When we were kids in Louisville, Kentucky, we played all kinds of games: hide and seek, kick the can (on Bayly Avenue), jump rope, “Peggy” (with a bat and ball), basketball (with any kind of ball available), stick ball (usually with a tennis ball), to say nothing of neighborhood struggles in football (both touch and tackle). I was later to discover these games were pretty simple, compared to those that had been played in the past in Eastern Kentucky and in other parts of Appalachia.
Traditional games here took many forms: games for large groups and small, games indoors or outdoors, boy’s or girl’s (or both) games for different age groups, noisy or quiet games, games that were slow or vigorous, mentally or physically challenging games, and a game for nearly every occasion and mood.
The names of the games could be as imaginative as the games themselves: Ante Over, Old Granny Hum Bum, Fox and Geese, Hull Gull, and Mumble Peg. The equipment was usually minimal, often simply reflecting what was available. A ball could be “store boughten” or homemade from tightly wound yarn. A bat was often a straight stick. “Make do or do without” was the universal rule. The rules of the games could vary from place to place or even from day to day. Improvisation was the key here, too.
Most older folks remember Ante (“Annie”) Over as one of the most universally played games. A low building and a ball were all that was required. The ball was tossed over, or bounced on, the roof to a team waiting on the other side. If the ball were caught, the person who caught it would try to conceal it, while other team members pretended to have the ball. As each team raced around the building the person with the ball would try to hit members of the other team with the ball and “capture” them. The game continued until one side captured everyone on the other team.
With Fox and Hounds, there were no boundaries or time limits and almost no rules. One layer was the “fox” and the rest “hounds.” The “fox” would run off through the woods leaving a trail of bits of paper or broken twigs. The “hounds” stayed on the trail until the “fox” was in sight. Then the “fox” was allowed to go on its own without leaving a visible trail, trying to make it back to the “den” (the home base), without being caught.
Any number of children could play Red Rover, a schoolyard favorite. Two teams locked hands and lined up facing each other: “Red Rover, Red Rover, send [name] over.” The named player would run and try to break through the hands of two players on the other team. If successful, he “captured” those two players. If not, he had to stay. the team that captured all the other team members but one, won.
Old Granny Wiggins Is Dead was perhaps the silliest game of all, but great fun. Players would stand in a circle while the “lead” person cried: “Old Granny Wiggins is dead.” The next person would say: “How’d she die?” Next person: “She died this way,” and then they would do something like waving a hand up and down continuously. The next person had to start waving in the same fashion. The phrases were repeated for every person in the circle until everyone was waving. Other movements were added until feet, heads and hands were all in motion. The real fun came, when, at a signal, everyone fell over “dead” on top of each other to end the game.
Old Granny Hum Bum was an exercise in pantomime. One player acted like an old woman, while the others would say: “Old Granny Hum Bum, where did you come from?” Answer: “Pretty Girl’s Station.” Reply: “What’s your occupation?” Then “Granny” would act out an occupation, like sewing, which the other players would try to guess.
Horseshoes was an eminently social game in the Appalachian region. A typical layout was a fifty-foot long court with pits about four-feet square, with iron takes int he center of the pits. Players could pitch from either side of the pits and scored one point if they tossed to within six inches of the stake and three points for a “ringer.” “Leaners,” in some locales, earned two points. Stacked ringers cancelled each other out. The winner was the first team to reach an agreed upon number, or the team with the highest score after fifty pitches.
Marbles were played by almost all the school-aged boys, and some of the girls, with Bull Ring the most common version. A circle about eight feet in diameter would be drawn in the dirt. After agreeing on how many marbles to play for, players would roll, “lag,” a marble to a line to determine who went first. Players shot with a “taw,” a large marble, or a “steely,” a steel ball bearing. Players tried to knock marbles out of the ring without physically touching another marble, and without the “taw” leaving the ring.
Men played Mumble (“Mumbly”) Peg. In one version, two players with pocket knives tried to stick a blade upright in a circle drawn on the ground using a sequence of twenty or so positions. The first player to complete the sequence won the game. The loser had to retrieve, with his teeth, a small peg that had been driven into the ground with a couple of licks from the winner’s knife handle.
That certain games persisted for many generations, “tested by time,” seems to indicate that there is something in the human spirit which is satisfied through the continuation of these simple rituals. Videos, computer-generated games, and organized team sports have seriously eroded interest in the games we used to play, and the games I’ve listed here don’t begin to exhaust the list of games we used to play.
I’ve never been a light hearted soul….things just are not right so much of the time that it concerns me.
That’s not to say I’m not a happy person or enjoy a good laugh. I AM a happy person who is pretty positive but I don’t laugh easily. Most of the time, it seems that things other people think are funny just don’t hit me the same way.
Recently, in an effort to still try to talk to people who have viewpoints on the conservative end of the spectrum I have begun to respond to comments they make, particularly if the reaction of their other friends is laughter and the issue is not funny to me. If the meme or comment is a putdown, so the joke is at someone’s expense, I am the stick in the mud who points out that it is not funny. That perhaps they forgot to pull on their Christian compassion before making fun of someone. (I only say that because they post a lot of Bible quotes and also how important it is that Jesus is in their lives.)
Generally, my comments are not appreciated. No surprise there. Someone who uses humor at other people’s expense generally is not comfortable being told, even when calmly and with quiet language, that their choice of words is not healthy. I suppose it is only a matter of time until I am unfriends. Not a biggie, but it will be sad because the more we stop talking to each other, the sooner we will forget we have more commonalities than differences.
Being told to “lighten up, it’s only a joke” is something I’ve lived with. My last blog I told about my husband. This time, the story is about my second husband.
Before I go further I want to say this marriage produced two beautiful children who are now healthy adults, participating in society and enjoying life. Despite all the angst that resulted in that marriage I would never say or feel it never should have happened. I am blessed to have those children.
The differences between that man and me, our views on what life can be and our ways of aiming for our goals were very clear. Still, I can appreciate a few things he gave me that were gifts of insight I never would have made because I just did not think the same way.
For example, when my dad had been living with Parkinson’s disease for ten years and no one would talk about it, he called us out on it.
For example, I had been fighting my naturally curly hair all my life trying to make it straight and he suggest I get it cut well so it would be acceptable to me.
For example, when he asked me if I like to dance and when I said yes, pulled over to the curb and pulled me out to dance to the radio on the grass.
But those were few and far between. Life with him was usually off kilter at best and downright fearful of what I might find when I cam home when things were at the worst.
See, he is mentally ill. His diagnosis has changed over time but he never worked to “get better” because he argued the therapists wanted him to change. Well, duh. What you’re doing is not working Maybe a change would be a good idea?
And his favorite expression, after he would denigrate me was “I’m only joking.” Sorry, forgot to laugh. In fact, instead of not laughing I had to work hard to stay calm because of his fragile mental state.
It was clear that he thought only of himself and how the world revolved around him. He is unchanged to this day.
Now, I do not know this Facebook friend well enough to know if she also has some issues so making jokes like that helps her cope. No idea. But I won’t stay silent. I will not be, nor will I permit someone to be, the butt of a joke.
I read something else today on Facebook, also from a person whom I don’t really know. But I do know one of her adult children and that gives me a lot of insight about her. She noted that in times of recent crises we saw people ignore any political, religious, or racial differences and just pull together to help each other. She suggested we live this way.
Think about how much better we would be if Congress, for example, sat down and “Yes, too many innocents are being killed. Let’s talk together to see if something we who have the power can do to make this country safer.”
How much better we all would be if instead of saying it is their own fault, that we pitch in to work with the homeless to provide safe housing and health care for what ails them.
How much better we all would be if we all could have a living wage with a 40-hour job. Then we could afford housing, put food on the table, and not have to run from our issues into drugs or booze.
How much better we all would be if we all could teach how to earn instead of how to pass a test. If we could all understand that not everyone is going to make an A and perhaps there are other skills the ones who have trouble in school could handle well.
How much better we all would be if we decided on what we wanted to be when we grew up and didn’t have to pay for the education to attain that for the rest of our lives.
How much better we all could be if we stopped putting other people down. If we chose to recognize when someone makes us uncomfortable it is a learning opportunity, not a joke–and continue the discussion.
COAL MINING IN EASTERN KENTUCKY AND WEST VIRGINIA IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE CENTURY
Here is what coal mining was like before the coming of power-driven equipment. It was a labor intensive, dirty, dangerous job. Cave-ins and explosions were a constant threat. Water and rats were always present. A six-day work week with ten-hour days was the rule. Miners went to work before dawn and didn’t emerge until after dark, seeing daylight only on Sundays. Permanent injury was a possibility. Black lung disease loomed in the future.
Why, then, did so many men take up underground mining as a profession? First, it was a job, and there weren’t many jobs in the region. And, it was a macho-man’s world. Fearlessness and physical strength were much admired. Claustrophobia was not tolerated. There were no sissies in the mines. It was a hard, dirty, dark, physical, man’s world.
The end product in our region was the relatively soft bituminous coal. The tools and devices used in those times were simple and few. The miner began with an auger, a six-foot long hand-held drill about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, sharpened regularly by the blacksmith. Using a hand crank built into the auger, the miner drilled a deep horizontal hole into the coal seam. He was often working on his knees in our shallow seams of coal. The auger rested on an iron breastplate worn over the chest for added leverage. A “real man,” I was told, was able to run that bit all the way into a seam without taking a break! That would have quickly separated me from the pack.
The hole was then cleared with a scraper, and a charge of black powder was gently shoved to the base of the hole with a six-foot tamping rod tipped with brass to prevent a spark. Next, a “needle,” a pointed iron rod about six-feet long and 1/4 inch in diameter was run to the back of the hole to puncture the paper-wrapped powder charge. Waste material was then packed tightly around the needle with the tamping rod. Sliding the needle gently from the hole left a small tunnel leading back to the powder. A 6 x 1/8 inch rocket-like “squib” was then placed in the hole and lighted. It shot back into the hole, setting off the powder. It sounded like a shotgun blast.
Using a pry bar, a pick, a shovel, and bare hands, the coal was broken up and loaded onto a small cart and pushed on wooden rails to the mine entrance. Waste material like slate or clay was not permitted in the cart. A miner was paid by the number of “clean” carts he filled in a day. He marked his carts with his own numbered brass tags. Even with all the danger, dust, dirt, disease, and long, hard hours, I never heard an old miner complain. Mining to him was the best job in the world, the United States the best country, and his state and town the best places on earth to live.
I’m not at all sure their women felt the same way. I asked a waitress friend where her family was from originally. She said her grandfather was a coal miner in West Virginia but had moved to Ashland, Kentucky many years ago to work at the steel mill.
It seems that her grandmother had tired of the cave-ins and explosions that happened all too often, and after one more such incident, she confronted him and said, “I’m leaving!” And he, in good Eastern Kentucky-West Virginia fashion, replied, “Well, alright.” She said, “I don’t think you understand! I’m leaving, and I’m leaving the children with you!” As he grabbed his coat he said, “Where are WE going?” They moved to town and, we think, lived happily ever after.
[Ernie Tucker is a retired college professor, and his articles appear regularly in Columnist with a View. He lives in Ashland, Kentucky where he encounters some of his past students daily. He is also an avid collector of antique automobiles, tools and ephemera. You can contact Ernie at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Some days I think people choose to miss the point.
In the weeks following the election, those of us opposing the coming Administration and protesting what we see as very problematic Cabinet appointments and flag-raising political maneuvering, have received a similar scolding from Conservatives as we engage in debate on the issues. It’s an attempt to call us out for our alleged hypocrisy:
“I see, you’re all for diversity unless someone disagrees with you! Apparently we don’t get included in that! You Liberals are so tolerant!” they say.
Well, they’re partially right.
The commitment to diversity and equality means demanding that everyone gets a seat at the table; that each person’s inherent worth is recognized there, that no one is devalued or excluded based on fixed and fundamental part of their identity: skin color, gender, nation of origin, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
This means that we declare every human being equally valuable. It does not mean we treat all behavior equally:
If your opinion directly endangers people based on those essential parts of who they are–we’ll pushback.
If your worldview permits you to treat someone as less deserving of civil rights or it discards their basic humanity–your worldview is a threat to true diversity.
If your evaluation of another makes you more tolerant of their mistreatment or less outraged by hate crimes against them, that’s a fundamental problem.
Active discrimination and violence don’t get a seat at the table. They don’t get proximity to do further damage to people.
For example, a gay teenager and a Baptist preacher are both invited into genuine community and both welcomed into conversation, but if the preacher insists on the inherent depravity of the teenager, if he or she cannot see the teenager as fully equal to them in the eyes of God or the Law, this is a barrier to diverse community and an assault on the teenager’s very identity. The teenager’s place at the table is terribly altered by the preacher, not the other way around.
Diversity will always err on the side of the marginalized and always be an inconvenience to the privileged because diversity seeks justice. It demands benevolence for those who are not experiencing it.
The contention for the past year has been that all political perspectives are valid, but I won’t consent to that and it’s a matter of personal safety. No individual groups of white people are explicitly, measurably endangered by a Progressive platform, they receive the same consideration. But I can illustrate the specific ways people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ community are less safe and less represented by the coming Administration, which is already by its conduct, a movement of exclusion.
Friend, I can respect you and seek to understand you, while declaring your actions or those of politicians you support, completely reprehensible. I can criticize your conduct or the results of your behavior without attacking your worth. That’s how this works.
If you believe people of color are simply inferior to white people, you’re going to have to work hard to stay at the table.
If you claim LGBTQ to be abominations, you’ll have to do better.
If you believe Muslims are likely terrorists, you probably won’t feel welcome at the table for long.
And so no, it isn’t at all hypocritical to champion diversity and to confront injustice simultaneously. They are fully collaborative and integrated movements.
All people are welcomed at the table but bigotry isn’t, so save the allegation that its acceptance is a requirement for me.
Equality demands decency toward humanity’s diverse gathering–and it’s what I demand.
[The above article appeared first in John Pavlovitz’s STUFF THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID on January 12, 2017. Permission pending.]