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Earlier this week while neatening up a corner of the garage, I spotted our daughter’s old hula hoops hanging on the wall. This took me back a few years to the hula hoop contests that used to take place in our front yard.

Our daughter and another girl would see who could keep the hoops spinning around their bodies the longest. To me, the spinning seemed to last for days. Around and around those hoops would go until one crashed to the ground. When the winner’s finally dropped, too, the girls would begin another round, sometimes switching hula hoops first out of fairness.

When they – or their bodies – tired of hula hooping, out came the pogo stick. Who could jump the most times? As they took turns on the spring-loaded stick, they kept count. One, two, three ... one cousin was so good at this, I think she could have jumped all the way back to her house in another town.

When I was a kid, we had jump-roping contests. Even if dinner was ready or the sky was darkening, we always wanted to improve our numbers just one more time with another session.

Backward-running races and seeing who could jump the farthest from a stationary position always delivered a good time. Arm-wrestling was fun, too, but something I usually lost because the other kid always seemed to start on the count of two, not three. Stinker.

The game I was good at was the one in which I would face my outstretched hands palm side up while my opponent would face his palm side down several inches above mine. The challenge began, of course, when I would quickly flip over my hands and attempt to slap the backs of my opponent’s before he could pull them away. The secret was to give several false starts – but only sometimes and never the same number of them.

After several successful hand slaps, we would switch roles.

Other contests weren’t physical but challenging just the same. Who could blow the biggest bubble? Win the most games of tick-tack-toe? Figure out which closed fist held the penny? Guess the song the other was thinking?

Staring contests were another favorite way to kill some time.

While they often took place between backseat passengers during long car rides, staring contests were a popular choice just about anywhere. Including at school.

I was horrible at this game. I would try to think about something sad, but it never worked. I would crack up moments after the game started and lose – again.

Similarly, my father would dare me not to laugh while he slowly counted to the number three. I never made it. It was his dragged-out “2, 2½, 2¾ ...” that always got me. But he did let me win at arm-wrestling.

email: smartin@buffnews.com