A War Game

A rite of passage at school I remember, even 45 years after, was graduating from writing with a pencil to ink. Writing with a pencil meant you could erase and fix your mistakes. Ink meant that what was written was permanent.

Erasers were sold for both, but in my experience, only the pencil part worked well. The ink part (blue) made a mess or broke the paper.

It wasn’t until we mastered our (cursive) writing that graduation happened. I remember vividly practicing each letter in the alphabet until I could neatly write “a”, “b”, “c”, etc. and I could join them to make words.

And I also remember when my teacher told me “You can use your pen now!”. I was proud of the achievement. Pens became an essential part of my early education with the perennial and distinct blue stains on my fingers. And I’ve never lost love for fountain pens since then. I still use them to this day.

There were various types of ink. Blue was the mandatory color. For some reason, we were not allowed to use black ink until many years later when I had calligraphy classes. And we’d only use it for the gothic script. Not sure why.

But blue ink came in two types “permanent” and “erasable”. The “permanent” was darker blue and the normal rubber erasers had a very hard time with that. The “erasable” which was much lighter, was easier.

Sometime in middle school chemical erasers were introduced which were a small miracle. These were pens with a white tip embedded in a chemical that would make ink disappear. That made my life easier, and maybe a little bit more reckless as now my writing had a Plan B if I messed up.

And that gave me an idea to create a “war game” that became quite popular at my school. The idea was very simple:

  1. Take a piece of white paper and divide it in 2 areas
  2. Draw guns, bases, trenches, tanks and soldiers
  3. Then each player would surround their pieces with “mines” and “defenses” which were drawn with the chemical eraser.
  4. Take turns to draw (with ink) “attacks” from one side to another. If the ink hit a “mine” it would be neutralized.

It was fun. I loved drawing maps so I got creative with rivers, mountains, sandbags, and many more features. There was probably equal joy in drawing as in playing. You could cheat of course, as in most games, but there was no fun in doing it and it was easy to figure out who did it. I quickly avoided repeated offenders (who I can’t even remember).

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