The Evils of Marbles

THE EVILS OF MARBLES
by Wayne Ware

Long ago before I had gray hair I loved to play marbles but I was not that I was good at it. My mom hated me playing marbles. The playing field was good old dusty dirt and a lot of it which meant you got dusty and dirty. I would come back from playing with a good coating of grit. Mom would look at me and say “if you had any more dirt in your ears you could grow potatoes.

When I was a boy you got wear long pants when you were a “big boy” but playing marbles with long pants meant the knees of your pants were soon to develop big holes which mom would have to sew in patches.

We played different games – one was like golf – you would have several holes in the ground and you would get down on your knees and using your finger and knuckles shoot your shooter towards the next hole – if you missed they would put your shooter in that hole and the next player would shot if he made the hole he got to keep your marble and he would keep playing – I lost many a marble that way.

When you could get several boys to play (not many girls played – they wore dress and they didn’t want to get their knees dirty) you drew a big circle to play in. Everyone would ante up marbles to put in the middle of the circle – it depended on how many players were going to play but 2 or 3 each was common. After the ante was put up the players would all shoot towards a lag line and that would determine the shooting order. If you got to shoot first there would be good chance to knock out more than one marble. The way shooting worked you got down on your knees and put your hand just outside the circle and with finger and knuckles you would shoot towards the other marbles and try to knock some of the ante-up marbles out of the ring if you didn’t knock anything you lost your turn.

Boys always had a lucky shooter to shoot with and you didn’t want to lose your lucky shooter. The problem was if it was your shoot and your shooter ended up inside the ring it was open game for the next guy. Now some of the boys would find a bigger marble or even a steely (a ball bearing) to shoot with and man-oh-man you didn’t want to lose your shooting baby so you would try to hit a marble with a side shot so as to knock out the one you’re shooting at and have your shooter ricochet out of the ring. The neat thing about a big marble or even better “a steely” was if it ended up in the middle they were very hard for someone to knock out of the ring. That was good thing because it would leave that guy in a good position to have a better shot when his turn came.

Well it was exciting and in a way it was a form of gambling and I didn’t always win but I was addicted. I would spend my afternoons hunting pop and milk bottles to sell – and even spend my lunch money on more marbles.

At the time we lived in rural New Orleans and a lot of kids didn’t have shoes all the time so as it got warmer of lot of kids didn’t have shoes on at school. Well I was so addicted to playing I would take off my shoes and socks and hide them on the way to school so I could go to school without shoes. The reason was - if I was losing and didn’t have enough ante marbles I would hang around games and when no one was looking I would (with my scrunched uptoes) snitch a marble and off I go to another game and try my luck.

Well as you can guess my mom could not understand why my feet would get so dirty when I was wearing shoes and socks. One day it all came to a head – someone found my stash of shoes and socks and stole them and I had to face my mom and own up to the scam so ending my life of crime.

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