Having only daughters, small boys are an intriguing mystery to me. Years ago, I mentioned the fascination heavy machinery clearly has for many of them. I was reminded of that again recently by similar incidents.
First, my older daughter was accompanying a three-year-old boy cousin on the trampoline at his parents' house. From the trampoline, there is a wide vista of Devon fields. The little boy, who had been jumping up and down enthusiastically, stopped suddenly and pointed, his expression turning from hedonistic pleasure to awed wonder.
"A tractor", he said, almost reverentially, "look, there's a tractor over there."
"Do you like tractors?" my daughter asked, and he nodded vigorously. "Is there anything else you like as much as tractors" my daughter enquired next.
The little boy looked thoughtful as he pondered this question. At last, his small face cleared.
"Combine harvesters", he told her, "I like tractors and combine harvesters."
Not a conversation I believe anyone has ever had with a small girl.
Nor were the conversations I had with two nine-year-old boys I spent yesterday afternoon with. Their minds seemed to run entirely along engineering lines. The questions they asked were all about how things worked and how complicated it would be to destroy things. I think my favourite among their questions was: "Do you think you could chop off someone's head with a very sharp stone?"