Cap Guns and Fence Climbing in South Texas

My dad and his older brother grew up in south Texas in a town called Corpus Christi, which was just beginning to sprawl out into the surrounding farmland. Their female cousins lived a few blocks away in their neighborhood which my dad describes as “single family detached housing.”

My dad and my uncle both had Crockett-style coon skin caps which were gifted from his mother or his aunt. They watched Davy Crockett and other “western” TV shows and modeled their play on them. When encouraged to explain what he enjoyed about the shows, he responded, “A sense of adventure and belonging.”

After breakfast, my grandma would tell the kids to “go play” and they would run around all over the neighborhood with their cousins. They played “stalking, chasing, and hunting” games with their cap guns, climbing over the neighbors’ fences and running all around the neighborhood. They would play in the alleys and sometimes on roofs.

My dad described fence-climbing in detail, creating a marked contrast to the use of fences in the Griffin reading. He and his friends were thwarting the fences supposedly designed to keep them safe and contained. His childhood also lacked a traditional swing-set, which marked “adult attempts to regulate and institutionalize play” (Griffin 108). There was no need to spend money on a swing set when they had the entire neighborhood to entertain them.

My dad’s experience is clearly different from the Griffin article because the space that my dad, uncle, and cousins could play in was not being “eroded and roped off”. Or at least not very effectively. They had free range of “the public space of the street” and were not kept inside for safety (Griffin 105). When I asked, my dad had not memory of every being told to stay inside, in the yard, or not do this or that for safety’s sake.

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My uncle had a “long Colt six-shooter” and my dad had a “snub-nosed .38.” The fact that my dad remembers this sort of detail from his early childhood shows just how large an impression it had on him. Both the girls and the boys had cap guns and they were quite adept at the games. My dad describes his eldest cousin, Claudia, as being “deadly” at the stalking games. Apparently she was an excellent shot. My dad remembers being awe-struck when Claudia executed a sudden ambush, firing off all six rounds in her gun as they had seen done in a TV show.

This is in line with the Griffin article’s assessment of the way that both boys and girls picked up the Davy Crockett persona. However, in my dad’s experience, the children did not pick up or try to recreate specific characters. Instead, they all acquired the skilled, stealthy, rambunctiousness of the Crockett character. He did not described the girls’ play as being masculinized because they did not associate with Crockett’s mother or wife, or some other female character. This might have been because they were at an age where the girls and boys were on more of a level playing field. The girls were not the followers in the games, they were leaders and peers.

My dad described the children he played with as being hooligans. He did not mention if his parents’ view of him and his playmates, but his own view was definitely not as “innocent” as the adults described in the Griffin reading. Overall, the adults of my dad’s childhood do not seem to be the helicopter parents that Griffin describes.

In terms of rebelliousness, my dad cannot remember being actively rebellious at this time in his life. He recalled that when the children went to play and entered their make believe world, “the adults disappeared” and were not event present to rebel against.

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2 thoughts on “Cap Guns and Fence Climbing in South Texas

  1. Your Aunt Claudia sounds like a total boss. Excellent points about how your dad et.al. did away with attempts to literally “fence them in” — just like your Aunt and other girls resisted attempts to fence them into a particular gender identity or style of play.

  2. Your dad’s childhood and the open-mindedness of your his Aunt challenge the conventional childhood and gender roles. I would be interested to see how his “free” unrestricted childhood effected his later years and perspectives in regards to how he raised you and how he views gender roles. Do you think you or your dad would say that less adult supervision is a positive or negative part of a child’s development and recreation time?

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