Tuesday, June 20, 2006
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.