You could always tell a good marble player in the old days. His knees and knuckles were never clean. Even if they were clean, they were "stained" and looked dirty.
Every once in a while ,I see youngsters playing marbles. Not like in the days gone by. We knew who to play with and who not to play with. Some boys were so expert at marble shooting that they could clean out your whole supply of marbles in a country minute.
In those days we played "ringsey", "fats", "holesey", "dropsey", and "killing head". My favorite was "killing head".
Marbles had to be played in the chicken yard. The chickens cleaned out all the grass and left a smooth, clean surface. Everyone had a chicken yard, so finding a place to play marbles was no problem.
"Ringsey" was everybody's favorite. A circle about six feet in diameter was drawn in the dirt. Each player put up an equal amount of marbles. The marbles were arranged in the middle of the circle. The next step was "lagging". Each boy shot his favorite "tar", "stone" or "agate" at the circle line. The closest to the line shot first. The next shooter was whoever was second closest, then third, and on down the line. If the first shooter knocked a marble out of the circle ,he shot again. If his "tar" stuck in the middle of the circle, he shot from there. If his marble ran out of the circle ,he shot from the line. A good marble shooter would "stick" in the middle, then proceed to knock all the marbles out of the circle.
"Fatsey" was also very popular. A half moon or crescent about a foot long was drawn in the dirt. The players put the marbles inside the crescent. A line was drawn about ten feet away. From there, you shot at the marbles. If you hit one out, you shot again. If you "stuck" inside the "fats", you lost your turn and had to add to the pot the original amount of marbles you had to put up.
"Holesey" was played similar to "fatsey." A small hole was dug in the ground. Everyone put up a like number of marbles. A line was drawn about ten feet away. The first player to shoot his "tar" into the hole won the pot.
"Killing Head" was man-to-man combat. This game could take you all over the yard and into the neighbor's yard. The first player shot his marble anywhere he wanted to. The second player shot at his opponent's marble. If he missed, the opponent shot at the person who missed. If he hit, he kept on shooting until he missed. The idea was not to shoot hard after a hit. Shoot easy amd keep the opponent's marble close.
"Dropsey" was played by holding your marble up to your eye and trying to drop it on your opponent's marble which was left on the ground. It may sound easy, but it is very difficult to do.
The boys I grew up with always had a pocket full of marbles and were always ready for a game. Some of them were "sharks". If you met a stranger who wanted to play "ringsey", you could soon find out what kind of a player he was. Check his knees and knuckles first. Then watch how he shot his marble. You had to see how much "pousse" he had. "Pousse" was a St. James description of how much force he had when he shot the marble. If he had plenty "pousse", dirty knees and dirty knuckles, then you had better tell him your mother was calling you.
Good marble players carried their marbles in their back pockets. Those who thought they were good, carried their marbles in a cute little bag their mother had made for them. Good marble players sold marbles, the bad ones were always buying them.
At school, recess time was marble time. The trouble with playing at school was that when the bell rang, it became "razoo" time. Everybody, players and watchers, would dive into the circle and grab the marbles. There were many fights when a player's favorite "tar" was grabbed up in a "razoo".
Don't be too surprised if you see adults playing marbles. After we wrote the article on "popguns" some men began showing their children how to build them. They were also building "rubber guns" and "tractors" out of old thread spools and rubber bands, and doing string tricks.
So if you decide to play marbles, be sure you don't "pelay". If you do, you lose your turn and if your opponent wants to play "keeps", beware. "Keeps" means he keeps all the marbles he wins from you. If he wasn't an expert, he wouldn't be playing for "keeps".
by Leonce Haydel from Stories from the River Road
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