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Sample Stories

"Playing with Trains and Other Games"

     The Rock Island railroad passed through Riesel and the boys loved to play by the railroad tracks. They would play in some of the empty train cars until the locomotive engine hooked up to the cars. The boys would then scramble as fast as they could to get out of the cars before they were, literally, taken out of town by rail.
     They placed pennies on the tracks to see how the train cars flattened them. Once in a while, the pennies would fly out from under the train wheels like speeding bullets. The boys were often lucky to escape the flying coppers unscathed. They also had charcoal fights and asphalt fights around the train cars. The fights were always fun until someone got hit in the head, then the game was over for the day.
     Aside from the local train yard, the kids in Riesel played a game called, "tin can shinny." The game was played with a long stick, which was usually a broom handle. If you found a stick with a curved end on it, you had a "special" stick. The boys played the game by hitting a milk can, usually Carnation or Pet evaporated milk, with their chosen stick. The rules of "shinny" were similar to field hockey. The kids picked which side of the field they would play on, drew a line at each end of the field to serve as a scoring line, and then each kid tried to beat the hell out of the can in order to get it across one of the goal lines. Many times the kids' shins were hit more than the can; therefore, the game earned the title of "tin can shinny."
     On more than one occasion the Matney boys' game was called to a halt because Bubba got hit in the head. Everyone would try to stop his bleeding before they took him home, knowing that their game would be eliminated if Faye caught sight of her bleeding baby boy. The older boys agreed that Bubba needed to learn some defensive skills.
     Another game that was popular among the boys was called "King of the Hill." In this game the boys stood on top of the tank dam and began throwing each other off the dam until the last person standing became known as the King of the Hill.
     The Matney boys invited their friends from the city to play King of the Hill on their tank by the barn. Sometimes, the boys became so serious that a fight broke out between the combatants. They had few rules, but fighting, hitting, biting and kicking were not allowed. Usually, Jimmy or Jerry made a ruling if there was a conflict. The reason they had power to make final decisions was because the ranch was their home. This was called 'Home Rule'.

"Oil Drum Boat"

     North of the Matney ranch, in a small community called Lone Star, an old rancher had cut a fifty-gallon oil drum in half and welded the ends together to use as a boat. The two welded halves made a steel boat that would float on Sandy Creek - when the creek ran high. Although the boat consisted of heavy steel, it floated well enough unless it became filled with water. If very much water got in the boat, the vessel would plunge to the bottom of the creek.
     During one of the annual floods on Sandy Creek, Benny and Bubba found the metal boat floating in one of the swampy areas near the creek. They thought that the metal boat was the most modern and beautiful boat they had ever seen. They climbed aboard and paddled it down Sandy Creek, all the way to the Matney ranch. They put the boat ashore and went after their horses. With the help of the horses and lots of rope, they dragged the oil drum boat all the way to the main pond below the Matney cattle pens.
     As usual, the boys had very little respect for other people's property. One of their favorite childhood mantas was, "Finders keepers, losers weepers." They floated the boat on their tank, rocking it back and forth to see if they could make it sink.
     Sure enough, the two boys finally filled the boat with enough water that it sank like a rock. Because it was made of steel, and extremely heavy, they could not make it float again. Benny and Bubba never did tell their father about the incident and the rancher from Lone Star never found his wayward boat again. As far as Benny and Bubba know, that steel boat is still at the bottom of the stock tank on the Matney ranch. It did teach them a lesson though: the boys vowed they would never steal another steel boat.

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