Monday, March 28, 2016

Buckeye ammo ~ My column from Sunday's paper

It’s a thousand wonders I didn’t grow up to become a terrorist or at the very least a lifer in the military. That’s because when I was a kid I was into tanks, guns, and Armies of clothespin soldiers slaughtering each other. Most of the carnage took place under the front porch of our old house in Sloss. The battlefields were in inch-thick dirt which was as fine as snuff.  There was no better place to be on rainy days.

As I got older, the warfare evolved. The enemies depended on which neighborhood kids were in my army and which ones were the scum-sucking enemy that drew the short straws when selecting sides. 

The best weapons in those summer battles were buckeyes.  Not padded monsters that wore red and played linebacker for the University of Ohio, but a golf ball sized nut that was in the horse chestnut family. Jabbing one of these babies onto the end of a sharp pointed stick gave me real firepower.

The buckeye grows wild and is among the first wave of blooming things here in Alabama. In early spring, the buckeye bush produces beautiful red flowers. Then in summer when Alabama gets hotter than Satan in a snit, the buckeye plant produces nuts in a soft-brown shell that hang on the branches like tiny apples. The woods are full of them.

I've never tried to eat one, but they made excellent artillery ammunition. They loaded easy and had better knock-down power than a slingshot at long distances.

I don't remember who showed me the flinging-buckeye trick, but it came in handy during the many battles we fought over land rights, world domination, and what not.

When broken open, the buckeyes contained three or four nuts inside. They were hard when green, but the sharpened end of a long limber stick slid easily into the flesh of the nut.

When one of these smacked into the side of the head, it didn’t kill you, but experience taught me that they hurt like the dickens.

Distance was a factor when selecting the correct length of stick. For closer combat, shorter sticks were best because the aim was truer and they were easier to reload. 

But if the battlefield was wide and I needed to hurl the buckeye a hundred yards or so catching the enemy napping, a longer stick was essential.

Accuracy was problematic with this technology, so it took a great deal of practice. Experience showed me that the wind was a factor and moving targets were a challenge, but a direct hit with one of these babies was a game changer. 

I thought of those battles this week when I walked through the woods down at the back of the property. A buckeye bush was in full bloom. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped several pictures. One looked good enough to share on Instagram (rickwatson.) 

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at


  1. Any battle scars to prove this? haha. A great trip down Memory Lane for your column. You described a fun time in your youth. I never heard of this game before but it sounds like it was an important ritual with boys. In my youth, my brothers played with cap guns and I hated the noise they made, but they had fun.


  2. Awww, the days of childhood play. Memories are so very wonderful.

  3. I have a buckeye from my in-laws that I've probably had almost as long as I've been married (soon be 30 years). M-I-L heard they bring good luck, I carried it in my purse a lot of years. Still haven't won the lottery though... :-) Take care, Sheila

  4. Loved this!
    I remember flinging crab apples at the enemy, but never heard of the stick method, maybe without buckeyes, we did not have proper ammo in this neck of the woods.

  5. I've heard of buckeyes but never knew much about them...until now. Thanks for the education.

  6. Grandma lived on the mill hill, and you sure kicked in some memories of the dirt under the porch being the best place to be when it rained, to 'play cars' make roads, bridges etc.

    Never did the buckeye sling, we stuck to sling shots, but only for distant warfare. We tried to stay away from the killing!

    That buckeye on a stick sounds like a KIller. (smile) good column!

  7. Love the memories of when you were a kid and had fun hurling these suckers at others. We don't have these here but we would have done the same thing. Now kids just. Play on the computer

  8. We didn't have buckeyes here. What we did was to shoot sand burrs using rubber bands. I still have a keloid on my cheek as the result of one lucky shot.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required