Girls Can Do Anything Boys Can Do

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    Girls Can Do Anything Boys Can Do, Only Better

    During the early 1970s there was no abundance of video games or TV channels.

    For elementary age boys, entertainment after school and between chores was the result of

    imagination. Boys played outside, riding bicycles, hunting critters, playing some kind of

    ball game and pretending to wage war on the neighbors. Forrest Dale Lane and my

    childhood neighborhood were perfect for doing all these things, as long as you were a

    boy. My problem, I was not a boy. Given the right circumstances, however, and a will to

    prove girls can do anything boys can, I could break the NoGirls Allowed rule of the

    Forrest Dale. To succeed I would first have to break both arms.

    When I was nine, my family moved into a house on Forrest Dale Lane across the

    street my moms mom. My parents chose the neighborhood, not because my grandmother

    was there, but because the neighborhood was unique. Forrest Dale Lane was a rural

    residential street veering left off Highway 365 just south of Maumelle, Arkansas. The

    road was a straight shot for fifty yards then immediately split left and right. Turning

    either way would take the driver in a complete circle, ending the road where it began.

    This meant one way in and one way out. A map of the street resembled a racetrack, and

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    our house was one of three positioned in the infield. From our back porch I could survey

    one half of the neighborhood, from the front porch, the other half.

    The first thing I found in my early porch surveys was a neighborhood of boys. My

    sister, Angie, and I were the only girls living in the circle at the time. She was in the first

    grade and I in the fourth, and I did not share her desire to play house, dress dolls and sip

    imaginary tea from tiny plastic teacups. I didnt mind a neighborhood of boys. In fact, I

    considered myself lucky. Until moving to the circle, my younger brother, Craig, and I

    played together. We are only 16 months apart in age, and I liked what he enjoyed doing.

    We spent hours building forts, throwing rocks, and digging tunnels to China in our back

    yard. We figured the circle neighborhood might give us a fresh army of recruits to build

    new forts and reach China in no time. Our plans were squashed, though, when the

    neighborhood boys refused to let girls be part of the gang. No girls allowed.

    Looking back, I see how I was intimidating to eight or so, nine-year-old boys.

    First, I stood taller by a foot and could out run even the oldest. Second, I had a pink bike

    with white fringe hanging from the handlebars. On the front was a shiny white basket

    decorated with yellow daisies. Even if the bike was fast and in good shape, no self-

    respecting boy could be seen anywhere near such a girly contraption. So, although Craig

    was younger and didnt know the way to China without me, the boys of the circle invited

    my little brother to join in their games and not me.

    On most Saturdays, Craig and his new friends would spend all day generally

    doing boy things. In the vacant lot next to our house, they would build forts and throw

    pinecone grenades at each other. When the war was over, they hunted for worms and

    bugs and compared their finds. The winner always had the most or the biggest of

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    something with six or more legs. Digging a tunnel to China was elevated to using dads

    shovels and not my mothers kitchen utensils. The boys used the excess dirt to build bike

    ramps for jumping the fresh hole, somewhat like Evel Kneivel and the Grand Canyon.

    Building, war games, and hunting ended about dusk when someones mom called him

    home.

    I was relegated to doing girl things with my little sister, Angie. At first I stayed in

    the house and pretended to care about dressing Barbies and marrying them to G.I. Joe.

    Occasionally, I rode my pink bike alone, never gaining a second glance from the circle of

    boys. The remainder of my leisure time was spent watching the boys play, spying on

    them through the sliding glass door on the back porch. I could see straight through to the

    vacant lot next door and right up the tree where the boys had built the latest fort. One

    Saturday I watched the construction of a rope swing on the tree edging our yard.

    My brother found a thick two-ply rope in our garage, left over from one of my

    dads construction projects. The rope was plenty long enough to throw over the limb of a

    huge old pine tree situated atop a knob hill with a steep incline on one side. There was no

    seat, just a big gnarled knot tied several times to form a place to grip the rope. Clearly,

    swinging was not the idea as the knot hung at shoulder level to a fourth grader. This

    would be a competition, and the object of the game was to use the rope to launch out and

    fly, landing somewhere at the bottom of incline below the tree. I had to leave the house

    and see this up close.

    The boys each took turns running toward the rope, grabbing the rope by the end

    and launching out as far as they could swing and then letting go. The idea was to see how

    far away from the tree you could land on your feet when you let go of the rope. There

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    was a delegated measurer, who called the competition a tie at the end of each round.

    There was no arguing, and everyone agreed another round was needed until somebody

    won.

    It was possibly because of their complete focus on the competition or my silence,

    but no one noticed I had entered the line to take a turn at the rope. I guess they figured I

    wasnt much of a rope swinging threat. No one complained that a girl stood at the front of

    the line to take a turn. They were just anxious for me to take my turn and get out of the

    way.

    Its your turn, my little brothersaid, half mockingly. I must have been taking

    too long to ready myself and was holding up the line. My heart was beating audibly the

    longer I prepared to launch myself into the air, not so much because I considered I might

    be humiliated by a pitiful showing, but because I was so excited to be in the competition.

    I was determined to let every boy in the neighborhood know I could do anything they did,

    possibly better. So I backed up a couple of steps, took a deep breath and ran with all my

    might.

    The only thing I remember after grabbing the rope was waking up with a face full

    of pine needles. Then I passed out when I saw both arms bent in an unnatural direction.

    The next memory was ofmy dads grim face as he scooped me up and carried me to our

    station wagon. He had watched the whole competition unfold and had foreseen the

    outcome. He was at the scene before I hit the ground.

    At the hospital, the doctor confirmed what my parents knew. Both arms were

    broken. My dad told me I had swung out so far my body was parallel to the ground ten

    feet below. My feet were not under me when I let go of the rope, which is good or I

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    would have broken at least one leg. Instead I broke my fall with my arms and landed

    farther from the tree than any of the boys. I had set a record that still stands because my

    dad cut the rope down when we got home from the hospital.

    Broken arms are inconvenient and painful, especially when both are broken at the

    same time. In this case they were necessary, and I considered them a prize. No

    recuperating at home, I was back at school the next day. I wanted everyone at Oak Grove

    Elementary to see my casts and to ask me what had happened. I was happy to report that I

    had beat the boys at their own game. And when I got home from school, I rode my pink

    bicycle around the circle, elbows in the air, casts in full view, waving at the boys, proving

    girls can do anything boys can do, only better.