We usually didn’t lack for anything to do in the summertime when school was out. The tobacco fields, corn fields, garden and hauling those infernal rocks pretty well took up most of our time, but with the longer days we usually found fun and games to occupy our time. It is hard nowadays to imagine life without television, X-box, Play station or video games, but we survived somehow. We used our imagination and what limited resources we had to have a great time.
We had swings of all descriptions. We’d take an old rubber tire and hang it with a rope from a big limb on the oak tree. If we didn’t have a tire, we’d tie the ends of the rope together and put a sawmill slab for a seat and swing from that, splinters and all. My favorite was the grapevine swing .Big, long lengths of strong limbs that were pliable enough to swing you across the branch (most of the time) to the other side. We’d mark who could go the farthest, so we’d all take a runnin’ jump to get up the most momentum. Anything to do with water, we were all for that. We’d wade in the branch and look for crawdads. We’d try not to step on one ‘cause granny told us if they grabbed aholt of you, they wouldn’t turn you loose ‘til it thundered.. The branch ran into the creek, which of course lent more opportunities to play in the water. We would take rocks (the ones we had carried in proliferation out of the field) and make a dam across the creek so the water would back up, then we could pretend swim in the deeper water. We’d make mud pies and bake them on the hot rocks for “pretend” biscuits. The only pollution we had to worry about was to make sure we built the “swimming hole” above where the cows came down to stand and drink. We’d put a fallen sapling or tree limb that was big enough to hold us, across the creek and see who could walk across without falling in. There was always someone who loved to jiggle the limb and make sure you didn’t get to the other side without being dunked. Uncle Travis had made a big pond that he used for irrigation. It was deep enough to swim in, but we didn’t go in there much. He told us there were water moccasins in there and we believed him. Going up the logging road to the Hog Cove, there was a tiny little waterfall coming across a rock cliff that was barely big enough to stand under, but we loved to do that when it was real hot. Just stand there and let that cold mountain water raise chill bumps on your arms.
We loved to play hide and seek (or whoopy hide)... We played cowboys and Indians, with a tree branch for a gun or a rifle, a tobacco stick for a horse and ride the range all day. All our games were outside games (no playing in the house). When it was raining, we played in the barn, climbing and hiding. We’d play “button, button, who’s got the button”, with one person trying to guess which hand of all the others the button was in. When we would play “tag”, we would count “one potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato ore…you…are…it…you…old…dirty…dish…rag…you….with “you” being “it. All the rest would run away from “it” and “it” would try to catch you and “tag” you and then you would become “it.
Uncle Travis would sometimes come up to us and say “don’t you younguns have anything to do?”, “if you don’t I can find you something”…we’d always answer with something like “oh, yeah, granny has had us busy all morning and we’re wore out, we were just resting a minute before we get back to what she had us doing (did that fool him for a minute?). It didn’t take us long to figure out that “nothin’ to do” was better to be done out of sight of the house.
We played “Ring around the Rosie”, “Red Rover, Red Rover” and “Hopscotch”. Hopscotch was considered a “girlie” game so we didn’t have many boys participate in that. We would play a game of “Jacks”. We had a little rubber ball and 10 metal “jacks”. You’d throw the ball in the air and pick up a “jack”, then throw it again and pick up 2 “jacks”, and on until you had all 10. If you missed one, you gave up your turn. I have spent many an hour playing marbles. How I wish I still had my old “shooter”. The “shooter” was a bigger marble than the rest. We made a circle about 2 feet in diameter. Each one would put their marbles in the circle and the one who shot first would try to knock the others’ marbles out of the circle. If you did, your turn kept on, if you didn’t, you gave up your turn. Sometimes we would play “keepsies”. You got to keep the marbles you knocked out of the circle. My cousin Edward was an expert at that, so we tried not to play “keepsies” with him or we would end up without any marbles. (Is that how I lost my marbles?)
On one of our trips to Marshall, they had a shiny, red Pedal Car in the window of the Home Electric. I can still remember wishing for that Pedal Car. I put it on each and every list available to me until I was too big to fit into it, but never got one. I see them for sale now on the internet and the wazoo prices folks are getting for them.
From my other articles, you got to know my Uncle Ed, the practical joker. Uncle Ed was the one that sent me on my first (and only) snipe hunt. He played it up for months, long enough to get me to begging him to let me go. He even had me practicing the “snipe call”; until he was assured I had gotten it right. The night came when he said I was ready. He gave me a burlap sack (we called them toe sacks) and a stick and showed me where to go down in the woods next to the creek. He said he would go the other direction and run them my way and for me to catch them in the sack. I asked him what they looked like and he said “you’ll know them when you see them coming”. I went down there in the black pitch dark and began my practiced “snipe” call. I was so scared. I heard the screech owls and was more scared. I saw every ghost and goblin from 100 years coming down that path in my direction, but never saw a snipe. When I got so scared I thought I was going to pass out, I began running to the house only to find Uncle Ed, and others who had joined in the fun, laughing and having a great old time at my expense.
We have come a long way since those days of care free abandon. It is sad that children cannot experience the wonderful world of games as we had them. When we talk about our “games”, they think we are “old f….s”, and I suppose I am proud to be one.