When my sister was small enough to fit into a suitcase, we were all playing with guns. Not real guns, of course, but guns just the same. My hero at the time, because we lived in what we thought of as the Wild West, was Annie Oakley.
My brother and two sisters and I spent hours playing “Cowboys and Indians” out in our backyard and in the backyard of our neighbours who were real Indians. They were Cree and were our best friends in our elementary school days.
We rode our pretend horses around the trails that surrounded our houses. We were on the outskirts of town, a new subdivision going in, developing very, very slowly in our northern town. The hills of excavated soil to be backfilled the next spring provided lookout points and we slapped our thighs and made clicking noises to spur on our horses, galloping up the hills of dirt, down the gullies of the back alley, and around the sheds and our houses. We stopped behind shrubs to spy on each other, ambushing a careless rider, and killing them with our sixguns.
The irony of our Cowboys and Indians game was that we white folks always wanted to be the Indians and they wanted to be us. Sometimes we took turns. No one ever got hurt, as we were the best of friends, but the goal was to see which team would have “the last man standing” and for the rest of us, who could die the most dramatically. In those days I thought that when you died, no matter what you were doing when you got shot, you had to lie down on your back and spread your arms out (like Jesus on the cross), and close your eyes.
After all that play with guns, none of us ever had the idea of really shooting someone. We knew it was just a game and that you didn’t play with real guns. We had a healthy respect for guns and never confused pretending to shoot our “Cowboy and Indian” friends in the backyard with shooting anyone with a real gun.
In this picture, my sister was probably about 3 or 4 years old. She was very well adjusted even then, and so she is to this day.
So what has changed in this world that people don’t understand the difference between play and reality anymore?