Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Once Studied To Be A Barbarian

The eternal question that has as of yet remained unsolved by mortal man is not "How do I find happiness?" or "Is money, fame, & booze the answer?". It's not even "What makes women tick?" No, Dear and Gentle Reader. The eternal question is "What do fourteen year old boys do?"

Let me suggest an answer to this conundrum. The only evidence that I have to offer is the minor fact that I was once a fourteen year old boy and perhaps some of you were too and vaguely remember it. I do, vaguely.

There aren't many options open to a fourteen year old boy, at least there wasn't when I was one. You were too young to drive, and while you had an extreme interest in girls, a date was probably out of the question. You had no money to speak of, unless it was around your birthday, and you only had one good pair of shoes. So, for lack of anything better to do, you hung out with your buddies and learned to smoke, spit, and swear. Some of you at 14 may have even been exposed to some of the saucier facets of adulthood. I was not.

I learned to smoke cigarettes, swear creatively, tell a good dirty joke, and swordplay. Yes, you read that right. Swordplay.

What do fourteen year old boys do? I don't know about you, but I learned a little bit about swinging a blade. To the best of my knowledge, this is atypical behavior.

I had a friend named Chad and he had a few swords. He was looking for a sparing partner and I was it. After a few minor mishaps, we pooled our money and purchased bamboo swords, but they didn't last long. We used broad swords, sabers, cutlasses, foil, dagger & buckler, coat & dagger, and after he joined a Reniasance Faire Knight troupe, we had suits of armor. Mind you, they were made out of aluminum plate, but they were handy. I still have kidneys because of them.

I always lost out in the armor pick. Chad would always take the plate while I was always stuck with the Brigandine, and he got the better shield.

I was on my own here, with nothing but what I had read in books and had seen in moivies. I was fortunate, as Chad didn't know anymore than I did, but I had seen better movies. Chad had seen Conan the Barbarian, but I had seen Enter The Dragon. He had seen Highlander, but I had seen Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. Chad had seen every second-rate Kung Fu movie, while I had El Cid under my belt.

Chad was on the wrestling team and had made quite a name for himself in his freshman year, but he had a lot to live up to, as both of his older brothers had set school records in the same sport. Me, I square-danced at Flower's Hall every Saturday night with the fattest chick in the room and that was the extent of my knowledge of sport.

Chad took our little sparing sesstions seriously while I didn't. I confounded him by my dodge and thrust and using any avialable tree for cover. Chad always went for an agressive offence with a mediocre defence. I always got him on points made for good scores on his head, shins, and forearms.

Chad always conducted these fights with a grand solemnity. We would do slow motion for about ten minutes before Chad would want to "go live". This is a term he learned from wrestling, which meant that we were going to strike each other with three-quarters of all of our collective strength and with all of our speed. This was not Dancing With The Stars. This was deadly, and we had very little idea what we were doing. Needless to say, I learned quick. I made it a point to learn all of the defencive moves first and the offencive moves second. For this foresight alone, I still have my head.

The very last time we sparred together, we were sixteen and did it by the full moon and he went for my throat. He and I had saved our money and purchased Samurai swords from the same Army-Navy surplus catalog, recieved them within a month of each other, and dueled with them under the moon.

Chad was frusrated that I was beating him on open ground and I had an answer to his every attack. After doing this for months in the armor, being in jeans and a T-shirt felt unencumbered and I moved much more swiftly. He got mad. He got reckless, and swung for my throat with every ounce of his strength, even though that was strictly against the rules. I was slow to react and caught his blade at the last minute with just the tip of mine. There was a bone-cracking crunch. His blade fell to the ground along with the handguard, leaving him with a ten-inch wooden handle and a confounded look on his face. I raised my sword and asked him if he wanted to yield. His was pissed that his sword had broken at the handle and he was really pissed that he couldn't beat me, but he grudgingly conceeded.

After that, Chad and I didn't hang out much. He got into drugs and started to run with a different crowd. I still have my swords, although I doubt that they would cut anything stronger than butter now. I keep them around to remind myself of the barbarian I once was and that fourteen year old kids can do some stupidly deadly things.



  1. I thought I did some pretty dangerous stuff when I was young, but I can say I never fought with swords!

  2. Boys do the dumbest shit.
    Part of your damn DNA.


  3. Doc...

    Take your sword and head over to Zibbs place. He is posting recipes...I think he has crossed over to ladyland.


  4. wait, y'all have a sword and it's not on proud, prominent display in the Lodge-Garage?? I mean, high up, of course... Maybe BOLTED to the garage wall... In a lucite case... In a... Oh, hell, I get it: YOUR girls will be 14 sometime soon...

    (NORTON! and I used wooden bokken, going first from the straight ninja-type swords to the longer, 2-handed Samuari that were made out of much stronger wood. We were crazy too, and I don't think this is all that unsual: most kids just stick with tree branches and don't graduate to live steel as quickly).

  5. Would have been HEAPS safer if you'd pretended to be the WWF wrestler The Barbarian...he never hurt anyone except Battle Kat...

  6. I am watching my boy to see what he does in the next year or so. He is 13.

  7. Ah, yes. A good chunk of my first apartment's wood paneled wall had to be puttied back together after a trip to the Renaissance fair. The place was a shithole anyway, and it was a waste of good putty.

    Yes, many a swath of vegetation fell to my nimble switch-hand, and many a blow wasdealt to an unwary sister. It's only fair, though, if it weren't for my plywood shield I'd have lost my jaw to an arrow she shot at me.

    I took fencing at OSU for a while while I was in middle school. I was welting the college "kids" regularly.

  8. Barbarians were actually far smarter and more sophisticated than history gives them credit for


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