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    Marble Games



    The Uncertainties of “Fat,” Sometimes Called “Yank” or “Yankey” – Stand-up Marbles – Follerings 0 Knucks, the Long Ring, and Patterson – The Scientific Bull Ring – Ducks in a Hole 



    Make a ring that will measure a foot and a half or two feet across the center. Then draw a straight line through the center from top to bottom, and another straight line from right to left at right angles to the first through the center of the ring, thus dividing it into quarters (Fig. 9).

    Each player lays in a duck, that is, puts a marble in the ring. Where only two play, place one duck on the right and the other on the left hand side of the ring. If four boys play, place a marble at the end of each cross line, and if more boys are in the game put the marbles around the ring, one for each player.

    Beginning the Game

    About ten feet away from the ring scratch a taw or tie line to shoot from. Here the first player places his knuckle dabster, knuckles down and shoots at the marbles. If he is a good marksman and knocks a marble out of the ring he shoots again from the spot where his taw or shooter rests and so continues to shoot until be makes a miss, pocketing all the ducks he knocks out. When he has failed to hit and knock out a marble, his turn is over and he must allow his shooter to lie where it rolled.

    Number Two's Play

    Number two now takes his turn. Knuckling down at the taw line, he shoots as number one did, or if number one's taw is within range, be shoots at that, and if he is fortunate or skilful enough to hit number one's taw, then number one must hand over to number two all the ducks he (number one) has knocked out of the ring. If number two's luck still continues and he is able to hit number one's taw again, then number one is considered "killed," that is, he must put his taw in his pocket and quit playing until another game is started.

    When number two misses, number three knuckles down at the taw line and shoots at in the ducks in the ring, or at his opponent's taw, if that marble is within range.


    When only two boys are playing if one "kills" the other, of course the killer wins the game, and more ducks are laid in and a new game started. The first man killed is the last to shoot in the next game, and the second man killed is next to the last to shoot, etc. In some sections of the country when three boys are playing the third boy is required always to shoot his taw across the ring, whether he shoots at the other taws or at the ducks.

    The Uncertainties of "Yank"

    It will not take a beginner in this game long to learn that his safety lies in keeping his own taw as far as possible away from his neighbors', and when he shoots in their direction he will shoot hard. One player may secure all the ducks but one and then miss, and the next player by striking the first's taw compel him to turn over to him all the ducks be has knocked out.

    It does not require much wit to see that there is more to be gained by shooting at your neighbor's taw if the neighbor has been lucky than there is shooting at the one lone duck in the ring.

    It sometimes takes good players a half, three quarters, or a full hour to finish one game. Often two or three unlucky players will combine against a lucky one and peg away at the lucky one's taw until he is compelled to give up the ducks he has knocked out. Another way to play this game is to make the player whose taw is hit replace in the ring all the marbles he has previously succeeded in knocking out.

    Stand-up Marbles

    There is no skill required in this game, and the only excuse for its existence is that the rapid growth of our big cities has had the effect of so covering the boys' playgrounds with buildings and other obstructions that the boys are compelled to adapt such games as they can play under the existing conditions. So "Stand-up Megs" has become popular in many places.

    Make a two-foot ring about six inches from a convenient house or fence. Use a "bumboozer" for a taw and stand at the taw line about six feet from the ring. Hold up your taw and take aim with your right eye, and shoot by hunching at the marbles in the ring. If you miss, pick up your big taw and let the next boy shoot. If any one knocks one or more ducks out, he continues to shoot until he fails. Each boy takes his turn until all the ducks are knocked out of the ring. Another way to play the game is to make a hole in the ground and place a duck for each player in the hole, then standing at the taw mark the players with their "bowlers" or "bumboozers" shoot as already described. If a player's taw or shooter fails to knock out any megs and remains in the hole, then he must put in as many ducks as "are up" before he is allowed to remove his taw.

    “Follerings” or Followings.

    "Follerings," or Followings, is a traveling game, generally played by the boys on their way to school, or often, I am afraid, when they are sent on errands by their mothers. Although this game is a traveling game it is unnecessary to say that it does not lend haste to the traveler. In fact, it must be acknowledged that more speed can be made by a boy on an errand if he omits to play the game on his way.

    The rules of "Follering" are simple. "First" shoots his marble in the direction he wants to travel, and "Second" shoots his marble at the "First's" taw. Thus they shoot each in turn until one boy is lucky enough to hit his opponent's taw. That means a duck for the fortunate one or else a point in the game and another shot at his opponent's marble. He continues to shoot until he misses, and so the game goes on.

    "Everything," and "Fen everything!" are the cries in this game. If one player before he shoots cries "Every thing" before his opponent can cry "Fen everything," then the shooter may "hist," that is, as already explained, hold his marble up and shoot, or he may remove a brick, can, old shoe, or whatever object accident may place between him and his opponent's marble, or be may take "roundsters," going one side or the other of any object that may be in the way. But he cannot go any nearer the other boy's marble than his first position. If, however, the other player cries "Fen everything!" first, the shooter must knuckle down and make the best of it.

    The Art of Babying.

    If one player hits his opponent's taw and knocks it into a gully, a hole, or the gutter and his own taw does not fly far away, he shouts "Everything!" if possible before the other player can say "Fen," and then he commences a series of soft, easy shots, each of which counts just the same as a long, difficult one. With care a good shot can baby away until his opponent shouts himself hoarse with cries of "Fen babying! Fen everything ! Fen histing ! Fen roundsters! Knuckle down." To all these cries the player pays no attention, but continues to shoot until he carelessly makes a miss. Then the other player has his revenge and babies away, to the great discomfort of his opponent.

    Follerings starts where the two lads meet and lasts until the school-house or some other objective point is reached. It can be played almost anywhere, and is quite exciting enough to meet the approval of most boys.


    Knucks  is a game of give and take. One boy, called "knucks," places a small marble between his knuckles and rests his hand on the ground. The other player knuckles down at the taw line four or five feet away and shoots at the marble between the fingers of his playmate. It is customary to knuckle down and loft, or shoot through the air, and not bowl along the ground. The taw marble or shooter used is of medium size. Every time the marble in "knucks'" hand is hit it counts one; every time "knucks'" knuckles are hit it gives "knucks" a shot at the first shooter.

    Suppose that it is agreed that each player should have three shots, and there are two in the game. Number one shoots three times, hits the marble once, and the knuckles twice. Then number one wins one count, and number two, who has been "knucks" takes his three shots, and two shots to pay for the two raps he had on his knuckles. That makes five shots he has at number one.

    Unless number two is an expert, he is going to hit number one's knuckles, a number of times in his five shots, but number one grins and bears it, as he knows that the rules of the game will give him satisfaction. There is no end to this game, and it only stops when both boys agree that their knuckles demand a rest.

    If one boy is a good player and the other a poor one the good player makes the most points, but the bad player makes the other's knuckles suffer for their skill.

    The Long Ring

    About eight beyond the taw line, make a ring composed of two parts of a circle crossing each other at the ends (Fig. 11), a fish-shaped ring with its head toward the taw line. Draw a straight line through the center of the long ring to lay the marbles on. If only two boys are playing and each lays in a duck, one marble should be at each end of the ring. If more than two play, or if more than one duck apiece is laid in, then they should be placed along the line in the center of the ring.

    When number one shoots, if there are only two marbles he generally "sneaks," that is he bowls, as some call it, or shoots his marble with just sufficient force to cause his taw to roll slowly along and come to a rest as near as possible one of the marbles in the ring.

    In doing this number one runs the risk of being killed by number two, whose turn it now is to shoot, and if there are only two in the game, and number two kills number one, this gives the game to number two, but if there are more in the game it puts number one out, and number two has another shot at the ducks in the ring, and continues to shoot until he misses. Then number three shoots, or if number one is net dead, and only two are playing, number one shoots from the spot where his taw ties.

    Any player can sneak whenever he thinks he dare risk it. Of course a sneak is a shot and he must run the chance of being killed; but if he is killed he can, when his turn comes around, lay in as many ducks as he did at first, and then placing another duck near the taw line, knuckle down and shoot, hitting the near duck on one side so as to cause his taw or shooter to fly down toward the ring. It often happens that in this way he can make up for what points he lost by being killed. If he makes a miss he leaves his taw where it rests, and the next player takes his turn.


    This game is played like " Fat," previously described, and often goes by that name, but in place of the round ring used in real Fat the Patterson boys use the taw line and the oblong or fish-shaped ring of the Long Ring game. 

    The principal difference between Long Ring and Patterson is that you must hit your opponent's taw twice to kill him, and he cannot come to life again by laying in when his turn comes and shooting at a duck near the taw line. The first time you hit his taw you win all the points he may have made, the second time you strike his taw you put him out of the game and there is one less to fight against; hence there is not much sneaking in Patterson.

    Gambling Games

    Sports among boys may frequently be seen trying to entice other boys to pay a stated number of marbles a shot at a notched and numbered shingle.  The "sport" holds the shingle with his hand and rests the edge with the notches in it on the ground, while the player shoots from taw at the notch with the biggest number.  He seldom goes through, but if he succeeds, the "sport" pays him back as many marbles as are designated by the number over the notch his marble went through.  This is a great game for cheating; a slight movement of the shingle from one side to the other will make the best shot miss, and, like all gambling games, create ill feeling, and frequently the game is only decided by the fists of the players.


    Bull Ring

    One of the really scientific games is the old-fashioned Bull Ring, which is from four to ten feet in diameter. The ducks are placed a few inches apart on a cross scratched in the middle of the ring. The number of ducks varies according to how many "a whack," or how many "up" or to "lay in" may be agreed upon. If four or five boys are in the game, "one up" makes a nice pot of ducks to shoot at. If but two boys are playing they sometimes lay in three, four, or even more ducks apiece, according to their wealth. The boy who cries "First" soonest is accorded the first shot, and the others in their order. In case of dispute they "lag" for turn. Each player knuckles down and shoots for the opposite side of the ring, and their turns come in the order of their success; the nearest first and the most distant last.

    Of course the object of the game is to knock out all the ducks if possible. Sometimes the first player, by a combination of luck and skill, will "skin the ring" before the others have had a shot. The first player knuckles down and lofts at the ducks in the middle of the ring. If he strikes one properly, his taw should stand or spin in place of the fleeing duck. The duck must reach or pass the line that makes the ring to be out and pocketed by the player, who now shoots from the place where his taw stands.

    Sometimes his shooter will fly out of the ring, but if the duck is knocked out he continues to shoot, again knuckling down on the ring. In case he misses one shot, number two takes his turn. Whenever a slip is made or a hit fails to knock the duck front the ring and the shooter comes to rest inside the bull ring, it must remain where it is until the player's turn comes again or until the shooter is knocked out by one of the other players. If the shooter or taw in the ring is knocked out by another player's taw, the owner of the latter is out of the game, or killed, and there is one less to fight against. The player who knocks the taw out not only has another shot, but is entitled to pick one of tile ducks from the ring as a reward for his luck. He continues to shoot until he misses.

    In case two or more duck, are knocked out at one shot, if the player succeeds in crying "Dubs!" before the others cry "Fen dubs!" he is entitled to all he knocks out, otherwise he must replace all but one marble, but continue to shoot until he fail, to knock out a duck. If a player is caught "bunching," that is, shoving his fist beyond the ring while shooting, and makes a lucky hit, he must replace the marble and shoot over again. "Histings" and the use of "bowlers" are debarred in the bull ring.


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