Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mumbly Pegs


So what did you do as a kid for games? I started thinking about it and got overwhelmed with the memory flood. Please remember that I am to old to even be a Boomer so some of these games will be foreign to you but I will try and explain as I go. I would like some email or comments on this one and I will post them. Please explain a bit about the game. I’m finding that there really isn’t much regionalization in some of these as I checked a few web sites and the games seem to be coast-to-coast. This started out because my wife [she is from Mass. And I am from South Dakota] and I were discussing childhood games and I said mumble pegs and explained the rules. She said that only warped little boys from South Dakota would play a game like that so I looked it up. This is from a knife forum with the subject line being “How to play mumbly pegs with a jackknife?” This is getting interesting. The one I heard today from an old guy who grew up in coal camps said you started with a single flip, then fingertip, then back of hand moving to your elbow then shoulder and even off the top of your head then going back down the other arm ending in a single flip. First person to go "round the world" wins. If your knife didn’t stick you had to start over. He also mentioned the 2 finger rule for a knife with a bad lean. Said they played for chewing tobacco or snuff. He said it was played while they had lines in the water or while at lunchtime at school! Amazing how times have changed.
Along the knife theme here is another one we played a lot called Chicken. It was the REAL game to play .! One would stand with his feet about shoulder length apart (good golf stance). The other would throw and stick his knife about half way between his opponent's feet. The opponent would then move one foot to the knife thereby halving his stance, then he would get to throw his knife at his opponent. Keep going until the feet were together, and the first to refuse to take his shoes off was the chicken! The only other knife game I can remember was stretch. Stretch was the opposite of chicken. You started with feet together. You tried to make your opponent lose his balance by not being able to make the stretch to where the knife stuck. You could throw to the left or the right. If the knife didn't stick, then your opponent got to start over with feet together. You couldn’t throw the knives, we used, because they were so out of balance that at 40 feet they would hit the target sideways. Worked good into the ground though. I had a special throwing knife that was balanced and good for throwing at a door down in my basement. Think I bought it out of the back page of a comic book along with a pair of x-ray vision glasses.

Sounds like we were a little bit obsessed with knifes and we were. Everyone I knew had one and damn few were sharp. Ever so often some “old guy” would suggest that we all ought to be whittling with our knives and would offer to teach us. We would find some wood to carve, listen to him for a while and try to do some basic carving of our own but the knives we had were always to dull. We couldn’t even use them for fishing as they wouldn’t begin to gut a Trout. Just dent it a little bit. Most of us had special knives we used for fishing and these special knives were sharp as a razor courtesy of a couple of parents who took us fishing. Our other knives, as best as I can figure, were only used for digging in the ground. I think we used them for worm digging, so we didn’t ruin our good fishing knives. Digging in the ground and Mumbly Pegs was about it and now and again as a fork when eating over a campfire. We played these knife games whenever we were waiting for something and I don’t remember anyone who really got hurt.

Before school we had a perpetual softball game that was going on every morning and noon. The rules were simple. If you hit a fly ball and someone caught it they got to come up and bat. Three strikes and you were out. You could also advance the bases and the base runners got to advance positions when there was an out. Pitcher stayed put as there were only one or two people capable of pitching strikes with any regularity. The ultimate goal was to take out the picture window of the house across the street from deep left field as the picture window was stained glass. I’m sure if you hit that window the punishment would be death. No one ever hit it that I knew of so we couldn’t really test that theory. It would have taken a mighty, mighty hit to reach the window. Several times we all stood frozen in our tracks as a mighty ball was on its way. You could tell by the sound of the ball being struck by the bat, krack and a home run ball was headed for the stained glass window. The worn and torn softball would slowly arc skyward, even the seams on the ball would stop moving and you could see the threads coming out of those seams as the ball was on its way. We would all slowly pivot in unison, our mouths agape and unable to make a sound as we knew the picture window was at risk. We would all issue a silent prayer hoping to guide the ball to its final destination but at the same time trying to formulate an escape plan in our minds as the death penalty loomed large in our tiny little 8th grade brains. By the end of the school year the stained glass had survived one more year of 7th and 8th graders trying to end its existence and the hitter would become a martyr for ever. That next year the school system changed with the construction of a new High School and everyone moved to different buildings. The stained glass window was now safe as the highest grade was 5th and the softball game was gone forever.

I was going into marbles next but this knife thing and softball game got out of hand. I’ll save marbles for my next post.

29 comments:

keewee said...

Good Grief! you just took ME back a zillion years to something us girls used to play called *knuckle bones*
5-6 inch by 1/2 inch plastic or if you were lucky, metal bones. you started with them in your hand, tossed them up just above your hand, and then when they were in the air you would flip your hand over,and catch as many as you could on the back of your hand, then toss them again and catch in the palm of your hand.After this there were several variations of toss, drop and pick up etc, sadly I am too old to remember how it went.
Thanks for the memory.

Cookie..... said...

Man...y'all took me back with that post as well...played Mumbly Peg all the time...and Chicken as well. The guy I used to play Chicken with still walks funny and can't have any kids.....lol

Mr. Completely said...

Mumbly Peg! Yep, used to play that all the time on the lawn, usually played stretch. That was in Seattle in the early 50's. Used folding pocket knives, as everyone carried one. Only sissies played marbles.....

......Mr. C.

Anonymous said...

I also played mumbly pegs in the mid late 60's in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. We had a sick variation called "chew the peg" where the loser of mumbly pegs would need to pull a small stick out of the ground with his teeth if he lost mumbly pegs. My one friend who was quite dimented would put dog dirt on the top of the stick for a friend who always lost. Brings back some memories. Surprised my one dimented friend hasn't been in prison yet. Probably should've been a multitude of times by now.

Ted said...

And my wife thought I was crazy making this post. She said no one would know anything about the game. That "only warped little boys from South Dakota would play a game like that". HA! This proves it,"there are warped little boys everwhere". Dog dirt fits right in with the warped little boy image. Love it and thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Wondering if the Hi top boots with pocket for a knife were for boys playing mumbly peg. JB

Anonymous said...

I played stretch in the 80's at Boy Scout camp. Not sure who taught us, but my Dad supplied us all with orange-handled butterfly knives. They WERE sharp but, hey, we had boots on. I was the best.

Anonymous said...

I'm from philadelphia and we use to play all those games all the time. I've had my share of sneakers with holes in them from playing chicken. I never lost at chew the peg

Anonymous said...

Growing up deep a coal hollow of WV we boys often played both "Stretch" and "Mumbly Peg".

During the game "stretch" i saw a knife or two go in someones shoe and between the toes. I know of no one who ever got cut either on accident or purpose. On the other hand I knew a few guys to cut themselves playing "Mumbley Peg."

Ted said...

Interesting, I seem to be getting more comments on this post than any other. Love it! Thanks ya all

Ted said...

We had a few injuries with Mumbly pegs but most were minor stabbing injuries, if I remember correctly. We didn't have any, that I can recall, with stretch. Pretty tough to even get close to your foot when you were completely spread out, trying your damnest to mantain your balance trying to throw your knife with accuracy. The bystanders were at a greater peril than the thrower was. We didn't have any school nurses back in the day and if you got cut or stuck bad you would have to go home, tell Mom what happened, get bandaged up, which usually meant Iodine [I would rather take a whipping than have Iodine on a cut]and then trek back to school. So you just toughed it out and if it was bleeding very bad you would find a stray dog to lick it. Everyone knew that dogs had medecinal properties in their saliva didn't they??

Margo said...

Yes, both boys and girls (I'm talking fifth, sixth graders etc) played mumbly peg in the early 60's in Germany where my father was stationed in the Army.

Ted said...

Thanks for the post Margo. You got this post to Germany and Keewee got it to New Zeland. And to think that my wife said "Only weird little boys from South Dakota would play a game like that". Just goes to show you.......
Thanks Ted

Anonymous said...

I'm finding that, apparently, the majority opinion of what mumbly peg was does not correspond at all to the way my dad taught me to play it. His way used a 3-bladed pocket knife, although you didn't use the castration blade--only the 2 at the other end. The main was fully extended, and the other was halfway out. You balanced the knife in the dirt on the short blade, with the other end of the handle resting on your finger. Then you flipped it up into the air. Scoring was based on how it landed, and I think it went like this: On its back, rethrow. Short blade stuck, 5 pts. Both blades stuck, 10 pts. Long blade (only) stuck, 15 pts. Perhaps this version was invented to make it a safer game, but maybe it's a regional variation for Oklahoma.

Ted said...

Thanks for the post. That was a good one especially since I have not heard of it before. Got a lot of email on this mumbley peg thing besides comments. Sounds like you have got a genuine Oklahoma Variation. Appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you still read the comments here. My granddaughter who is going to be 13 next month asked me about buying her a pen knife for her birthday. She was surprised that her grandmother would say yes. I told her when I grew up in Philadelphia all girls and boys had pen knives and told her about the game of mumbly peg that we used to play. I told her when she gets the knife we will have to play, but she has some reservations as she thinks it is too dangerous. That is the problem with the younger generation and their parents not letting them have some of the experiences that we had. As far as I know none of my friends died as a result of playing with a pen knife.

Ted said...

Hello anonymous in Philadelphia,

I couldn't agree more with you. Gave a knife to my Grandson when he was 9 and he promptly carved up the chair in his room and cut the cloth supports under the top bunk on his bed. Apparently 9 was a bit to young. Gave it back when he turned 11 and for a year he has been doing OK with it. Thanks for the comment. Ted

david said...

Cheers to you for bringing back old memories of summer days with my knife playing big time landowner aka "territory" the move of the day.
Thanks
David

Ted said...

Hi David
Thanks for the comment. I forgot about "Territory". Thank you for reminding me
Ted

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the memories. When I a little girl, say 6 or so is when I started playing mumbley peg with my Grandpa. He was Cherokee and we lived in Kentucky. My Grandmother gave me the pearl handled pin knife I always played with. I never got hurt either. We had to get the peg out of the dirt with our teeth too ... I never taught my own kids how to play reluctantly. Gosh, I miss my Grandpa.
Michelle

Arley said...

Stretch, that was a good time. I got my first knife at about 5. Since then I've been collecting. I played a variation of stretch in SC with my boy scout troop. It was a little more like twister. Each boy had their own knife and you rotate who throws. You start out face to face. Wherever your opponents knife sticks, you put your foot. Guys could throw it wherever they wanted. In front of themselves, left right, behind them. I was notorious as the best. I had a special fixed blade I used. I was famous for two things. I once stuck my knife in a near by tree for a win and I once managed to put my foot three feet up a tree when another boy tried my move.

Frederick said...

We play all these versions of Mumbly Peg at summer camp in Michigan throughout the 50s. Eventually the camp staff understood the dangers and banned the game. We still played out of sight of the counselors. Carrying a knife was normal in those days.

Our grade school softball game was exactly as you describe in Bay City Michigan. The game often started an hours before school began. We played a wide variety of games as the seasons allowed, marbles, yoyos, trading baseball cards, kites, softball, baseball, football, basketball. We were never at a loss for things to do and often stayed out well after dark riding our bikes home for dinner, steamers on our handlebars and playing cards on our spokes.

Anonymous said...

My mom gave me my swiss army knife when I made my 1st communion and taught my twin and me to play chew the peg!

Almost 40 years later I'm trying to be sure I remember all the right moves to teach my nieces and nephews, in Mom's honor at an Easter family gathering tomorrow.

She passed away Easter Sunday 1987;

I'm so happy to have found this, it will make a difficult day somehat easier...

Not too many women in New England are proud of their swiss army knife (my mom actually engraved my name!) and their chew the peg stories!!

Anonymous said...

I used to play a land/territory type game in the USSR in the early 80s. Sure takes me back. Soon to be passed on to my offspring, in lieu of video games.

chris said...

This is such a surprise. My husband mentioned this game he played in Detroit as a kid and I really thought he was pulling my leg. He wins the bet agaain!

Anonymous said...

I guess we didn't know the meaning of the "peg" in mumbley peg. Our version of it was a series of knife throws from points of the body. It was "finger, elbow, shoulder, heel, knee, toe, hip, head". Whoever finished that sequence first was the winner. Nobody had to pull a peg out of the dirt with their teeth, but that might have made things more interesting. Maybe the game lost some of its details coming across the country--we played this mostly in the Sierra Nevada mountains on camping trips.

chief3 said...

Great forum! I am 64 and I just taught my little nephew 7 how to play with his first knife. He absolutely over it! Better than Xbox he says! I think we need to bring back some of these games and make better and tougher kids and men!

Jack Men said...

Extraordinary work you folks are doing with this webpage. pocket knives

Jack Crawford said...

I played Mumbly peg in the 40's in DC at recess, but I can't remember the rules. Seemed to me there was something about 2 boxes in the ground and the way the knife landed made for changing the original boxes so you could gain territory but that is the best I can do.