Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Oley, Oley, Oxen Free
As the winter sun disappears, being replaced by a sun that stays with us for more hours a day, it provides a harbinger to our coming weather and I easily get transported back to summers a long time ago, when life was much simpler. We played our hearts out during the day, getting into as much trouble as we possible could and driving our parents to the brink of a major breakdown but twilight was something different. We would hurry up and eat, begging to get away from the table so that we could join our friends outside in the evening games.
All of our games were safe and sensible and handed down from big brother to little brother with no allowances for gender or race or personality. They had names like Oley, Oley Oxen free or Red Rover, Red Rover [never just red rover but always red rover, red rover]. Our players were all of the neighborhood children, younger and older alike. The playing fields changed somewhat, depending on the game and who was out of supper 1st. I distinctively remember Red Rover, Red Rover where all of the kids lined up, two captains were elected and they chose up sides. Each side got in a line and held hands. The starting captain would holler out to the other side Red Rover, Red Rover, sent Teddy right over. I would lower my head and charge the opponents line, as hard as I could, changing my attack direction as I chose a weak spot to smash in to. The object was to hit the line hard enough to break their hands apart. If I was successful then I would get to keep one of the handholding pair, I had just broken through, and take them over to our side. If I couldn’t break through they got to keep me. Eventually one side would prevail and have all of the players. Then the game was over and the girls would all jump up and down and scream or something and we would select two new captains and start over.
Our other game, of choice was Oley, Oley Oxen Free or Hide-n-Seek. One person, being designated as “It” would lean on their arm against a tree, or other object, which was intended to keep them from looking and then slowly count to 25 or 50. One Mississippi, two Mississippi…..and then holler out “Here I come, ready or not.” The search was then on for the others who had secreted themselves within the boundaries of the game. If a hidee was spotted by “It” then the chase was on to base and if “It” won then the person beaten would be “It” for the next time. When a hideee reached base safely, then they would yell out “Oley, Oley, Oxen Free” for some reason or other. Everyone I have ever talked to about this game had slightly different rules and slightly different words to say but basically it was always the same game coast-to-coast. Maybe one of you readers, out there, has a clue about the words or the variations used. If you don’t, ask your spouse.
The thing I do know about these games is that they are not played very much anymore. I know my grandson doesn’t know anything about these games. We can blame all of that on “Stranger Danger” or generally a less trusting society or write it off as a “Sign of the times” and that is sad. I always remember the neighborhood parents being around on the fringes and being the referees if things went wrong. It was a visitation time for the parents so “stranger Danger” was not an issue. I had always figured that the parents were the ones that started and kept the games going because they were all high energy games and what better way to make sure that little Johnny or Susie would crash as soon as they got inside. I think some parents along the way, dropped the ball on this one. Maybe it was us as my generation was the next one up? Simon Sez “take two giant steps forward.”