Games farm children played
by Ruth Baker
Nov 20, 2011 | 1708 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
Farm children in the South had to make their toys and create games to play during rare play time. The coin had two sides — ingenuity on the one side and “make do” on the other. Corncob fights between two teams or two kids was an easy one. The corncrib was always full and corn was shelled for the cornmeal for bread and the whole cob was given to the cows and mules. The supply of cobs for battle was never limited.

Walking the barrels was a favorite because it required good balance. When we tired of walking the tops much like the loggers walked logs in the water, we could always get inside the barrel and let another roll us. That was a little risky as you could not tell where they were taking you.

“One, two, three, here I come” could be heard loud and clear. That meant a hide-and-seek game was on. Usually the counter would go much higher. It was according to the boundaries agreed upon. There were many hiding places on the farm with all the outbuildings and trees. Even inside the big two-storied house, it would take a while to search out the hidden ones.

Walking on “tom walkers” was another favorite. My brothers always had these wooden toys made and ready. It was simple to take a sturdy two by two strip of wood, cut two the same length, and add a square piece at a certain height above the ground. We would take them to the steps to get mounted and away we would go, high in the air and kings of our domain.

Truck wagons were a little more sophisticated to make. A young sapling tree had to be chosen for the right size to saw off the wheels. These rounds were taken to the blacksmith shop where a steel rod was heated to red hot and used to bore a hole through the center of four of these. A bed was constructed with a seat and a place for the axels. The wheels were attached and the front would swivel so the wagon could be guided by the feet. Daring rides were made on these down the hill and pushed by another on the level ground.

“Click and wheel” was a handmade toy using a round metal rim off a small wheel with a small steel wire bent at an angle and the right length to walk upright comfortably. The wheel was started rolling and the player used the click to keep it going.

A favorite game was to go into the woods and find tall slender saplings pliable enough to climb and swing out the tops to the ground. If one chose wisely, it was like a roller coaster ride — swift and breath-taking.

The neighborhood kids came from the surrounding farms on a

Sunday afternoon. The three Edgil brothers built a cabin behind their house. My brothers built a pole building with a thatched roof in the woods near our house. All the children were divided into two teams. “Cops and Robbers” was the name of the game. The cabin was the jail because it had a sturdy door. The robbers used the pole shack; the cops captured the robbers and put them in jail. The game was to overpower the jailer standing guard, release the prisoners and make a getaway. The chase was on again with kids ranging about a mile in every way to evade capture or make a capture.

I have often thought how dangerous that could have been from snakes and wild animals. No one seemed to be afraid.

Parties were a common occurrence on the farm. This was strictly for the teenagers or older. Parlor games were played in a group. Chairs were placed in a big circle in the large “fireplace room.” I was not allowed to play these games because I was too young. However, when someone went “walking,” I grabbed the chair that was vacated and was immediately evicted. “Heavy, Heavy, Hangs Over Your Head” was a phrase said to a blindfolded girl or boy in a chair while an object was held above the head.

The answer came back from the seated one, “Fine, or superfine?” The answer was given according to the object. Of course, the whole game was a boy or girl to get outside to “go walking.”

There is a long list of these games, two of which are “Spin The Bottle,” and “Fruit Basket Turn Over.” Another activity involved a “Guess Cake.” The host for the party would have a cake with something hidden in it. A price of five cents or ten cents for each guess was set. The one who guessed correctly was given the cake. This brought lots of laughter.

Life was not dull for country children. It just took imagination and much energy to play the games. There were no “couch potatoes.” No one argued about bedtime. Work and play both involved activity and muscle power. There was no money for toys or games. “Cornshuck dolls” were made and dressed and loved by the girls. Not having fancy toys didn’t seem to matter. Children of the early to mid 1900 were more creative and learned good work and play ethics.