Blowguns & Other Classroom Diversions

Let’s face it, in 8th grade sitting in a classroom can be SO BORING! Sure, you could stare at the girls that were beginning to bloom or Mrs. Reynolds (if you had her as a teacher you know what I am talking about), but even that would get old after awhile. Someone far more clever than I had just figured out that if you took the tip and ink tube out of a Bic pen, it could become a very accurate blowgun. The projectiles were fashioned by putting a small piece of paper in the mouth to get it nice and wet and then rolled into a ball with the tongue. Just put the wad into the hollow Bic pen, aim and blow. Of course this was outlawed by our oppressive school administration.

The trouble with the blowgun method was that you could not get much range out of it. It sure was fun though to nail someone in the side of the face and see it stick, and I am sure the janitor loved cleaning the small dried wads from the ceiling tiles. But, there was also a much more forceful tool available: the rubber band and tightly folded piece of paper. The projectile was formed by tightly folding a piece of paper into a “V” and then launching it with a rubber band that was stretched between the thumb and forefinger. It was not as accurate, but you could hit someone clear across the lunch room. Of course, this innocent diversion from our studies was also outlawed.

One day in class an enterprising student - I think it was Paul Cota - tied rubber bands together to form a slingshot several feet long. When the teacher left the classroom he got it out and one guy on each side of the aisle held the rubber band and he stretched that sucker back and nailed the blackboard with a whack that I am sure the students throughout J. Sterling Morton could hear. The girls were of course mortified and the boys were rolling on the floor with laughter, but no one ratted him out.

One day my good friend Jim had nailed me good with a juicy spit-wad on the side of my face. My honor was of course at stake and I plotted to get even. I carefully folded a piece of paper into a tight “V” shape and got my rubber band ready for just the right moment. We were all told to be quiet and do some type of reading while the teacher graded papers. I was several seats behind Jim and to his left. He would never see it coming. I drew back my sling as far as I could and let it fly. The silence was broken by a loud “whap” and the groaning of Jim as he clutched the side of his cheek. Everyone’s attention was on Jim. It was only by divine intervention that the teacher did nothing. Jim had this huge welt on the side of his face the rest of the day, and for many weeks as far as I know - a battle scar from the 8th grade battleground.

Jim got me back big time in 1970 or 1971 with his condom prank, but that is another story which you can read here.

PS: In high school I also discovered that you could blow a small piece of ice through a drinking straw. We did this at Burger Town in high school, and I have proudly taught nieces, nephews, my children, and grand-kids the technique.

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