Tuesday, July 3, 2012


In conversation, a friend asked when I had been the most scared. I told about a time on the school bus when Johnny Hagler had his marbles in a cigar box and when the bus came to a stop the box rolled on the floor and the marbles began a RAT-A-TAT-TAT sound that sounded like what I imagined a machine gun would. Several people, including myself and the school bus driver, ducked for cover!

My brothers and I had marble bags with drawstrings made by Mother. Many kids envied these. Mine was denim, made from old Wranglers. Les just told me that his was made from parachute material. Our brother Neil was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne and had brought home a bad parachute. Mother made a quilt and several marble bags from the material. We gave Johnny Hagler a marble bag the next day.

At a family reunion, one of Gerald's grand-nephews asked if anyone knew how to play marbles, because he had marbles. To my surprise, none of the men there said that they knew how to play. I said, "I know how to play." The grand nephew brought out his marbles.

I got a stick and drew a circle in the dirt.

I got down on my knees and started to show him how to play. Several kids came around and soon joined us.

My arthritic fingers and thumb do not work as well as when I was a kid, but I was able to shoot a pretty mean game! The kids asked me to write the "rules" for them. I'm sure my brothers will have some corrections, but the following is my recollection from the Dark Ages:


1. Draw a circle at least 3 feet wide in the dirt. Make a mark in the middle of the ring.
2. Choose the first player by having each player stand behind the lag line and toss his marble into the ring; whichever player's marble lands the closest to the mark is the first player; the next closest, the second player, etc.
3. Select a marble to be a shooter. The shooter is usually larger and more distinctive than the other marbles.
4. All players place their marbles into the the ring (the "pot").
5. The first player shoots by kneeling on the ground and keeping his hand on the ground, flicking his shooter with his thumb from his curled index finger and aiming at a target marble in the ring. ("knuckling down")
6. If the player knocks any marbles out of the ring, he gathers them and has another turn. He continues shooting until he does not knock any more marbles out of the ring.
7. Players continue until all marbles are out of the ring.

The player with the most marbles, is, of course, the winner.


FAIRSIES: the rules of playing marbles
KEEPSIES: the player keeps all the marbles he wins
FRIENDLIES: the player returns all the marbles to the original owners
KIMMIES: (or "mibs") target marbles
SLIPPIE: when a marble slips accidentally out of a player's grip.
JUMPSIES: (also called "plunking" and "skipping") shooting in a manner that
makes the marble jump into the air and hit the target marble without
hitting the ground first.
STEELIES: marbles made of steel; very prized
BOMBIES: (or "dropsies") dropping the marble onto another marble
SNOOGER: marbles near the rim of the circle
POT: all of the marbles placed in the ring for competition
TAW LINE: (or "shooting line") line from which players shoot
LAG LINE: line from which players determine the playing order
SHOOTER: (also called "taw" and "boss") the marble used to knock other marbles
out of the ring.
DUBS: when two or more marbles are knocked out of the ring with one shot
FUDGING: moving hand forward while shooting
MIBSTER: a marble player

After the game of marbles, I asked the guys, "Any of you ever played mumblety-peg?" None had, but the boys wanted to play. I said, "You must ask your parents' permission as it's a dangerous game." One of the kids asked, "Is it more dangerous than football?"

I said, "It was Tom Sawyer's favorite game."

I yelled, "Gerald, I need your pocket-knife." Nobody else had a pocket-knife. One of the mothers said, "I can't believe your mother allowed you to play a game involving a knife!"

"Allowed?" I shouted, "ALLOWED? She's the one who taught us how to play!

See the attached: "HOW TO PLAY MUMBLETY-PEG"

CLICK HERE to read the rules.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you bring a knife to a gun fight?