A year or two ago, at considerable cost and effort, our longtime neighbor and good friend, G., put in a full-sized bocce court, out on his "party grounds" and close to his horseshoe pits.
Building a full-sized bocce court, especially on a slope however gentle, is no small undertaking. You are talking about something that eventually resembles a miniature landing strip, about 100 feet long and as much as 14 feet wide, and to take it out of the English realm of lawn bowling, it has to be as smooth and level as possible, covered with something like ground-up oyster shells and no grass. But after I told G. that it was time that he stopped talking about it and actually got to cracking, he stuck with the project and proudly and admirably finished it in record time.
Of recent Croatian derivation, as a boy G. had seen his elders in Cleveland regularly playing bocce, and now that he had 50 acres in which he could put a regular court, the horseshoes that a small group of us played regularly for a time had kept putting bocce in his mind. It would be a good activity for visitors and for parties, especially since bocce balls, though actually not that much lighter, are nevertheless much easier to pitch than are horseshoes, and so women would be able to play on his court as easily as men.
Let me just mention here that at NO time did G. mention small children. No, not once!
It looks like people around here are into a thing of memorable wedding celebrations, even long before the couple are united in matrimony, and the other day G. and his wife C. held a big pre-wedding lawn party for their younger son, P. who will be marrying a quaint and personable little young lady named R. It was held for those who might not go to the actual wedding, which won't be held in the humble environs of rural west-central Virginia. Instead it will be held far off next to the ocean, at Cape Hatteras, in North Carolina, in September (if there isn't a hurricane talking at that moment. Hurricanes like to bounce off of places like Haiti and Florida and end up in that area.)
This party had a 20' by 40' tent and a four-man catering team who came in there with a huge barbecue wagon and all sorts of edibles that are apparently impossible for regular people to resist, though I find it easy to do so. And it was the first big party in which G's impressive bocce court was available for use.
I am going to have fun the next time I talk with G., while asking if he noticed, as I think I did, that at no time during the party were any adults observed playing any bocce. A 60-year older and I were the only ones that I think braved it. We played a short game against two pre-adolescents, which we won, and then we rushed over to the horseshoe pits, making our escape from those basically berserk larval stages of the human species.
In G.'s Cleveland and in the Lower East Side in New York, where I tarried for a few weeks in the 1960's, bocce was purely the province of middle-aged and older males who looked like they knew all about the Mafia, and I am sure G. had intended his court to be mainly the province of grownups, not the small children and the young mothers who had exclusive domain over his court through the whole evening.
My wife saw advantages in that. I thought, Well maybe, but still....
One pint-sized scourge named M. especially brought attention to himself. He took huge delight in just standing in one spot and slamming the bocce balls straight down into the court surface as hard as he could. I asked him why he was doing that. He said he liked seeing the dents he produced, unappreciative of the pains that G. had taken in manicuring that surface to make it as smooth as possible.
I told M., as others already had, that he had better look out for the toes of his bare feet. But I kind of hoped he would nip the end of a toe or two. Children can't expect to escape the results of their idiocies forever.
M., whose adoring mother usually stood near, was also fond of throwing the jack all over the place, and of running ahead to grab up the balls and flinging them back as soon as they had been thrown and before anyone could look at the final positions to see who had won the points.
When R. and I went to pitch horseshoes, M. followed us, and he started grabbing up the shoes as soon as we pitched them, to "helpfully" return them to us -- heedless of our need to see how we had done. But finally I accidentally found a way to fix M.s little red wagon.
I said, "Don't do that. These shoes are heavy, and if one of them hits you, you will get hurt bad, and your mother will be very angry."
I don't know which part of that he understood, but after considering for a brief moment, M. quickly fled from the scene, and that was the last we saw of him.