Summer's finally here, and with its warm temperatures come a bunch of seasonal activities: embarking on long walks, squeezing fresh lemonade, roasting marshmallows, and of course, getting hammered every weekend at some type of barbecue.
And years ago, no backyard cookout was complete without a competitive, and usually life-threatening, lawn dart tournament.
Basically the original Mortal Kombat, the seemingly innocent game capitalized on a strange trait that's always been part of the human psyche -- staring death in the face just for kicks. Houdini buried himself alive. Evel Knievel soared over school buses. Our elders launched 12-inch javelins with plastic fins into a target placed at their opponent's feet.
Take a minute to think about it. Overthrow a football? Your friend Robbie walks a couple of steps out of his way and picks it up. Overthrow a lawn dart? Robbie's in the back of an ambulance with severed femoral artery.
But for some reason, no one seemed to realize the severity of the game until it was banned in 1988.
I was a kid when the law came down on lawn darts, and remember the public's perception of the game flipping almost instantly. Before the ban it was, "Be careful, those are dangerous, only use them if several adults are supervising." After it was, "Put those down this second! You'd be better off juggling five machetes covered in rattlesnake venom!"
So people threw out their lawn darts, and a common pastime slipped into extinction.
A slew of plastic tipped versions eventually hit stores, but they never really caught on. The threat was gone, and for many, so was the fun.
However, if you're willing to invite the grim reaper to your next cookout -- and risk the potential of having an ATF squadron zip line into your backyard from a Blackhawk helicopter -- obtaining a set of vintage lawn darts is pretty easy. You can usually find the little messengers of death under a pile of old sport jackets and coffee mugs at a good garage sale.
Just remember to put a first aid kit somewhere between the pasta salad and cheese platter.