Doug Daugherty: The Wiley Avenue War

  • Tuesday, June 25, 2024
  • Doug Daugherty

In the summer of1960, I knew nothing of the nascent Vietnam War. I was eight years old and the War that I waged was in a three-acre vacant lot in the back of my home at 4061 Wiley Avenue in Brainerd/East Ridge.

There were many casualties, mostly to apples and acorns. (Dare I mention the many bamboo spears that were thrown with no effect.)

For young boys who grew up with Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, The Little Rascals, Penrod, numerous cowboy shows (Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Lash Larue, et. al.), Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, Daniel Boone and played “War” and “Cops and Robbers” for hours on end, it was no surprise. In fact, as a I look back on these halcyon days, it only seems quite natural and a wonderful episode of nostalgic charm.

The war was played out on Saturday morning. The boys on the next street over had dropped a “blood soaked” (mercurochrome) challenge into the mailbox, demanding a war to settle our differences. (What these differences were, I really don’t recall. Let’s just call it “territorial integrity.”)

THIS could not go unanswered. It was a matter or honor!

Quickly, I gathered my young team of highly trained and similarly motivated warriors. We answered in-kind with a note of our own. We pedaled to their leader’s house and deposited our answer, a scrawling note with burned edges, accepting their challenge for a great battle the next Saturday just days away.

We thought of building a catapult that could heave watermelons, like we had seen in a much-loved Our Gang film but had only one watermelon and the physics were a bit beyond our third-grade education from OLPH.

But we did create both a defense and an offensive capability. On defense we dug multiple “traps.” Holes about a foot deep covered them with grass, hoping the enemy would stumble. (No thought whatsoever to broken bones, of which none were forthcoming.) On offense, we raided a nearby apple orchard on the ground that is now a section of Interstate 24, gathered acorns, pine cones and dried Chestnut spikey seed balls. We also had a stand of bamboo in the woods where we cut down, using a machete given to an older brother at Christmas purchased from the Army Navy Surplus Store on Brainerd Road, and made numerous hurling javelins with sharpened points.

When the day arrived, we gathered the troops, awaiting the coming foe. I think there were about a half dozen boys on each side. They charged with a whoop and a war cry and were repulsed with a fruity onslaught of green apples. (We did have enough sense to not use our bows and arrows.) There was much yelling and hurrahing.

But that was not the end of it. The enemy soon returned with their Goliath, an older boy, about 13, in a black leather motorcycle jacker with shiny silver buckles. This was too much! I looked for my homemade sling…it was not to be found. But ever resourceful, we did the next best thing, I recruited my big brother Stephen, a husky lad, who could not see the family honor impugned.

I do not recall how detente was reached, but it was, without fisticuffs.

I think we celebrated that afternoon with our one watermelon cut carefully by a loving father with a sharp knife, ignorant to the great war his sons had bravely reigned victorious that very morning.

Months or weeks later we met with the same group and drew up plans to make a Flintstone foot-propelled car…but that is another story.


Doug Daugherty can be contacted at

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