Games Children Play
by Pasquale Mosconi

  Some of the games that children play can be very innovative! This is especially true when one grows up in a small town and is disadvantaged (poor, that is) and doesn't realize it until many years later. My remembrance of some of the games we played follows:  (As you will note, these were primarily "boy" games.)

Buck, Buck:  Two teams of 4 to 5 players were required for this game.  No equipment was required.  The large pole that held the street light where we played was used as a back-up, however. The team that was down would have one player stand with his back to the pole.  The next player would bend over, place his head between the legs of the one standing, then wrap his arms around his legs for a tight hold.  The third and fourth players would do the same, placing their heads between the others' legs, and wrapping his arms around his legs tightly.  Once in position, the members of the other team would run and leap on the backs of the down players.  If one of the jumper's feet touched the ground after his leap, his team lost, and it was their turn to assume the down position.  If all members of the jumping team successfully leaped on the backs of the other team, one of the jumpers would hold one to five fingers in the air so that the player standing with his back to the pole could see them.  The jumper would then shout, "Buck, Buck, how many fingers up?".  One of the down players would try to guess the correct number.  If he guessed right, then it was their turn to jump.  If not, the game would begin again.  As you might expect, part of the strategy for the jumping team was to try to get as many players as possible on one of the down players to cause them to break down.  If this happened, they would get to jump again.

Go, Sheepy, Go:  Two teams of 3 to 5 players participated in this game.  The home base was under the street light in front of Walter Gibson's home.  The boundaries for the game were agreed to mutually.  It consisted of a specified area approximately 3 to 4 blocks in each direction from the home base.  A captain of one team would hide his team members in a secluded spot somewhere within the designated area (in an alley typically, behind someone's garage, or other appropriate place).  The captain would then return to the home base where the other team was waiting.  He would draw a map in the dirt that showed the general area where his team members were hidden.  The object of the game was for the home team to find the other team, then run as fast as they could back to the base and erase the map before any of the other team's members could do the same.  As the home team searched for the ones hiding, they would shout "Holler!".  The team hiding was obliged to yell as an aid to being found.  The captain of the hidden team would accompany the home team during the search.  When the home team came near the place where the team was hiding, the captain would yell "Go, sheepy, go" at the appropriate time before being discovered when the captain thought that his team was about to be found.  The race was then on to see who would get back to the home base first to erase the map.  The team that arrived first would then hide and the game would begin again.

King of the Hill:  All that was needed for this game was a small mound slightly bigger than a baseball pitcher's mound, and a number of energetic youngsters to play.  The first one designated King would stand on top of the hill and try to fend off all players who tried to push him bodily from his perch.  The one who pushed the King from the hill would take the high ground and the game started anew.

Caddy:  This game is one of the few that required some equipment for the play of the game.  The items used were home made and consisted of a stick and a caddy.  The caddy was made of wood, approximately 3/4 inches square and about 5 inches long.  The ends of the caddy were pointed, and the sides had the Roman numerals I, II, III, and X cut into the sides of the caddy.  The stick used to strike the caddy was about 1 inch square and about the 3 feet long.  Two or more people could play this game.  The person who started the game would throw the caddy on the ground as one would toss a die.  If the number I, II, or III came up, he would attempt to hit the caddy on one of the sharpened ends, causing it to flip into the air.  He would then hit the caddy as hard as he could to propel it as far from home base as he could.  He would do this a second or third time if the numbers II or III had been up.  If he had been successful in knocking the caddy 20 or 30 feet away, he would then state a specified number of jumps that one of the other players could take to reach the caddy from home base.  If the opponent reached the caddy in the specified number of jumps or less, it was his turn to toss the caddy.  If the number X came up during a toss of the caddy, the player who had thrown it would lose his turn.

Run Through:  This game was played in a vacant lot with 4 to 6 players on each team.  The teams faced each other about 10 yards apart.  To start the game, one member from one of the teams was selected by the other team to run through the other team.  The team that had made the selection would hold hands and form a line to stop the on-rushing opponent.  If the player broke through the line, his team would select one of the other team members to come over to their side.  If he didn't break the line, he was captured and had to join that team.  The object of the game was to capture all of the other team's members.  The strategy was to pick a weak spot, i.e. two players that might not hold hands tightly enough, and try to run through them.

Rough and Tumble:  This game was very simple in format, had a minimum of rules, and required an object such as a ball, hat, or something to toss into the air.  The person who caught the ball ran around the vacant lot or field trying to evade being tackled or pulled down.  Once he had been caught, he tossed the ball in the air, and the game began again.  Great game for burning up excess energy!

Kick the Can:  This was a slight variation of hide and seek.  A tin can was placed under the street light and was used as a base.  The person who was It had to put his foot on top of the can and count to three if he spotted one of the other players from his hiding place.  The player who had been hiding tried to kick the can away before getting counted out.  If not, he was captured, and was out of the game until all the others playing had been caught.  If one of the players kicked the can away before being counted out, all players captured up to that time were released, and they could run and hide again.  A great game for nighttime play before we would get called home for bedtime.

Stick in the Mud:  I'm reasonably sure there is no modern-day counterpart for this one!  Each player had his own stick, which was a heavy club with a pointed end.  One of the best sticks was a hickory or oak pick or ax handle.  The first player would try to stick his club in the mud as hard as he could in a vertical position in one overhand throw.  The second player would try to dislodge the first player's club with the same motion, striking his opponent's club as he stuck his club in the mud.  If he did not knock it down, the first player would pull his club from the mud and try to dislodge the other's club (using the same method).  If he was successful in knocking the club down and his remained stuck in the mud, he would then be entitled to knock the other player's club away with his. He then had to stick his club in the mud three times before the other player retrieved his club, ran back, and stuck it in the mud once.

Marbles:  There were probably many variations of games played with marbles.  The ones I remember were called French, Bull-In-The-Ring, and Poison Hole.  French was played by drawing a triangle in the dirt about 12 to 15 inches on a side.  Each person put 3 to 5 marbles in the center of the triangle and then stood behind a line about 10 feet away.  The first player would shoot at the marbles trying to dislodge one or more to the outside of the triangle.  Each player in turn did the same.  If someone dislodged one or more marbles from the triangle, he would get to shoot again.  If his shooter stayed inside the triangle, he was dead for that game, and got no more shots.  After all the marbles had been knocked out of the triangle, the game would begin again.  Bull-In-The-Ring was similar:  A ring of about 4 feet in diameter was drawn in the dirt.  Each player put 3 to 5 marbles in the ring.  The players shot from the outer edge of the ring.  If one knocked a marble out of the ring, he would keep it and shoot again, as long as his shooter stayed in the ring.  He would continue to shoot as long as he knocked a marble out of the ring and he stayed inside.  Otherwise, it was the next player's turn.  The game continued until all the marbles had been knocked out, then the game would begin again.  To play Poison Hole, four holes about one and a half inches deep and about two inches in diameter were dug in the dirt in a rectangular shape.  The holes were about 10 feet apart.  Another hole was placed in the center of the square.  The first player would begin at the home hole and shoot toward the first hole trying to get his marble to stop in the hole.  If he did, he would shoot for the second hole and continue around the square until he came back to the home hole.  Each of the other players did the same.
 If you hit one of the other player's marbles, you got another shot.  Once you reached the home hole, you shot for the Poison Hole in the center of the square.  Once you "holed out", you were Poison!  From that time on the hunt was on.  Any time you hit another player's marble, they were "dead", and out of the game.  The object, of course, was to be the last one remaining in the game.

Rubber Guns:  This game required the most sophisticated devices of any that I recall playing during my youth.  A “gun” was made from a piece of board, usually from the end of a fruit packing crate.  A number of rubber baands cut from an old tire inner tube, a nail and another stick that formed the “trigger” was also needed.  The sketch drawn below is a typical gun.

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The board was about 7 to 8 inches long, 3 to 4 inches high and ¾ inches thick.  The “trigger” was held to the board or body of the gun by two rubber bands.  The nail was driven into the board about 3 inches in front of the trigger and provided the fixed object that one pulls against when the gun is fired.  A small dowel provided a fulcrum to release the “bullet”, which was another rubber band with a knot tied in to it.  The game was played by two teams similar to the way any “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and indians” game would be played.  It was illegal, of course, to fire at one’s face or head.  Most shots were made to the body from a range of 10 to 12 feet.

As you can see from the brief description of each game provided above, there were only a few simple rules to each game.  Little or no equipment was required to play most of the games and only a few players were required.  Arguments or disputes were usually resolved easily.  Seldom was anone hurt, with only minor cuts and bruises resulting from some of the rougher games.  We learned teamwork, burnt up a lot of excess energy, and had a great deal of fun in the process!

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