The Nature of Warfare This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 13, 2011
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Indian Guides. Unmatched in its formless excuse for structure and purpose, Indian Guides defined manliness. How a weekend of fathers lounging beside a camp fire, smoking cigars with pre-pubescent boys running around unsupervised in a forest for forty eight hours somehow passed as a productive activity, I will never know. We scoffed at silly cub scouts, with all their foolish “goals” and “experiences” that would “benefit them later in life.” We exemplified masculinity at its finest, and we knew it. But, of course, we were not equals in this surplus of gallant power. The need to prove our superiority to the weaklings around us was constant. Also, as any ten-year-old man knew, there was only one way to prove oneself in the world; the domination and slaughter of your enemies through violent conflict.

This particular battle endlessly raged for what felt like hours. Perspiration and dirt stuck to my face, my clothes plastered to my body. My knuckles turned white from gripping my battle staff. Deep in the woods, a stick took many forms: A spear, a sword, a walking stick. I preferred a battle staff. Suddenly Patrick exploded though the bush next to me, scaring me half to death. The fear was temporary. Patrick was an ally. A brother in arms.
“Kyle betrayed us”, he said.

In a war that very seldom resulted in any actual physical contact, it was a bit unclear what a betrayal actually was. Regardless, Kyle double crossed us and needed to be put in his place.

We crept through the looming jungle, stalking our prey with the expertise and deadly efficiency rivaling any ferocious cat. As we progressed, we encountered others from our tribe, sharing the news that Kyle had abandoned us for the enemy. Most were enraged as we were. Suddenly in a small clearing, his face a bubbling shade of red, we found Kyle.

“Guys”, Kyle whined, his vowels long and drawn out, his voice quivering, “I didn’t betray anyone! Stop saying that!” The gelatinous stream of nasal mucus mixed with the tears flowing down his face and dripped all over his shirt, turning it to a putrid shade of green.

In retrospect, we probably could have handled the situation better than we did. A miserable eight year old alone in a forest probably just needed some comforting and reassurance. Perhaps an adult, or maybe even just a friend, to talk to him, tell him that everything was okay. Or maybe he just needed a short break from the fighting until he felt better. Instead we threw a stick at him.

A shriek exploded from Kyle’s throat that put even the most accomplished soprano to shame. “I HATE YOU GUYS!” he bellowed as the stick fell to the ground in front of him. “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU ALL!” That was when Kyle turned the tables. From somewhere within his snot-covered clothing, he produced a pocketknife and drew the blade.

To clarify, Kyle was Spencer’s younger brother. In time following these events, I questioned why Kyle carried a pocketknife and Spencer didn’t. Spencer later told me that his dad worried that Kyle would be left out by all the older kids and thought that if Kyle could whittle sticks or cut through branches he might be more appreciated by the older kids. So, he gave his eight-year-old son a knife. Yes, Kyle’s father had given him a pocketknife. To remove any and all possible confusion, I am going to make this very clear: KYLE GOT THE KNIFE FROM HIS DAD.

My fellow Indian Guides and I exchanged nervous glances before silently agreeing that the situation was probably getting out of hand. Obviously, Kyle would not actually kill us, but he seemed truly pissed, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but personally I had no idea how far this rage would take him. So, as any noble warriors would do, we turned and ran for our lives. More shrieks burst from Kyle’s chest as he charged after us. Bushes and leaves tore away before us as we plowed through them. I could barely hear my brain telling me that Kyle was gaining on us over the thunderous beat of my heart.

Finally we arrived at a small ditch, traversed by a fallen tree. In a desperate attempt to escape our eminent doom, we all clambered across just as Kyle reached the other side. Still babbling psychotically, Kyle leapt up onto the branch to follow after us, but lost his footing in his haste. We all knew what was going to happen, but there wasn’t anything we could do about it from our positions across the ditch. We watched as Kyle fell, knife in hand. Hurrying to the aid of our fallen companion, his betrayal was forgotten and forgiven.

The fall was only four or five feet, but it was enough. A different kind of tears ran down Kyle’s face now, as he lay in the bottom of the ditch tightly clutching the gaping wound in his side where he had landed on the knife. As a team, we carried Kyle back through the woods to our cabins, where we all got our respective buts beaten our by our dads (figuratively, of course). Kyle was rushed to the hospital and received several stitches. But despite all the trouble we got in, we all learned a very important lesson that day: If you’re going to beat up on a kid, first make sure he’s unarmed.

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