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Much greater steadiness of flight will be imparted to the javelin, and therefore much greater accuracy obtained, by bringing the fingers sharply downwards on the shaft at the moment it leaves the hand, and so inducing a rotating motion similar to that imparted to an arrow or a rifle-bullet.
When some progress has been made at the target and fair proficiency attained, blunt javelins, padded at the end, may be procured, and two or three players may practise throwing them at one another, studying, besides the art of throwing them, that of avoiding them, or even catching them in mid-air and returning them "sharp" to the thrower.
When first commencing this practice, the thrower should call to the person aimed at to prepare him for the cast, or the players may chance to give each other some awkward knocks; after a time this forewarning will not be so necessary.
When the players have acquired sufficient skill to throw quickly and with effect, and are able to take reasonable care of themselves in avoiding the missiles aimed at them, they may proceed to make a regular game of it, by attacking and defending a fort; a hedge with one or two gaps, and with a good sloping bank, makes a capital fort.
This is an Australian weapon, and, like the sling, is in its origin a weapon of war and the chase. At first sight it is an unpromising-looking weapon enough, being merely a curved piece of flat wood of no very great size or weight, and about as insignificant-looking an object as could well be supposed. But in the hands of the blacks this simple piece of flat wood can be made to perform the most marvellous feats: it rushes through the air like " a thing of life;" at will he can make it skim the ground like a swallow, or soar into the air like a hawk; to strike a distant enemy, or to return in a wide graceful curve till it drops harmlessly against his own feet.
Against this strange weapon no trunk of tree or huge mass of rock affords shelter: the boomerang rushing through the air, past and beyond the concealed enemy, comes whirling back again with but little abated force, and smites him from the rear: with spear and boomerang the native Australian must indeed be a dangerous foe, and one not to be despised even by the white man, with his still more deadly rifle and revolver.
The young English boy must not expect to be able to make anything more than a plaything out of this interesting weapon, he can neither afford the time nor get the teaching necessary for a thorough mastery of it. To the native Australian the skilful use of the boomerang forms a great part of the business of his life, and is indeed one of the conditions on which he lives; but to the white man it can only be one out of many aids to relaxation, and he therefore can no more hope to acquire any great command over this extraordinary missile, perhaps the most difficult to wield successfully that the ingenuity of man has ever produced, than he can hope to rival the Japanese jugglers in their wondrous performances with tops and paper butterflies.
Any of our young readers who may hereafter become possessed of a boomerang, and be fired with the ardour of acquiring the art of throwing it, must be very careful at first in experimenting upon it, for he will find it will have a tendency to fly off from its course in the most unforeseen manner, and to make its way into all sorts of unexpected places, generally being exceedingly perverse in going exactly where it is least wanted to go. A large open field to practise in, with not more than one or two companions, will be found the best for safety.
Little or no instruction can be given verbally in the use of the boomerang: the young learner must discover for himself the various tricks of the wrist and hand, simply by dint of a severe course of experiment.
In the act of throwing, the boomerang is grasped firmly by the end, which is slightly smoothed off for the hand, and as it leaves the hand is made to gyrate or revolve on its centre by a quick turn of the wrist; it is thrown, of course, edgeways, with the concave side foremost and the flat side downwards.
The Pea-shooter has long been a favourite with English boys, and is indeed a weapon replete with endless amusement. The boy is not to be envied who, with a pea-shooter and a good pocket-full of peas, cannot find himself recreation for hours.
It is to be feared that the pea-shooter is chiefly prized amongst a large section of the rising generation for the increased opportunities it affords of mischief, and especially of annoying other people; but there is no earthly reason why they should do so, other than the love of mischief implanted in the human breast—a relic, it is to be feared, of the old monkey nature still strong in many of us—and the tempting facility the pea-shooter offers for effecting it undiscovered. There are numberless ways of getting fun out of pea-shooters, which are too well known to need description here; the best of these is "the battle of the pea-shooters," in which the players divide into two parties, and fight with their pea-shooters much in the same way as in the game with " Snowballs" described before.
The most effective way to use the pea-shooter in these battles is to keep up a steady fire of single peas, searching out the weak spots in the enemies' defence with unrelenting perseverance.
Against a fire like this the furious discharge of volleys of peas is of but little avail: it is a case of breech-loading revolver or rifle against the blunderbuss.
In this way the player, having his mouth full of peas, is able to keep up an unintermittent fire of missiles, each one of which, in skilful hands, does its appointed work. He can keep his pea-shooter to his mouth ready for instant action for long spaces of time together, and if he be dexterous, can, by seizing the opportunity as it offers, refill his mouth without abandoning his offensive attitude.
The player, on the other hand, who works on the volley system, has to reload after every discharge, leaving himself for that space of time defenceless before his opponent; and, moreover, he wastes more than three-fourths of his peas, for at the most liberal computation he can hardly hope that more than three or four out of a mouth-full will take effect; he therefore, it will be seen, fights at a decided disadvantage, and can only hope to maintain his ground by adopting the same tactics as his opponents.
Of course there are cases when a sharp volley will be very effective; if, for instance, a player who has worked up near enough to give every pea its full effect, exposes the whole or a large portion of his face, rattle a heavy volley into him on the spot by all means, without hesitation. If that does not drive him back to a more respectful distance, he must be exceptionally toughskinned or remarkably plucky. .
The same exhortation to good humour holds good in this game as in javelins.
The Catapult, though comparatively a modern invention, has attained wonderful popularity, and few indeed must there be of our young readers who have not possessed, or at least used, one of these simple but effective weapons, which for accuracy, handiness, and geneial capabilities may be fairly said to rank only next to firearms. Indeed, against small fry such as rats, the smaller birds, and even squirrels--that is to say, for the general requirements of a boy —they may be made, in skilful hands, even more effective ; for, while scarcely less deadly, they are inconspicuous and quite noiseless, and so quite make up for any deficiency in certainty of execution by giving the young sportsman more and better chances than he would get if his game were alarmed at the sound or even the sight of a gun.
Another advantage they possess, too, over firearms, which should not be overlooked: they are not dangerous to their possessors, and need not be so to other people. In London, indeed, and most large towns, their use is forbidden in the streets, but so are hoops and many other toys which are perfectly harmless in their place; in the country they are, of their kind, as safe as anything a boy can have.
Catapults are now to be procured cheaply at any toy-shop, but they may be made at home much more efficiently with very little trouble. Get a forked stick, the shape of the letter Y, about six or seven inches in length, the prongs about two inches apart. To the extremity of each of these prongs lash securely a strip of strong india-rubber spring about six inches in length, and attach the loose ends of these springs to an oval piece of soft leather, \\ inches long by an inch in width, whipping them carefully and strongly for a distance of nearly an inch; this oval forms a kind of pocket in which to place the missile.
The most useful ammunition is duck-shot; clay marbles do very well, and even gravel-stones at a pinch may be made to do good service; but the firstnamed are preferable in every way, for range, accuracy, penetration, and portability; they can be fired in volleys, too, when occasion requires, which the others cannot, on account of their size.
With a tolerably powerful catapult, such a one, for instance, as described above, no game a boy is likely to be entitled to shoot will be safe from his attack; even such large birds as the wood pigeon, the missel thrush, and the like, may be brought down by a well-directed volley of heavy shot.
Not many months before this was penned, within the writer's own knowledge, a little boy, just ten years old, fetched down a sparrow-hawk out of a tree adjoining a farmyard: he had been watching him sailing about for some time, and at last, when he settled in the tree, crept up under the shelter of a wall and gave him a heavy dose of shot, one of which pierced the hawk's brain, and fetched him headlong to the ground, as may be imagined, to the inexpressible delight of the young sportsman, a delight shared no doubt by the affrighted "feathered natives of the farm."
Since such are the powers of the weapon, it will become its possessor to be careful in the usage of it. This is a caution we have had to repeat several times before; but accidents do happen with unpleasant frequency from carelessness, and therefore the necessity for caution can scarcely be too strenuously insisted on.
Get a stick of tough wood, ash for choice, about thirty inches in length and three-quarters of an inch in thickness, tapering, perhaps, a little towards one end; with a sharp knife split the smaller end down longitudinally to a depth of about four inches, taking care to do so exactly in the middle. Now whip it round strongly with waxed string, beginning about 2\ inches from the end and working downwards.
Now take a smooth flat pebble, force it well into the cleft or slit, take hold of the stick by the butt-end, and throw. The stone will fly out as if from a sling; indeed the cleft stick is nothing more than a sling, only that it is rigid instead of flexible. At first beware how you throw; take care nobody is within hitting distance, for until the right knack is acquired, the stone is wont to fly about in a very independent manner, and it may not improbably find a very unexpected and unwelcome billet. It would be well to avoid the neighbourhood of much glass for a similar reason.
The stone is made to leave the stick at the right moment by a kind of jerk, which will soon come of itself to a boy of any natural aptitude, but which cannot well be described on paper.
In places where clay is tolerably abundant, a very similar effect may be produced by kneading lumps of clay round the top of a pliant stick, and throwing them as above described. These clay lumps, when they strike against anything, a tree or a post, flatten out and adhere to it with great tenacity.
Sometimes boys will get up a battle of clay lumps; but they should always keep at a good distance from each other, forty or fifty yards at the least. Even at that distance a blow from a clay lump in the face will often leave a deep red mark as a memento of its visit, and not even the clothes will afford perfect immunity from their visitations.
The clay should be affixed to the stick some inches from the end; the exact distance varies with the nature and humidity of the clay, the weight of the lump, and the shape and surface of the stick; a very few trials will give a very fair approximation to the right distance, for which no absolute rule can be given.
A Cross-bow is in effect nothing more nor less than an ordinary bow set crosswise in a butt in shape like an ordinary gun-stock.
The object of its first invention as a weapon of war was to obtain greater accuracy and in some sort greater propelling power with less muscular exertion. Some of the old cross-bows made of steel were very powerful, but they required a lever or winch to set them, and were, take them in all, so unwieldy that they never superseded the old long-bow, which; in English hands especially, on many a hard-fought field proved its complete superiority to all rivals. The mishaps of the Genoese cross-bowmen at Cressy will at once occur to the young reader's mind.
The Chinese even to this day make a partial use of the cross-bow in warfare. They have even invented a kind of repeater, one that once charged will shoot
off several arrows in succession, the archer having not even to re-set the bow each time, and only needing to work a lever backwards and forwards.
The modern cross-bow, used as a plaything, has been very much driven out of favour by the invention of the catapult, which for rat or bird-shooting, and other aggressive purposes, is infinitely preferable on many accounts, as being more handy, more easily concealed about the person, and infinitely more deadly as a weapon.
A great deal of amusement, however, may be got out of a cross-bow by shooting at a butt or target. In default of more properly constructed missiles, pieces of tobacco-pipe form excellent bolts, and will give a very good account of a piece of paper at a dozen paces or so.
THROWING THE CRICKET BALL.
As this is an accomplishment of extreme value in the cricket-field, as well as in competitive games, the young reader is very strongly recommended to take it up with extra zeal. In throwing the ball the body has almost as much to do as the arm: a backward flexion of the body and sudden recoil simultaneously with the act of delivering the ball will produce a wonderful accelerating effect upon the flight of the ball. The most common fault into which throwers fall is that they do not give the ball enough elevation. In actual cricket a ball should be thrown at as low an elevation as the distance to be traversed will permit; but when, as in the case we are discussing, distance