Country Games: Marble Game, Mumblety-Peg and More

Recapture simple living from a bygone era and play country games such as pitching horseshoes, play-party and more.

| January 10, 2013

  • Old Time Country Wisdom And Lore
    Enjoy perusing through “Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore,” a handy reference guide filled with 1,000 projects, pastimes, recipes and down-home truths and over 400 vintage illustrations. This illustrated encyclopedia brings wisdom, advice and joy from the simple life of the countryside and from a bygone time.
    Cover Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Marble Illustration
    Country boys knuckling down for a brisk game of marbles probably didn’t know they were engaging in a pastime popular among the ancient Romans.
    Illustration Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Barn Illustration
    Come autumn, boys arrived at school with serious pursuit in mind, their pockets bulging with marbles.
    Illustration Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Jackknife Illustration
    A popular game in those times was variously known as mumble-the-peg, mumblety-peg, or mumblepeg, depending upon the area from which you hailed. Two players or more could take part, the only prerequisites being their jackknives and soft ground.
    Illustration Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • Horseshoe Illustration
    An aura of superstition has surrounded the horseshoe for centuries. Ancient Romans attributed magical properties to anything made of iron, and so equine hardware was regarded as a good-luck symbol.
    Illustration Courtesy Voyageur Press
  • House Illustration
    The clang of a horseshoe landing bestride its mark is a summer sound that evokes memories of good companionship, good exercise, and possibly a good cold drink of well water.
    Illustration Courtesy Voyageur Press

  • Old Time Country Wisdom And Lore
  • Marble Illustration
  • Barn Illustration
  • Jackknife Illustration
  • Horseshoe Illustration
  • House Illustration

Long-standing lore, such as reading the clouds to predict the weather or using a divining rod to find water, enriches the traditions and culture of simple living. Author Jerry Mack Johnson offers a definitive guide of these whimsical teachings as well as practical advice for modern homesteaders in Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore (Voyageur Press, 2011). Learn how to can fruits and vegetables, make a hammock, find the best fishing spots and more in this homespun encyclopedia of classic country know-how. Try these simple and entertaining country games in this excerpt from chapter 20, “Country Pastimes.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore.

Marble Game

Country boys knuckling down for a brisk game of marbles probably didn’t know they were engaging in a pastime popular among the ancient Romans.

Summers were usually filled with farm chores, fishing along a shaded stream bank, or cooling off in the old swimming hole. But come autumn, boys arrived at school with serious pursuit in mind, their pockets bulging with marbles.



Each player selected the marble he judged best for a shooter, whether because of its appeal to the eye or because of the luck it had brought in the past. The shooter was known as a taw, and the fellow who could boast of one made of agate, fondly called an “aggie,” was the envy of all. To decide who would shoot first required “lagging” one’s taw up to a line. The owner of the taw nearest the line began the game, and so on down the line. Within a small circle drawn in the dirt, each participant placed four or more marbles. The object of the game was to knock as many marbles as possible out of the circle, those marbles becoming the prizes of the shooter, who continued until he missed. When all the marbles had been claimed, the game ended.

In more recent generations, playing for “keeps” became popular, though this was much frowned upon by the school as being in the realm of gambling. However, unhampered by the eye of authority, the game proceeded in earnest, resulting in a good shooter’s lugging home a heavy bag of marbles by day’s end.






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