second preference and persuades them
“… to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change. They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before they were stripped, and striped from head to heel with black mud, like so many zebras— all of them chiefs, of course— and then they went tearing through the woods to attack an English settlement.
“By and by they separated into three hostile tribes, and darted upon each other from ambush with dreadful war-whoops, and killed and scalped each other by thousands. It was a gory day. Consequently it was an extremely satisfactory one.”
Alas! Poor modern day Tom and Huck! At least Tom’s family could afford to keep him busy with a Wii console. But Huck: he’d accidentally pop a cap in Sid Sawyer during a drive-by and wind up sharing a cell with Injun Joe.