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Adventures of Ron Huckelberry...#5 Learning to play marbles
Ron’s lips are still sore from his grape vine smoking and he isn’t anxious to try another smoke for awhile. Granddaddy has just finished mowing the front yard grass with his push mower, so Ron is busy for the next hour raking the grass. When he finishes raking, Granddaddy has nothing else for him to do, so he begins entertaining himself around the house and garden.
Later Grandmother gives him a dime and suggests that he walk down to the store and get himself an ice cream cone. When Ron arrives at the store he notices three of his older school friends playing marbles on a dirt area beside the store.
They invite him to join, but Ron has no marbles. He is soon loaned 40 marbles (or mibs as they were called) and a shooter. Ron begins to receive a quick lesson of rules.
Thomas, the older of the three, explains that the official rules require a minimum of 13 mibs per person, but the players can decide on any number greater than 13. His friends have decided on 10 marbles to keep the math simpler. The official rules require a circle 3 to 10 feet in diameter is drawn on the ground. His friends decided on a 6 foot diameter circle .
Thomas explains that each player places his mibs in the middle of the circle and directs Ron to place his mibs in the center. Ron places them in the middle, but Thomas explains that they have agreed to place them to form an X. Ron quickly has his mibs forming an X. He then watches the others place their mibs next to his and form a larger X..
Thomas continues to explain that the marble they shoot with is called a ‘shooter’ and the game begins with one player knuckling down at the outer edge of the large circle and flicking his shooter. Knuckling is the term of how one holds the shooter on the thumb. Flicking is flicking the thumb that holds the shooter. The object is to knock one or more of the mibs outside of the large circle…with out the player’s shooter leaving the circle.
Thomas directs Ron to shoot first. Ron knuckles, aims, and shoots. His flick was a flop, his shooter didn't even hit a marble, and it stayed inside the large circle. His friends have a laugh.
Thomas explains to Ron that if his shooter stays inside the circle after it knocks another marble out of the circle, he in good shape. However, is a marble is not knocked out and the shooter stays in the circle it is game for the next shooter and Ron may no longer have a shooter and is thus out of the game. He then hands Ron his shooter and tells him that the rules apply to him after he gets a bit better.
Thomas then repeats that if the player keeps his shooter in the circle, he can shoot again from the place where his/her shooter rests. If the player fails to knock at least one of the mibs outside the circle he looses his turn and must leave his shooter inside the circle.
The game continues until all of the original mibs have been knocked outside the circle. The player with the most marbles (each marble is one point) wins. In some versions of marbles the winner gets to keep all marbles he knocks out side the circle. This is a form of gambling for the better players and its called “keepsies”.
There are strict rules to be followed if playing the original English game of marbles. It is so strict that there are captains for each team that work out the details with the other team captains.
A shooter is an important marble for the player. They are the same size as the other marbles, but are often made of a tougher stone that will not break. Many players use the same shooter for years and swear that it gets better each year as the surface gets rougher.
Some shooters are made from fine marble and are very expensive. Naturally the rules seldom allow a player to claim another player’s shooter as a marble won.
Ron’s friends are nice and patience as they teach him the rules and the techniques.
Of course Ron looses all of his marbles very quickly, but his friends quickly loan him more for the next game.
He gets so involved playing that he forgets to go home. Granddaddy phones the store to see if he is still there. Daddy Williams has seen him playing marbles and insures Granddaddy that all is OK.
Before Ron leaves, Daddy Williams gives him a small cloth sack. “Ron”, he says, “Every boy needs his own marbles and these are a present for you”.
Ron doesn’t play keepsies for a long time, because he doesn’t want to loose all of his marbles. In Granddaddy’s yard he draws a large circle near the garden fence and practices for hours. Before the summer is over he is able to hold his own when playing with his friends.
© GENE HUDGENS
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