“FAT” AND OTHER FAMOUS GAMES OF MARBLES
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.