Soundtrack to Life – "Friendly" Competition

Hey look, it’s done on time. Betcha didn’t see that coming. Looks like a slow news week as there’s only one article seperating this one from last week’s addition. I’ve decided this week to go again with something a little more universal. Granted, I have a few songs that can go with this one as there’s a few different spins on this story, but I feel this is the better way of doing it. It’s another montage of stories. Enjoy.


“Friendly” Competition

“West End Riot” by The Living End

Our story begins in the early 80’s in Barton Wisconsin on a little street known as Kettle View Drive. This spans many a year and many people are involve. So, to prevent a complication of matters, we’re gonna start with a cast of characters.

The Nichols family: My family. We’ve been on this street longer than any of the other families in this story.

Me – No introduction really necessary. Back then I was the neighborhood wuss.

Pat – My older brother, and at that time, rolemodel. One of the street “Ringleaders”

Tim – My younger brother and probably the strangest kid on the street.

The Bertram family: Our next door neighbors. Moved in a year or so after we did.

Nora – The oldest kid in the family and one of the oldest kids on the street. Barely got involved with our matters.

Sara – Same age as Pat. Also one of the “Ringleaders”

Barry – The youngest of the family. Same age as me, most competitive kid on the street and naturally, my arch rival.

The Briggs family: The farm family. All girls, all tomboys.

Michelle – Same age as Nora. Tended to stay out of our business, much like Nora.

Jackie – More or less Sara’s cohort. Same age as her. When the two got together, there was some conniving scheme afoot

Steph – A year younger than me, a year older than Tim. Barry’s cohort? No. Minion, yes. Whatever he did, she did.

The Driscoll family: The well off family. Moved in about ’93.

Angie – Same age as myself and Barry. Usually alright, but could really be a bitch at times. Particularly to me.

Ryan – A jock in training. Tim’s age. Often sided with Barry.

John – The youngest on the street. Prone to disobey orders.

All that said, let’s begin.

There’s a kid who was born and was raised in the west
There’s a kid from the east that never really fit in with the rest
Every week they would meet in the street with their friends
With the guns that they made and the caps that they stole they would fight
To their death.
This time, we’ll have victory
Last time, ended in a defeat
A town, becomes a battle ground! Battle ground! Battle ground!
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry this time

-We had our share of clubs and secret forts. Each one lasting little longer than a few days. What kid didn’t? At this time, the Driscolls hadn’t even moved in yet. Barry was the one always trying to organize the clubs. Often with some grand dream of a tree house. Those never worked. Mostly we’d nail some boards together and forget it entirely. For a brief time, we did have a club house. It was under the stairwell in the closet of the Bertrams’ house. But Sara ran that, and I believe she called it the I Love Buffalos club. She loved buffalos, can’t you tell? Barry started a few of the clubs with the soul purpose of keeping me out. So he’d set up some ridiculous set of rules for getting in, usually a task you had to accomplish. He was a big one for tree climbing, so we had to climb a specific tree a specific way. When I’d try, he’d insist I did it wrong. Petty little kiddy shit. Longest lasting clubhouse we had was a vacant barn on Steph’s yard. It cleaned up pretty nice and there was plenty of space to sit.

-Pat and Sara oft saw Barry and myself as their race horses. “My brother can beat your brother” kinda thing, so we were basically bred to compete with one another. Anything they could think of. Foot races in particular. To the tree and back! Up the hill! Down the hill! Around the house! Talk about building a rivalry. Sometimes he’d win, sometimes I’d win.

-Tag! Your it! So many variations we had on tag. Basic of course, and freeze. But we had to come up with other versions. TV tag where you’d be safe if you stopped and said the name of a TV show. I think we had tornado tag, where upon being tagged you had to spin until someone freed you. Funny, I don’t have a clear memory of that one. And our ever creative Toilet Tag. Upon being tagged, you had to squat down and hold your arms out in a circle. To be freed, someone had to sit on your arms and say “Flush!”. Yeah, we were weird.

-1 o’ clock, 2 o’ clock, 3 o’ clock rock!

4 o’ clock, 5 o’ clock, 6 o’ clock rock!

7 o’ clock, 8 o’ clock, 9 o’ clock rock!

10 o’ clock, 11 o’ clock, 12 o’ clock MIDNIGHT!!!

Our traditional mantra before a game of Ghosts in the Graveyard. This one was only played at night, and I was a whiny little chicken shit who was afraid of the dark. We played this at the Briggs’ house since they had an entire farm, complete with orchard. Basically, the ghost would hide somewhere in the yard and everyone else would go out looking for him/her. The entire neighborhood would play this one. Upon sighting the ghost, you were to yell “Ghost in the Graveyard!” and everyone would return to the safe zone, or Gool as we called it. Whoever got tagged by the ghost would join him/her in the haunt until there was only one survivor. Jackie and Michelle had an advantage in this game. They knew how to ride the horses. So, occasionally, our ghost could be spotted on horseback. Fun game to play though when you have a maze for an orchard.

-The Briggs family also had inner tubes for tractor tires. This served as a completely new game for us. Bounce around on the tube and try to stay on. I had one thing on my side for this game; weight. That’s right, aside from being a wuss and a chicken shit I was also the fat kid. And you always wondered why I’m so damn bitter. But yeah, fun little game.

-Ah pool parties. On any given summer, the Bertrams or my family had an operable pool. Never anything deep enough to go diving but we had our games. Marco polo was a constant. We also had these little yellow eggs that would sink. In each egg was a rubber alligator, but only one egg had the black alligator. Kind of a fun diving game, never too competitive. But if any of you ever had a circular aluminum pool, then you know what we did. Damn straight, whirlpool! Everyone going in one direction to get a strong current going. With like 7 people in the pool we had the current going pretty strong. But what would it be without a competition? We had one. Everyone would hop on a tube and begin rocking back and forth, causing waves. Last man standing wins. Again, my weight had much bearing in this game.

-We had bikes, and we had a nice, semi- steep hill. What do you think we did? I was all for it, until we started putting a ramp at the bottom of the hill. I remember watching Pat biff that one, big time. Didn’t hop off the ramp, so the bike fell on it’s side and he skidded over the lawn. Surprisingly, he wasn’t hurt.

-Fall was always fun. We’d rake together a pile of leaves and figure out some way of utilizing it. A big one was for Breakthrough and Conquer. That’s right, we were American Gladiator fans. We’d use the leaf pile as a goal. Pat, being the biggest at the time, was the hardest guy to face. Barry was just violent, especially when I was the opposition. Steph caught me by surprise a few times. There’s a big difference between a girl and a tomboy as concerns physical competition. Sometimes we just build the pile on one of the landscaping drop offs so we could jump into it. Good times.

See a bum on the street that you think you recognize
Young kid never looked so bad when he was only 4 foot high
Six o’ clock, runnin’ home, I don’t wanna be late
Another Saturday of sun and war, shared with our mates
This time, we’ll have victory
Last time, ended in a defeat
A town, becomes a battle ground! Battle ground! Battle ground!
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry
Boys will be boys playin’ up and makin’ lots of noise
Never used to talk about the future
Never thought that we’d have to care
So West End Riot!

In later years, we were older, so I was braver. But as such, the games got a little more intense, and new facets were added.

-We didn’t play much for organized sports. Occasionally, we’d have a neighborhood softball game, but that was once in a great while. We were big on soccer though. Rarely did a game end without a fight and someone storming off though. Barry and Ryan were probably the best players we had.

-Basketball wasn’t a big one, but we played games like Horse and Lightning all the time. I used to be a great shot, one of the better players in the neighborhood, but my skill has degredated over time. I remember hitting a one arm heave from halfway down our driveway. Barry dared me to try it again. I did, and on a total fluke I hit it again.

-Kick the Can. Alright, so it’s really more of a kids game. But when we were older, the game took on new dimensions. Particularly, strategy and stealth took on new meanings. Of both, I almost took it to an artform. I came up with places to hide that nobody had considered. They had an old wire spool, one of the large wooden ones. Nobody wanted to try hiding in it since it was right out in the open, and that was the beauty of it. I ducked in and stayed in the shadows. As John caught people, they sat on the spool. I caught someone’s attention, Ryan I believe, and as everyone got caught, he told them where I was. They tricked John into believing that they saw me in the orchard. When he went to look, I hopped out and saved the game. My favorite tactic was the simplest though. As John stood guard on the can, counting down to the begining of the game, eyes closed. I had one person creep up right in front of him while I stood behind. He opens his eyes, sees the one person to call them out and I kicked the can out from under him. Granted, he was just a kid, but that would have worked on anyone.

-Winter is another big time for competition. Anyone can have a snowball fight, of which we had many. But our fun was on the Bertrams’ sled hill. We’d set up a ramp of ice about 2/3 the way down the hill and hit it at high speeds on Sno-Tubes (inflatable tubes with handles). Steph had this knack for missing the ramp entirely though, and just hitting the garage. From these tubes, we developed a game. We also had the Tuff Tube, which was originally used for tubing behind a boat, was about 4 feet across. Three people would load onto the tube and glide down the hill. Those who fell off would be nailed by those who followed on the smaller Sno-Tubes. Every time I hit someone I’d lose the tube and go sailing. It was on one of these tubes that Tim ascended the garage and thought it would be a good idea to sled off. Nope. Big mistake. Rather than sailing off, he just dropped. Quite a funny sight. But it was on the sled hill that we manufactured our most devious device.

-Setting, snow covered hill. Mode of transportation, plastic tobogan. Goal, be the only guy to make it down the hill. We called it Sled Wars. Quite simply, we’d try to take each other off our sleds by any means necessary. Dangerous, yes. Fun, damn straight. Worst hit I took was due to Pat. Put me in a headlock and drove me face first into the corner of the garage. I only walked away with a bloody nose.

There’s a man who was born in the west workin’ at a factory
There’s a man from the east who now runs the whole company
How they’ve grown on their own not like the kids they used to be
Saturdays of sun and war are just fond memories.
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry
Listen up boys you’d better not cry
So listen up boys you’d better not cry this time!

Things have changed greatly since then. Ya know, I used to hate those days, how I got singled out and all. Now I just look back on those days and smile. Guess the old saying is true. “One day I’ll look back on this and laugh.”

The Nichols family: We’ve degenerated greatly. All the other families stayed relatively happy and together. Things just went sour for us.

Me – I’m no longer the coward I once was, and I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been.

Pat – He went from rolemodel to an example of what not to do.

Tim – Still a nut, but more down to earth now. He actually turned out alright.

The Bertram family: They’ve stayed a happy family unit.

Nora – Went off to college. Living in Madison I think

Sara – Also went to college. She was going to get married, but her fiance died last year of a heart attack. She’s been living back at home.

Barry – Became a pothead. Can’t say I’m overly surprised.

The Briggs family: The very portrait of the happy middle American family. They still own the farm and maintain it.

Michelle – Off to college. Don’t know where she went.

Jackie – Also went to college.

Steph – She’s cleaned up the tomboy persona, and her attitude. Also off at college

The Driscoll family: I never really kept up with them. They still live in the neighborhood, but I never talk with any of them.

Angie – Left town, I’m assuming college. Never really got along with her.

Ryan – Unknown

John – Unknown


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