Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marbles Anyone?

Grab your taw out of your pocket!
What is a game that can bring young and old together in the Ozarks over 100 years ago?
How about marbles.
And what is a taw?
In the game of marbles, your taw is your shooter marble, and the mibs is the target marble.
This next article is a wonderful glimpse of the small game that brought out large crowds in the evenings. Please focus on the last portion of this article that chronicles this serious past-time in Ozark County, Missouri.
Some of the grammar is a little difficult, but transcribed accurately.

A royal sport is hide-and-seek, rated so by Stevenson, and in the same table he might have named tops and marbles. Hide-and-seek stops early. It rarely is played by grownups. Top spinning, on the contrary, in certain college towns, is an institution. It is with top spinning that those gentlemen whom a college song describes as "grave old seniors" give formal good by to boyhood before they breast into the world. Where the custom is best established, silk hats are worn during the ceremony, to make the contrast more contrastly. Top spinning for grownups requires the aid of custom and the melancholy of tutumn or the light heartedness of spring for stimulus. But marbles!  Give the kingly game of marbles half a chance and it may convert all of the male population of a town—every one of Shakespeare's seven ages. Just what the process of fascination is, no psychologist yet has determined. In telling of how the game captured the town of Blue Springs, Missouri, a newspaper account says:

"Possibly some gray-bearded citizen sat on a nail keg in front of Lynn Pryor's blacksmith shop on a spring day two years ago and got to thinking while he watched the ‘kids’ playing marbles in the street, that he used to be pretty fair hand at that game himself in days before the war. Then he went out and knocked a middler from 'taw'—or almost did—and went back and bragged about it to somebody else. And that other person used to be pretty fair, too, in other days, and went out to see what he could do. Then every one got started —you know how, those things will happen."

The blacksmith shop soon came to be a marble players' headquarters. Of the six hundred persons in the a hundred or more – all ages got the marble playing habit; and the men grew so expert that games were won and lost by a hairbreadth. There is one story, exaggerated perhaps, that Uncle Dan Stanley, who is seventy-four, and Uncle Tom Holloway, seventy-five in a match last winter for the championship of the world, "lagged from taw for two days without either player gaining so much advantage as sixteenth of an inch, in the contest to see who should have first shot; and the match had to be declared a draw even before it began." Many southern Missouri towns are as enthusiastic over marbles as eastern Kansas is about horseshoe pitching. The traveler in the Ozarks finds in some places a little square of cement with five indentations in it for the marbles used in playing the old-fashioned game of hoss. In Gainesville, the county seat of Ozark county, has a public shooting ground done in cement at the northwest corner of the courthouse square. It is used by boys and men during all of the hours of daylight and when the champions, many of them bald or bearded, get to playing along about sundown, the gallery always is large and as appreciative as a baseball crowd. — Collier’s

Works Cited:
"Various Sports.”Sunday State Journal 41 (6 Nov. 1910) C4 . Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 25 Dec. 2009
"Various Sports.” Brownsville Daily Herald 18.307 (6 Nov. 1910). Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 25 Dec. 2009

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