Saturday Single No. 574

Another question popped up on Facebook this week: My college friend Laura – with whom I’m in contact nearly every day but haven’t seen in the flesh for more than forty years (ain’t modern life marvelous?) – asked folks about their favorite toys as kids.

Not a lot of stuff came to mind from my younger years – I had a fair number of toys but no real favorites, I guess – but when I thought about my tween and teen years, I had a quick response. So I wrote briefly about my tabletop hockey game and posted a picture I found online of metal players from Toronto and Montreal. And I started thinking about my other diversions from those years.

And it didn’t take long before I thought about the dart board. I was maybe ten when I got it for Christmas. This was before the rec room went into half of the basement, so Dad found an empty spot on the basement wall with about ten feet of open space in front of it. On the wall, he installed a large piece of plywood with a hook in the middle from which to hang the actual dartboard.

And I was off and darting.

It was fun just throwing the darts, for a while. I learned how to keep score, finding out that the scoring in an actual match starts with 300 points (if I recall things correctly) and counts down from there. But I wanted to have some kind of competition that I could keep track of myself. So I took the four sets of three darts each that came with the board and made them into imaginary teams, kind of a National Dart League.

I thought about cities where I would base each team, and then I pondered nicknames. (I’d learned recently that Rob, across the street, was doing the same thing, creating imaginary teams for imaginary Dart2leagues – in his case, for a baseball game he had.) The orange darts became the Seattle Ravens. The green ones were the Trenton Cougars. The yellow darts were based in Portland, Oregon, and at first were the Yellow Jackets and later, one supposes under new imaginary ownership, the Lumberjacks (often shortened, as I did my sotto voce play-by-play, to ’Jacks). The blue darts were peripatetic, beginning as the Akron Hubs (a city/name combination I borrowed from Rob). Then I wanted something from my own imagination, and they moved to Texas and became the Austin Bullets, though I was not entirely satisfied with that. Finally, I decided to bring them home to Minnesota, though not in the Twin Cities. I parked them in Duluth, and in a nod to the history of French exploration and fur-trading in Lake Superior and the rest of the Northland, I named them the Voyageurs.

I don’t remember how I structured the matches or the schedule. But I spent many happy hours pairing the four teams against each other and keeping tracks of scores and matches won and lost. A few years later, when Dad built the rec room in the basement, the space configuration was changed, and the plywood sheet had to be moved. I wasn’t playing much by that time, anyway, and that Christmas, my Royal Canadian hockey game became my favorite winter pastime.

As you can see from the picture above, I still have the darts. They’ve traveled with me over the years in a greeting card box, and for the last nine years have been on a shelf in the room that serves as the EITW studios. I’ve been pondering what to do with them. I doubt that Goodwill or other places that seek donations would want them; they could easily be dangerous. And I see no point in packing them away in a box, as I’ll never use them again. But when I think about discarding them, it feels as if I’m about to throw away part of my childhood.

I’ll have to think about it.

So musically, where does that leave us? Well, I thought about offering something from the long-gone Dart label, the one-time home of Lightnin’ Hopkins, but then I thought about the word “games.” It shows up in a lot of record titles, of course, and I’ve decided to go with the Joe South tune “Games People Play,” as offered by King Curtis (with guitar work by Duane Allman). It’s from Curtis’ 1969 album Instant Groove, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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