Somebody posted a photo recently of a goat head, the evil nemesis of my youth.
I cannot hardly express how much I hated those things.
If you grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, you didn’t wear shoes during the summer.
Every now and again, you’d step on those suckers.
They’d stab you right in your heal, and bury the “horns” to the hilt.
When you tried to rip them out, half the time the “horn” would stay embedded in your heel, and blood would start trickling out.
That would cost you important play time, because you’d have to limp home so your Mom could perform surgery, using a needle, tweezers and Methiolate.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the wound would ache for days, because the evil goat heads had some kind of poison in them.
It was sort of like getting finned by a catfish on your bare foot.
As I type this, I can literally feel the goat head pain in my heel.
I hated the stupid, evil, goat head stickers that no respect for anything.
On the Christmas Day that I got my Deluxe Renegade Stingray bicycle — complete with “slick” back tire — I was roaring down the rough hills that still surrounded Cleveland Elementary School.
And a goat head gave me a flat tire.
I mean, c’mon! It was CHRISTMAS DAY.
But the evil goat heads did not care.
Even though I loathe goat heads, I have to admit that there were some “good” stickers.
They were part of the boyhood rights of initiation on Nebraska Street.
For some idiot reason, probably because we were idiots, Steve Madden and I every spring would back into the HUGE holly bushes in our front yard.
This was called “getting a shot”.
After which you would rub your rump and laugh hysterically.
Every single time.
It was all good clean boy fun.
Until wintertime, when all those pointy-ended leaves would die and fall off.
Then, if you happened to be racing next door while barefooted, and you stepped on one or more of the nasties, you’d look like you were wearing moccasins — with the stickers impaled on your heels, arches and even the balls of your feet.
That was not fun, but even so, they in no way hurt as bad as a goat head.
The best kind of stickers, bar none, were the ones that grew on grass stems.
I have no idea what they were called.
But I know that at a certain time of year, they were responsible for 99% of the Mercurochrome used on Nebraska Street.
You’d gather them in bunches, like flowers, taking great care to only pick the best ones, with just the right amount of stickers and the perfect throwing stems.
Then, BOOM, it was like a full-on snowball fight, but with stickers.
Man, that was some fun, especially when your opponent was wearing only cut offs.
There was nothing better than seeing the stickers you’d just thrown stabbing directly into the flesh of your best friend.
Steve was way bigger than me and a two-fisted thrower.
I only had one hand, so I dared not go toe-to-toe with him during these epic Sticker Wars.
My strategy relied on “strafing runs”.
I’d race at him running about 900 miles per hour, throw a couple of stickers, and then, poof, be gone.
My strategy would change when we got tired or one of us got really mad — usually me.
That’s when I’d race by one final time, and unload my entire payload of maybe 900 stickers.
Man, it was awesome.
The best thing was that, even if Steve wanted to kill me, I could always outrun him.
And by the next day, he would have gotten over his mad, so he wouldn’t pound me.
I know it’s hard to believe, but there were rules in Sticker Wars.
You could only target from the shoulders down.
You could never, ever, never throw at somebody’s face.
And no one ever violated that rule.
Unless they were really mad at Steve because they’d been getting their butt kicked all day long.
Now, it was almost impossible to gross out a young boy on Nebraska Street.
There were countless stubbed toes, and stepped-on nails, and black eyes, and dog bites, and rivers of blood.
But the time I hit Steve right in the face during Sticker Wars was awful.
This particular missile had five individual stickers on the stem.
And it hit him right in the eye.
By God’s grace, he got his eye closed just in time.
The stickers literally sutured his eye closed, with some impaled on the top eyelid and some on the bottom one.
When he gingerly tried to peel the stickers off, the stem just pulled away, leaving every single sticker impaled in his eyelids.
He had to pluck them off with his fingers, one at a time.
Now, I don’t recall running away from Steve very often.
But on that day, I ran home like a rabbit.
And I did not dare come out until the next day; until I knew that Steve had two good eyeballs left.
Then it was on again.
I had to give him a chance to nail me right in the face during Sticker Wars.
Click HERE to read all about Nebraska Street Monkey’s Blood.