Neighborhood hide-and-seek/tag game played with two teams and a can. It's more complicated than that, and your rules may vary, so go along with me here.

To prevent people from running all over town, boundaries are agreed upon initially, and anyone going outside these boundaries, even when chased, is automatically caught. Within the boundaries, hiding inside of houses is not allowed (before this rule was enacted, people would go inside, play Nintendo until they heard Ollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free, and then run out victorious).

Having drawn out the boundaries, everyone is divided into two teams. One team will be given five minutes to hide, and the other team will try to find them. A hider is caught when he is tagged by a seeker. Anyone caught must be accompanied back to a pre-appointed jail area. Once all of the hiders are caught, the game is over, and the two teams switch roles.

So what's the deal with the can? At the start of the game, a can is placed in a relatively open area, near the jail, and a ten foot circle is drawn around it in chalk. The seeker team has one and only one guard, who watches over the can. He can't however, go inside the circle except when chasing someone. The can is the key to the game... for you see, upon kicking the can, everyone in the jail not only goes free, but has a grace period to hide again (Note that the kicker does not get this grace period).

The seeker team is declared the winner when they capture everyone on the hiding team. The hiding team is victorious when the seekers give up and shout Ollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free.

There are several types of Kick The Can players (yes, sadly enough we classified people when we played the game):

  • The Hider - He doesn't come out of his spot no matter what. He's holed up tight, hoping for an Ollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free. Can be useful... if he knows how to hide.
  • The Sneaker - Always moving from hiding spot to hiding spot, he's content to stay hidden, but if the opportunity presents itself, he'll participate in the game, and then go back to lurking.
  • The Runner - Not the greatest hider, or just someone who doesn't like to hide. Taking pleasure in outrunning people, he's usually one of the more athletic players on a team. Good for diversionary tactics as well as tiring the other team out, the runner has no problem being out in the open.
  • The Climber - Another one of the athletic members of the team, he evades capture by climbing into trees, on top of roofs, and whatever other tall structures he can find.
  • The Watchdog - One of the seekers. Rather than actively hunt people down, he stays in one place and watches for movement. If he's a good Watchdog, he signals other players, or moves towards a hider without revealing his knowledge of the hiding spot.
  • The Lurker - Similar to the Watchdog, the Lurker actually hides in one place and waits for Sneakers and Runners to pass his way. Then the chase ensues.
  • The Wuss - Almost completely useless, the Wuss has occasional flashes of brilliance, but for the most part just takes up space. Not a good hider or seeker. See: The Vern Tessio Guard.
There are a number of tactics to be used in Kick The Can. Several of them will be discussed herein.

Tree Climbing

Tree climbing can be used as an effective tactic for the hiding team for a number of reasons. First off, a tree climber can be difficult to spot initially, and if he climbs high enough in the tree, he can gain valuable insight into the shape of the playing field. Once spotted, catching the tree climber requires someone to actually climb up the tree after them, taking away a valuable athletic resource for the seekers. An added bonus, if the tree climber has chosen his tree carefully, is a secondary exit that the tree climber can use - jumping down into a bush, or into another tree - to escape capture, and leave a seeker stuck in a tree for a period of time.

The Vern Tessio Guard

Remember Vern Tessio from Stand By Me? Yeah, the kid who lost his jar of pennies. There's always one in every neighborhood, and since he can't really run very fast, he's often used as the guard. He can be taken advantage of. Have the people in jail taunt and distract him. Run by him several times to tire him out. Use the Two Pronged Can Attack. If the other team was smart, they'd have put a talented guard out there. But they're not, so take advantage of it.

Two Pronged Can Attack

When Vern isn't guarding the can, can kicking can be a difficult task. Diversion is your best tactic, but it requires teamwork. You need a Runner and a Sneaker to pull this off. The Sneaker gradually creeps closer and closer to the can. At the appointed time, a Runner comes out of nowhere and streaks by the can. If successful, he takes the guard far enough out of position so that the Sneaker can strike, kicking an unguarded can and setting everyone free.

Outright Cheating

While outright cheating is severely frowned upon, there's little harm in bending the rules a little bit now and then. After being chased for five minutes, wouldn't you like to take a breather? So, without anyone seeing you, go out of bounds, catch your breath for a while, and then come back in. Need to help out your guard a little bit? Casually walk through the can area. Remember: you're not a second guard... you're just passing through. Bending the rules here or there is one the keys to success.

The Inevitable Taunt

Not so much a tactic as just a part of the game, and worthy of being described here. While the manner in which the can is kicked is certainly not important, as any kicking serves the purpose of freeing those who are jailed, there is a certain knack to kicking the can in such a way as to taunt the other team. These include kicking it as far as possible (as it is the guard's job to retrieve the can), kicking it straight at the guard, or the ultimate taunt: Doing some breakdancing moves in the circle before kicking the can.

OK, so what are you waiting for? Get some friends, a can, and a piece of chalk and start playing. Seriously. Turn off the computer and go.

"Kick the Can" is the 21st episode of the third season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in February of 1962. It starred veteran actor Ernest Truex as rest home resident Charles Whitley.

Charles Whitley lives at the Sunnyvale Rest Home, a situation that he is not as resigned to as his fellow residents. When the episode opens, we see him saying he is going to leave with his son: a plan that does not pan out. He soon finds himself looking enviously at a group of neighborhood children playing "Kick the Can", and rhapsodizing nostalgically about the magic of youth. He comes to believe that if he could still play "Kick the Can", old age would have no power on him. Can he convince the other residents of the rest home to follow him on his quest to escape their stagnant surroundings and rediscover youth?

This is one of the more straight forward episodes of The Twilight Zone. Nostalgia for childhood or youth is a reoccurring theme on The Twilight Zone, and in some cases "Static" it is seen as a good thing, whereas in others, such as "A Stop at Willoughby", it is presented in a more eerie light. In this story, it is mostly presented as direct wish fulfillment, with no negative undercurrents.

What interests me most about this story is more the context and real-world views it presents. This episode was aired at a time when views of what aging meant were quite different than they are now. Even the term "rest home" is a term that I can't recall hearing for quite some time. This story presents the idea that seniors can maintain youthful attitudes by engaging in play: an idea, that within the story, is presented as supernatural, but that in the present day, is taken for granted as a normal, practical matter.

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