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The Onion Wars
by Kent Fletcher

One day last week, as I was pulling some sort of infernal weeds from my yard, I got to thinking about the games we kids used to play when I was a young'un. We had some mighty good Onion Wars in Cleveland, Mississippi, way back during the middle to late 1950's. Most every kid who lived in the vicinity of Fireman's Park took part in these wars -- or got pelted to hell and back for not participating.

You see, in the years before herbicides came along, people with otherwise beautiful yards in the area were plagued by that ever-present weed, the wild onion (Allium canadense). Homeowners had few choices for eradication of the pesky weed, and one choice was pulling a clump at a time. That way, the tiny bulbs were laden and held together with reasonably fresh dirt, giving a good hefty feeling in the palm of a kid's hand. As noted by Clemson Home and Garden Information Center, simply cutting the onions does nothing as far as killing them. These onions appear in late fall and grow through the winter and spring. As it turns out, wild garlic (Allium vineale) has the same life cycle, but don't confuse them. Wild garlic leaves are tubular while onion leaves are flat.

But no one really cared about wild garlic or wild onions all that much; I can't remember anyone in Cleveland having a wild onion or wild garlic section of their yard cordoned off. So when the kids in the area went to the park for the Onion Wars, or even in someone's expansive front yard, like the Albritton's on College Street, the homeowners actually benefitted in a small way. Kids used the onion clumps for their wars.

On those clear days after school, and on weekends too, lots of kids always showed up. We'd pull up onions and/or garlic, hit din't matter, and start throwing the clumps at each other. This was fun for us, but I suspect the moms weren't too happy with the smells and stains emanating from their young'uns at the dinner table.

Ah, the childhood experiences we baby-boomers had. I would guess that nowadays the Nanny Patrols screech at such activities. After all, the good swings and the long slides and the merry-go-round at Fireman's Park were removed years ago, destroyed, replaced with soft plastic things. The current crop of kids will never know the fun and the innocence of real play, huh?


A native Mississippian and retired military, Kent Fletcher now lives in Texas. Heís a storyteller from way back. Enjoy more of his tales at USADEEPSOUTH:
Last Locomotive North
Sticky Situation
Laundry Day

Check the USADS Articles list for many more! Write Kent at HOTS64.


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