A COUNTRY BOY’S PLAYTIME
By Norris Chambers
suspect that kids raised in the cities of long ago had a different play style
from those who started their lives in the
country. But I would bet that those whose families were struggling with the
depression in the cities found novel ways to entertain themselves.
we were familiar with raising crops and handling livestock we naturally turned
to games and activities connected with things with which we were familiar. Some
of my first endeavors included planting pennies to harvest a money crop. It
didn’t work. I also tried planting candy to produce an abundance of sweet
treats. When an adult cousin told Clifton
and me that we could catch a bird by putting salt on its tail, we carried a
pocket full of salt for several days until we discovered that we couldn’t get
close enough to place the condiment where it belonged. The cousin later told us
that if we could get close enough to salt the tail, we
could pick up the bird. I guess that made good sense.
one of our first home produced toys was a stick horse. These first steeds were
nothing more than a long stick with a string tied to the front end to serve as
reins. There was no provision for a saddle. Later, as we grew older, we carved
a board into a rough resemblance of a horse’s head complete with leather reins
and some sort of wheel on the back end to make the ride smoother and easier. We
provided hitching racks at most places where we regularly hung out and tied our
faithful mounts when we arrived. We rode them back to the house when it was
time to return. Stick horses played a very prominent part in our everyday life.
the transportation department, as automobiles became more plentiful, we
graduated to stick cars. These were made by taking a board about three or four
feet long and placing a wheel on one end and a wooden wheel or cross piece on
the other. To navigate, you grasped the wheel with your hands and pushed the
vehicle like a wheelbarrow wherever you wanted to go. Some of us could imitate the
sound of an early day automobile as we toured the farm. A lot of horn honking
was required. We also had home built wagons that we could load with various
commodities, such as fresh cut weeds and stove wood.
just about took care of our transportation needs. We had soil tilling tools,
such as sharp sticks that we called plows. These were equipped with rope pulls
so that another kid, or even a dog, could serve as a mule while the one behind
the stick did his necessary plowing. We had dull hatchets that we used as axes
to cut wood or remove a small tree. We did real farming when it came time to
dig potatoes or pick cotton.
did a big livestock business using beetles, mantises (sometimes called devil
horses), red ants and just about any other small body that moved as our cows
and horses. We built pens and fenced fields with sticks pushed in the ground.
Sometimes we even went so far as the use the sticks as fence posts and attached
string as wire. It took a pretty good fence to corral a beetle. Ants required
an even tighter fence. We used pieces of glass to fence for ants. An ant cannot
climb glass. A large number of ants confined in a play field will begin digging
and will construct an ant den within its confines. When we put grain or weed
seed in the ant enclosure they would carry the food into their new den.
discovered that we could bury a glass jar near an ant den and it would soon
fill with ants. They would fall in and couldn’t climb out. Sometimes we would
take several ants in a jar and turn the jar upside down over a suspicious
looking hole in the ground. The ants would immediately enter the hole and
prepare to take up residence. Often a mean looking spider would come running
out and the ants would attack it. The ants always won. At other times some sort
of ground wasp would emerge. Nothing that ever came out was a match for our
ant diversion was to take a jar with many ants in it and carry it to another
ant den. Dumping the jar in the den created terrible confusion, not only for
the forced visitors, but for the unprepared and surprised hosts. A vicious
fight occurred between the home team and the invaders. The invading ants
apparently surrendered as soon as the original confusion began to wane. The
invaders would stand still and a home protector would catch him around the
waist with his mandibles and carry him a long distance from the den. He would
then release his load and return to his den. The released invader was confused
and wandered around aimlessly. We never knew if they found their way back to
their own home.
placed ants in all kinds of containers that we had filled with dirt. As we grew
older, we used window glass for one or two sides and watched the ants as they
dug tunnels and rooms. When we put food in the box they carried it to store
rooms. Of course we had to drop an invader into the den occasionally. That was
a cruel thing to do because the ants dismembered them and either carried the
remains underground for food or hauled them to a far corner where they piled
all unwanted rubbish.
we grew older, we took wooden paddles and fought wasps, yellow jackets and
bumblebees. This sport took a fast swing and a quick get away. We would
approach the nest with out paddles and as one of the enemy approached we would swing
the paddle. This was a substitute for tennis or racquet ball. Of course, if you
missed you paid the penalty. The result was painful sting somewhere on the
face. Ordinarily, we were successful unless several attacked us at the same
time. If this happened, we immediately retreated. But many times we were stung
on the back of the neck. Bumble bees made the best targets and we seldom found
a bumble bee nest that we didn’t have to attack. We killed a few bees but after
a sting or two we grew tired of the sport and left them to pursue their usual
of the time there was a fighting cow or two that we could do battle with. We
found out early in our battling career that a cow could not turn very fast. If
we could find a big tree we would get behind it and keep it between the cow and
us. This irritated the animals and they would snort and paw the ground, but
they just couldn’t reach us. A fighting goat also offered some pretty hectic
sport. They would butt you or rear up and come down at you with their front
feet. The only defense we found against a goat was to manage to grab him by the
neck and wrestle him to the ground.
was fun time! What could be funnier than getting stung by a wasp or knocked
down by a goat! Perhaps you should try it some time!