The Joy of Hoop Rolling

For the skilled practitioner, hoop rolling is a game that produces an elevation of the soul approaching nirvana.
By Edward Morris
July/August 1979
Add to My MSN

A metal rim and a stiff wire with a "U"-shape bent into the end are all the equipment you need for hoop rolling.
PHOTO: NORA MORRIS


Content Tools

Related Content

Master a Useful Skill: Welding

Welding is a useful homesteading skill.

Resolve to Build a Hoophouse This Year

We’ve been growing in unheated hoophouses for a decade now, and we can’t recommend them highly enoug...

Beautiful, Rustic Dog Fence

This rustic, resourcefully sustainable dog fence fits right into the landscape. Before you install a...

The Home Know-It-All

Check out this blog for great information on do-it-yourself projects and more!

To the children I grew up with, hoop rolling wasn't just recreation, it was an ascent into nirvana. The speed, control, and music of the game produced an elevation of the soul against which all later ecstasies were to be judged.

Whrr-i-i-i-n-n-n-g! Folks could hear us coming through the hollows on those ages-ago-West-Virginia mornings with sand dewed to our bare and forever running feet. And despite the sharp clanks, donks, and dinks of metal hoops bouncing over the rocks in the road, our wheels never lost their abrasive rhythms, nor we our maestro like control.

Discover the Wheel

In spite of all their wonderworking powers, the instruments of  hoop rolling are very easy to make (or find). Strictly speaking, that moving circle of delight is less a wheel than a metal rim (could be wood, but preferably metal) that's smooth both inside and out, and the spinning "halo" is propelled and guided by a "paddle" made of stiff wire.

You don't, of course, just go out and buy a wheel. You have to recognize it in another form and then retrieve it for your own good ends. I've used a thin slice of eight-inch iron pipe ... an ornamental wire circle from an old steering wheel ... a bicycle wheel with the spokes removed ... a hoop from a discarded nail keg ... and, recently, the round tubular footrest from a bar stool. Whatever their origins, humble or exalted, the best wheels are those between 8 and 12 inches in diameter and an inch or less wide.

Personalized Paddle

I made most of my paddles from the thick metal-strand spools on which barbed fencing was wound. However, any stiff but bendable wire of drinking-straw thickness will do. Start with a piece that's 36 to 40 inches long. (A good paddle, when gripped, should extend from your hand to your ankle.)

The end of the paddle that touches the wheel should be bent into a U shape—about four inches long and just a bit wider than the wheel's rim—that's held parallel to the ground when in operation. The top five-inch section of the upright shaft is doubled over to provide a grip that keeps the wire from turning in the operator's hand.

Back in the heyday of hoop rolling, hours of juvenile wizardry often went into the construction of "special" paddles. My brother would take an old shoe tongue, punch two holes along the cutoff edge, and pass the U of the paddle through the holes to make a racy mudflap. Others dandified their "handgrips" with squirrel tails that whipped in the wind, and a few determined artists tied chicken feathers along the length of the shaft to create a bristling war-bonnet look.

The Art of Wheelin'

It may take a while to judge how much paddle pressure is needed and where it should be applied to keep the circle rolling. The bottom end of the "control stick" should almost touch the ground as it propels the hoop along. (The back of the U pushes the wheel, and its "sides"—rubbed gently against the spinning rim—guide and brake it.)

We raced our wheels, nudged them through labyrinthian obstacle courses, and become so adept at manipulating them that we never had to touch the hoops with our hands. We would snag our rings with the end of our paddles, give 'em a flip, and start 'em whirling. Some of us were so cockily proficient that we could keep the hoop in motion—even when we stopped to talk—just by passing the paddle from one hand to the other and coaxing the wheel around our feet.

To our common disgust, one subspecies of our fraternity amused themselves by rolling old automobile tires. But these children were regarded as clumsy savages by "true" hoop rollers, and we took only such notice of them as politeness and outright fear required.

The Old Masters

Plastic and pavement and prosperity may keep future generations of youngsters from swelling with the joy of taming a wheel,. but a few of us old hoop masters still live.

Why, just last summer I drove some 200 miles to the hollow that had been my brightest path of glory. There, with no one to witness my graying antics or hear the rusty whrr-i-i-i-n-n-n-g, I experienced nirvana again!


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.