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

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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