Knife throwing


Neil Suits

I wish that I could remember more about my time at Tosebo or that I had taken a few pictures to help stir my memories. That was almost 40 years ago (1964-1966), so I guess it is understandable that my memories are lacking in detail. The first two years I attended the second 4-week session. In 1966, I believe that I went the full 8 weeks.
One of my favorite memories from Tosebo was the time that the campers became obsessed with knives and knife throwing. I think that was in 1966. I’m not sure how it started. Everyone at the time had a jackknife. That was standard issue. I suppose a few of us started by playing mumbley-peg. For those unfamiliar with the game, it is knife-throwing contest where participants complete increasingly difficult throws. It starts with a simple throw holding the knife handle, followed by a throw holding the blade, and continues from there with increasingly complex throws involving spins and other affectations. I remember one time playing it with a friend on the way up the hill after a meal. Mumbley-peg is fun game, but, because there is no danger involved, it is difficult to hold a young boy’s interest. The most popular games were those in which there is some element of risk. The two that I remember are Stretch and Chicken. These two were by far the most popular at the camp and became our near constant recreation, particularly at times when we were cooling our heels, such as when waiting in lines. The game of stretch is fun and the less dangerous of the two. You start by facing your opponent about two to three feet apart. Taking turns, you throw your knife down some distance to the side of your opponent. If the knife sticks in the ground, he must stretch his foot out to touch the knife and pull it out of the ground. Then it is his turn to throw. The game goes back and forth until one or another of the players cannot stretch far enough to reach the knife. If you fall over while stretching, you have lost. It is a fun game for its part and I recall one or two memorable moments when one player, stretched to his limits, made a desperation throw of 10-15 feet to win the game outright. However, we soon all became so good at knife throwing that games were too short and the first to throw would nearly always win. The second game, Chicken, quickly became the most popular because, at its name implies, it was the most dangerous. Similarly to Stretch, Chicken starts out with two players facing one another. The difference, however, is that they start with their legs spread apart, the farther the better. Each player takes turns throwing the knife between the two outstretched legs and the opponent must pull one of his feet (his choice) in to touch the knife. Then it is his turn to throw. Again, if the knife sticks in the ground, fine; if not, you lose your turn. Leaning over was, if not against the rules, then at least bad form. The loser was the one who either first flinched i.e., withdrew his foot to avoid the knife, or put the knife into his opponent’s foot. Most of us became quite proficient with the knife and I think it is fair to say that many of us could pin a leaf to the ground at a distance of five feet or more. I remember one memorable game with a camper whose name unfortunately I cannot recall. We were both good and each placed his knife to greatest effect: right in the middle of the other’s two feet. Quickly our feet came closer and closer together and the tension mounted. Soon they were a foot apart, and then six inches and then three. This was good, but not out of the ordinary. Most games came down to three or four inches before someone’s survival instinct kicked in. We kept going, and three inches became one and then a half. Now we were truly at the limit because even if the knife was perfectly placed it had to be at the proper angle or it wouldn’t fit between the feet. It was my turn and I didn’t have much space to work with. I recall that he had sensible shoes on with a nice thick sole and not sneakers, which offered little protection. I took aim and threw. It was a beautiful throw and stuck straight as an arrow. The only problem was that it wasn’t sticking in the ground, but rather had found the little rim of sole that surrounded his foot. We both stood there staring at the knife, as it almost seemed to quiver like in a cartoon. I had made one of my best throws but he had nerves of steel and he had won fair and square. I wish I could remember that camper’s name. He certainly had the right stuff. Our obsession with knives left as quickly as it came. I don’t think it lasted more than three or four days at the most. I also remember being a bit surprised that Hal Tonkins didn’t cut our dangerous passion short. Even then I knew that thirty or so young boys throwing knives did not constitute the safest of environments. However, I don’t recall anyone getting hurt. Not even a scratch. Today, while I think that it is a good idea to wear helmets when riding bikes and seatbelts when driving, I still think about those four days of the knives and the fun we had and I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t lost something by being so careful nowadays.

Neil Suits 1964-66


Fully vaccinated are you?
I only found a few pictures I took that summer. Lots of others have sent pictures which I've posted.

Wow! It's been a long time since I thought of the old 'playing chicken' with knives! These days it'd probably lead to psychiatric care or a stay in a juvenile home if someone ended up with a cut or something... I don't remember anyone ever getting hurt, though.

Strong Bow

Great memory Neil!
I had forgotten about Stretch, but I don't think I ever got into Chicken. I don't know why we allowed to do such things. Certainly as I spent 5 years with my son in the Boy Scouts we never played those kind of games. I liked stretch because I was tall and I assumed that would be an advantage. Having some skill throwing a knife would have been more useful.

Dave Wallace
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