A Walking Parlez … ‘Like I’m Walkin With a Talkin Machine’

As I topped the hill and started into the next curve of the trail, a voice hailed me from back down the hill a ways. “Hey, wait up!” Words from an authoritative, distinctly-female voice. I turned quickly to see a woman slight of stature, short-cropped blonde hair and a wiry frame with a light sweater tied around her neck, rapidly approaching. An older woman … maybe around my age. Unaware that she had been behind me, I wondered how she so suddenly materialized out of thin air. No bother, just curious.

True to my politeness training (thanks, mom), I stopped and waited, almost obediently. The waning day lingered just above the far west horizon like a young kid getting a last taste of fun before scurrying home to dinner. I was in no hurry, having knocked out most of – and thus, slowed down on – my 5-mile walk on this off-bicycle day of cross-training.

She of the commanding voice soon caught up. Noticeably, she was rambling quick words even as she approached — noting the maturing sunset, the wasteful running of water from a truck-tank pipe left gushing precious agua below us, “here, of all places, in the desert!”

“Yes,” I responded as I turned to resume pace. “I called 9-1-1 to get help or permission [city property, I thought], but they were of no help and seemed quite disinterested.” But she interrupted.

“Idiots!” she yelled. “They don’t care, they just don’t CARE!”

“How to change the subject?” I fished in my mind under my breath. “I love this area!” I outwardly enthused. “So much to do, so many places to enjoy recreation, the mountains, the walking trails, lots of road cycling lanes.”

“Oh, you cyclists are crazy!” she screeched in response. “You take your lives in your OWN HANDS!”

My mental response, which I could not squeeze in edgewise, was, “Of course! Don’t you? You’re out here walking and flagged me down without any earthly idea who I am. What if I’m a serial killer? What about the snakes? Muggers? You got out of bed this morning risking a heart attack that is most likely – according to medical science – within the first 30 minutes of arising. Why? And why are you ranting to me, a total stranger, about the risks I take?”

But she had moved on to another subject even before my thoughts fully developed, and she was seemingly devoid of recognition that she had hailed down a human being with a different viewpoint.

An old James Taylor song popped into my mind. First verse:

Me and T-Bone on the road to town, it’s like I’m walkin’ with a talkin’ machine. Just as soon’s he thinks of somethin’ else, he won’t wait to interrupt himself. Must be somethin’ that he can’t quite say, he just doesn’t wanta leave it that way ….

We walked on together – I was near home and had no need to be deterred  — as she rambled about women having no chance in this world, etc. The varying subjects over the next six minutes rose and fell like waves on a stormy beach, relentlessly pounded by the next. I went into brain-auto-pilot with an occasional “um-hm” until she exclaimed that she is a “very smart woman” because her “mother told [her] so!”

“That’s what mommas do,” I suggested with a smile. But her monologue overrode the thought and skipped away. I took the turn toward home, turning back over my shoulder with “Nice talking with you! Have a great evening!” No inkling in my mind that I had helped.

Predictably, she didn’t hear the farewell and never broke stride, still gushing like a talk show host as she blended into the settling dusk like coffee into hot chocolate.

That ‘taking your life in your own hands’ idiom? I recalled a card bought when I reached Vilano Beach in St. Augustine, Florida on my bicycle – the culmination of a 3,555-mile ride across the continent – apparently a DANGEROUS adventure I shouldn’t have taken. LOA-1 You’ve probably read it before:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

Twain should have added: “Take your life in your own hands.” Life is to be cherished, not held close — or closed — in fear.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© February 6, 2018, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

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Deer Hunters

AMERICA’S HUNTERS

A blogger recently added up the deer license sales in just a handful of states and discovered there were over 600,000 hunters this season in the state of Wisconsin …

Allow me to restate that number: 600,000!  That means that over the last several months, Wisconsin’s hunters became the 8th largest army in the world.  Hunters 2

That’s more men and women under arms than in Iran. More than France and Germany combined.  Deer hunter

These hunters deployed to the woods of a single American state — Wisconsin — to hunt with firearms, and NO PERSON WAS KILLED.

hunter 8Moreover, that number pales in comparison to the 750,000 who hunted the woods of Pennsylvania and Michigan – 750,000 hunters, ALL OF WHOM RETURNED HOME SAFELY.

Toss in a quarter million (250,000) hunters in West Virginia, and it literally establishes the fact that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.  Then include the total number of hunters in the other 46 states — millions more.

The point? ________

America should be forever safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower! Equally important: those gun-owning hunters don’t go out to kill people. Many (most?) have had at least one firearm safety course (many are military veterans) and know how to avoid accidental shootings of their fellow human beings.

Hunting… it’s not just a way to fill the freezer.  It’s also a matter of national security.  hunter-with-a-rifle-gun

That’s why all enemies, foreign and domestic, want to see us disarmed.  Food for thought, when next we consider gun control.  Overall it’s true, so if we disregard the assumption that hunters don’t possess the same skills as soldiers, the question would still remain…

What army of 2 million would want to face 30 million, 40 million, or 50 million armed citizens?

For the sake of our freedom, don’t ever allow gun control or confiscation of guns.

AMERICA!  Designed by geniuses. 

Constitutionally-armed legal citizens are not the problem!

This blogpost courtesy of a friend who shared it with me. Author unknown. All photos are from the public domain, worldwide web.

Christmas Attitudes

City life, any year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, ….” ~ Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Christmas, any year: “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!” ~ Tiny Tim Cratchit from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843)

Christmas. A time for celebration, for joy, for giving and receiving. Yet for some, a time of special pain: memories recalled, sickness suffered, loved ones lost, physical, emotional, financial or spiritual pain.

Maybe part of it has to do with attitude? Preconceived notions? Stubbornness? But maybe not. Maybe it’s the circumstances that seem to control, whether outward or inward.

Regardless, I join Tiny Tim in praying that, for my friends and family who suffer pain of any sort, they shall experience jubilation at the Advent. For those who endure torturous physical pain or illness, I pray for your healing and comfort. For those who encounter the harsh memories of the past, of the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or financial difficulties, I pray for the security of faith, the gift of God, Who knows your need and supplies, even if “just in the nick of time.”  And for those who struggle spiritually for any of many possible reasons, I pray for your self-forgiveness, even as God has forgiven you. May you breathe deeply and drink from the Water that quenches all thirst.

I saw a big man yesterday, standing in line in a sharp business suit perfectly tailored to his fit, lots of nice bling on his arm and hands. Yet he scowled at the inconvenience of waiting, the “lower people” who waited on him. Purchase complete, he walked to his Maserati and drove away with angry power.  Maserati Quattroporte

On my morning walk today, I had to abandon the sidewalk momentarily for an immigrant worker who was trimming trees with a small chainsaw and loading the offal in his old pickup truck. He had a shirt wrapped around his head to catch the sweat and dirt.

David Bacon photo_migrant worker
Photo by David Bacon

Yet he paused as I approached so that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the noise and flying chips. As I came even with him, he politely said, “Good morning sir!” with a cheerful smile of uneven teeth.

Attitude does matter.

 

“God bless us, every one!”

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 6, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Timeless Insults from the Top

Churchill and Trump, among a host of notables, are well-known for their ability to toss out insults about their political opponents at convenient — or inconvenient — moments. Just a few thoughts on that timeless topic here.

“He is a monkey just put into breeches.”

John Adams
John Adams

“Half-envoy, half-pimp.”

gouverneur morris
Gouverneur Morris

Trump tweets? Not at all! These are descriptions of, first, John Adams (then vice-president to George Washington), and, second, Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816, author of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and called “Penman of the Constitution).  The insults were written by Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania (1737-1804).

Second U.S. President John Adams (a brilliant intellect, but said by some to have been a misanthrope) called Alexander Hamilton “a Creole bastard,” and said of Hamilton, “That bastard brat of a Scottish peddler! His ambition, his restlessness and all his grandiose schemes come, I’m convinced, from a superabundance of secretions, which he couldn’t find enough whores to absorb!” (Hamilton, a brilliant man himself, was one of several illegitimate children of his mother.)

Alexander-hamilton-5615
Alexander Hamilton

In the presidential campaign of 1796, two of the four candidates, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, said of each other:

Jefferson’s campaign:  Adams has a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

It appears that the Founding Fathers of our nation, great men though they were, were no more above berating others, when the tactic was deemed expedient, than any of the politicians of our lifetime who use such derogatory statements as “I like people who weren’t captured,” or the “basket of deplorables,” etc. Nastiness is not time-bound to any unique period.

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 4, 2017 by Michael E. Stubblefield.

Always Teach, Always Learn

“Nine Techniques to Restore … the Beauty Way”

by a Navajo healer

portraits-edward-s-curtis_Many Goats Son_1904 Navajo
Navajo boy, son of “Many Goats”

First

Dedicate your sleep to gain knowledge. Dreams can reveal a great deal about what troubles you.

Second

Close your eyes and you see better and hear better.

Third

Ceremonies can remove obstructions. And ceremonies do not have to be elaborate, just something as simple as taking time each morning to feel the dawn.

Fourth

Rise before sunrise and bathe in the coolness. It will help wash badness away, and you’ll be able to handle any situation.

Fifth

Smile about the problems you receive; they build muscle. Serendipity is around every corner and life detour.

Sixth

What’s important is not what happened, but to rebuild.

Seventh

Life is great, life is good, especially when you share it with someone.

Eighth

Teach all the time, and learn all the time.

Ninth

The final technique to restore one to the Beauty Way is prayer. When you pray long enough, you will find shortcuts to the best path to take.

__________________________

Navajo_medicine_man
Navajo Medicine Man “Nesjaja Hatali”

Photo of (1) Navajo boy, son of “Many Goats” (1904), and (2) Navajo Medicine Man Nesjaja Hatalic. 1907 (1907) by Edward Sheriff Curtis, American photographer & ethnologist who documented the lives of the American Indian tribes in photos and recordings. He was known to the American Indians as “the Shadow Catcher.”  Of him, friend and supporter Theodore Roosevelt wrote in the foreword to Volume I of The North American Indian:

“In Mr. Curtis we have both an artist and a trained observer, whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful. …because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities, has been able to do what no other man ever has done; what, as far as we can see, no other man could do. Mr. Curtis in publishing this book is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our own people, but to the world of scholarship everywhere.”

For a fascinating probe into Curtis’ career, I heartily recommend “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” by Timothy Egan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011). 

Different Dances

Dancing is an activity enjoyed around the world. And for the dances of the world, diversity is a descriptor that springs to mind. The word “diversity” is a noun that denotes or means the state of being diverse; variety.” The connotation for that word these days, especially in the press, is narrowly limited to trigger points of ethnicity, gender, race, political and sexual preferences. But the broader connotation of “variety” is much more helpful.

When I think about diversity, friends and family come to mind. In my immediate family, there are physical characteristics that mark us as being kin, yet the talents, interests and outlooks represented are much broader. And although my extended family and friends include racial and ethnic diversity, the differences that bind us together go way beyond that.

JTK-4Take a look at this photo of 1st graders at a Fall school festival and think of the amazing range of talents, sizes, skills, experiences and families represented in the group. The kids in the class were circled, singing and cheering in their face-paint and flower garlands. There were high voices and low voices, some with obvious musical talent and others who seemed to be tone-deaf or, at least, equipped with ears untrained to distinguish various pitches.  Some exuberant, others shy and tentative. Some were clearly leaders who will likely mature into leadership positions in life. Others will become artists, mathematicians or scientists, business leaders, teachers, engineers, etc.

Narrow the group to two individuals with very different personalities who, nonetheless, are very close friends. Who knows what they may someday be and do? JTK-6Both of equal human value, both with definite inclinations and abilities that already show, yet both accepting and ENJOYING each other. That’s how friendship works.

Break it down to an individual level, and one may begin to see the potentials represented in each small human. Or do we really only see the tip of an iceberg that gives small hints of reality yet to be? There’s much yet to be discovered about individual personalities, talents, interests and development.

JTK-7Diversity is a wonderful — and wondrous  — consideration that goes way beyond the dumbed-down concentration on the physical traits of gender and skin color. We cannot begin to fathom the range of differences that each child or person brings to the table until we get beyond the surface and spend lots of quality time in interaction with, and appreciation of, each person’s unique gifts, qualities, thought patterns, physical and mental skills, emotional makeup, and preferences in an infinite number of realms and qualities. How do they see their way to meaning in life? What do they like to do most? Least? What do they want? Aspirations? The list goes on and on.  JTK-8

I think about so many amazing people I’ve met in life — children, school friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, artists and musicians, politicians, clients, students, professors and teachers, and family members — with such a huge array of differences, yet all enjoying and, more importantly, CONTRIBUTING to make life and the world a better place to live.

Here’s to my friends and family who make my world a better place each day; who challenge me to change for the better, to be a better friend and family member, to offer what I can offer to the world without hesitation, knowing that I am enhanced by the sharpening effect of those around me. THANK YOU!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© September 25, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

Leaning

So much to say
Why shouldn’t I say it?
Things need to be said
Why not leave them alone?
Things sure need doing
But I don’t want, can’t do them
That thing should be done
Why not go it alone?
Have skills to do it
But never enough, see?
By gosh, I’ll not do it
But who, if not me?
Fact is, I’m some nice
‘Cept when I’m selfish
And I could sacrifice
‘Til it feels self-defeatish
So where now, what’s up?
What if I leave it alone?
If I avoid the pain
And skedaddle on home?
© July 18, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

A Steadying Hand

“His mind had no horizons. He was interested in everything.” ~ John Steinbeck, About Ed Ricketts

In response to my expressed hope of remaining healthy for years to come, a friend remarked, “And relevant!” He’s about my age, and we share both desires. Conversation followed among a group of longtime friends whose company we particularly enjoy, not only for the joie de vivre that accompanies, but also the far-ranging topics, by turns dead-serious and lighthearted, sometimes simultaneously and always at length.

I was immediately transported in mind to another of John Steinbeck’s eloquent descriptions of his good friend, Ed Ricketts, marine biologist. He put it like this:

“Although his creativeness lay in receiving, that does not mean that he kept things as property. When you had something from him, it was not something that was his that he tore away from himself. When you had a thought from him or a piece of music or twenty dollars or a steak dinner, it was not his – it was yours already, and his was only the head and hand that steadied it in position toward you. For this reason no one was ever cut off from him. Association with him was deep participation with him, never competition. hdbd-1

“I wish we could all be so. If we could learn even a little to like ourselves, maybe our cruelties and angers might melt away. Maybe we would not have to hurt one another just to keep our ego-chins above water.

“There it is. That’s all I can set down about Ed Ricketts. …”

Marine biologist Ed Flanders Robb Ricketts the man, as known by John Steinbeck. My sense is that “relevant” applied to Ricketts’ life.

From About Ed Ricketts by John Steinbeck, apparently published in the early 1950s as a bio-preface to The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

efrw-humboldt-squid
Ricketts holding a Humboldt Squid

   See also http://www.carmelmagazine.com/archive/13wi/ricketts.shtml

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 19, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

Can We Talk?…

I am reflecting yet again on the kindness that all of you, my friends, show day to day in your comments on my Facebook posts. Your support, encouragement, your patience and even your challenges sharpen my thinking and attitudes. How could anyone ask more of friendship?

“Social media can be criticized …, but … it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.”

As I look back over the last year and forward into the full length of this new one, I am struck by what one of my friends, West Doss, articulated so well a few days back. He said, “Social media can be criticized in certain areas, but there is no doubt that it enhances freedom and democracy. It puts the 4th Estate* in the hands of the people.” Great point, as I will show in the next few, short paragraphs. talk-5

2016 was full of surprises and changes some of us could not have imagined before now. The mainstream press was outed as purveyors of “fake news,” half-baked truths and outright lies in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. Many things that should have been reported to the public were not, many things that were relatively un-newsworthy were reported and discussed ad nauseum. But I digress – back to the Internet.

The worldwide web, including social media, is an important channel for all sorts of stories to be ferreted out and reported informally. Even if they’re misreported or fabricated (both inevitable, given the wide range of freedom), the fact that tons of stories and commentary get out means that newsworthy stories will be researched by diligent folks, “commoners” if you will, who will ultimately suss out the truth. By this route, everyone is free to find out the truth without the spin, and without dependency upon a corrupted press. So as West said, we individually become owners of the Fourth Estate.

***

Now turn the corner with me. Today’s January 17, and three respected friends, all of whom I appreciate, have challenged me in one way or other to “move on” from presidential politics because the election is over. Meanwhile, last week I posted short snippets on the about-to-expire presidency of Obama, including concurrent comments on his Chicago farewell speech. One friend characterized my comments as “full of hate” because I took Obama’s remarks to task with facts. I am “hateful” because I question bald assertions made on national TV with facts?!  Is there nothing — not anything — to be learned  from a close-hand review of a presidency about to end?

Another friend said this in response to my post of the Harvard University chart-analysis of Barack Obama’s “economic recovery”:  “It is time to stop looking through a pinhole. We need to swing the door wide open, look farther back and at the same time farther into the future.” Exactly what does that mean — “farther back and farther into the future” — that he’s frustrated because his candidate lost? Looking through a pinhole?  Arguably, that’s all it would take to see the whole of Barack Obama’s positive achievements in the White House, but why should we stop talking about the lessons of his eight years?

We seem these days to have lost the ability, the clarity of mind, to argue politics outside of emotions — i.e., feelings are all that matter. But why are feelings so important, so relevant, when we ignore facts? How is it possible that how one feels becomes more important than actual facts? So one’s feelings about his political party of choice having lost a national election becomes a reason to shut down discussion of an outgoing president’s record in office.

Interestingly, historians and writers still study the working histories of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman et al. Take the writings of Amity Shlaes, a Yale scholar and contemporary author of four non-fiction books, three of which have been New York Times Bestsellers. Of the three, one was about the Great Depression and the New Deal, one about the history of taxes in America, and the third (publ. 2013) was about President Calvin Coolidge.

Talk about “pinholes!”  What could be more boring and out-of-date than looking anew at the presidency of Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929)?  Unless, of course, one wants actually to learn something about the man who, upon the death of Warren G. Harding, succeeded to the presidency and restored confidence to the office. Hmmm. talk-6

In summary, each of us has different gifts, talents, points of view, interests, political and social values – and even our own share of biases. Why do I personally write about politics? Why do I post opinions and information gleaned from a variety of sources? Why can’t I “just be a positive good ol’ boy” and stick to posting humor, photographs and what I’m eating tonight?

BECAUSE … I have a vital interest in our nation, our politics, our culture, our future. I like to share, to DISCUSS facts, to hear feedback from varying viewpoints. I love to consider the views of others, but I also appreciate and enjoy the right of all of us to see things differently, to approach matters from a different angle, to engage and chew on the stuff offered by others before reaching conclusions. I urge us as a nation to return toward that model.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles in a free land. Long live that freedom!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© January 17, 2017, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.

*  The Fourth Estate (or fourth power) most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press.” ~ Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Wanna Play?

“Three and your toll!  Three and your toll!” said the crier. A nearby competitor offered only two.

marbles_akro-agates-1920-1951
Akro agates, mfd. 1920-1951

“Quick decision, assess carefully,” said your mind. “Lookit how small and shallow the hole is, its slanted sides, number of trenches protecting its perimeter, and how far back the lagging line is.” Skill and derring-do matter, but no more than luck. “Can I do it? Am I good enough? Do I have enough marbles to risk? Can I win more easily at the hole with less reward?”

Ah, the fast-paced child’s game of “lagging” with marbles, and always the go-to at recess. Quick game, quickest way to build up a marble collection – or deplete it. A pretty simple game that nonetheless required some skill and confidence. One enterprising boy would dig a small, cup-sized hole and then offer rewards to those who pitted their skill against his construction. If your marble – your “toll” – tossed from a specific line some paces away (typically 5-10 feet away), rolled into and stayed in the hole, you’d win what he offered – three marbles plus your toll back. He kept everything that missed. So if it took you 15 marbles to find your range, then you needed to hit the jackpot, so to speak, five times in order to break even.  Gambling?

Refinements to the lagging hole included making it smaller — or larger and much shallower — with gentle sides, cutting little trenches in front and alongside the hole as barriers, and trash-talking the participant about his lack of skill.

Girls weren’t prohibited, but I don’t remember any in our elementary school or neighborhood ever playing. Knew better than to sully themselves with rowdy boys’ silly games? You decide.

“Marbles,” the generic category. Ringers, chase, lagging – some of the games; steelies (shiny ball bearings), cateyes, agates and log rollers (over-sized marbles), the tools of art.

marbles-cateyes
Cateyes of the ’50s

Hours and hours spent on knees, wearing holes in our jeans and eventually sporting sewn-on (early days) and then iron-on patches (modern contrivances) over those holes to extend the life of the jeans. And ALWAYS a well-worn bare spot in the front yard of at least one boy’s house in the neighborhood, evidence of serious addiction.

Grimy, earth-stained knuckles on the back of the shooting hand and bulging jeans pockets were also clues of advanced involvement. We’d show up with front pockets loaded with marbles at school (or church, if parents were permissive — or unaware), ready to play before, at recess and lunch, and after. Dare not let them escape your pocket during class or church, though!  In the days of wooden floors in sanctuaries and classrooms, official confiscation was immediate and sure, along with corporal punishment and a note home — guaranteed.

Players’ rules were atop the pecking order in all marble games, though they varied from yard to yard, neighborhood to neighborhood, school to school, even day-to-day, and were based on the players’ skills and previous experience, plus their acquired knowledge of the other players’ reputations. So agreeing on “the rules” usually involved lots of haggling and protests of “not fair,” but if you wanted to play the game, you had to go by the rules, SOMEONE’S rules. If you didn’t like those rules, better use your powers of persuasion to enlist enough guys to start a new game with the critical mass necessary for fun. Not unlike the “game” of business and life in general, come to find out.

Common rules included “liners are inners” (or “outers,” alternatively), “no steelies allowed” and “no slippies!” So many times, a boy would poise to shoot, only to have the marble slip and trickle out without any force. If you hadn’t called “no slippies” before the game, then he’d yell “slippies!” and would get another chance at the shot.

Playing “chase” was a way for two or more kids to have fun with marbles. Just shoot your marble off the line and then pursue the other players’ marbles through the grass and dirt. If you were good enough or lucky enough to hit someone else’s marble with your shot, it was “captured’ and you were its new owner.

marbles_concentration_rocco-morabito
Morabito, Rocco. Concentration, a young boy playing marbles – Jacksonville, Florida, 1961. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Transportation of one’s marble stash was an issue to be reckoned with. With jeans pockets maxed out, the serious marble player found a sack or bag of some sort to tote his treasure. I remember graduating to a canvas bank bag, olive-drab in color, that had a drawstring top, courtesy of First National Bank of Fort Smith. My initials were scrawled by my hand in ink on the top. Large enough to hold about a quart in volume, the bag was originally made to carry coins from business to bank. But ideal, in a kid’s marble world, for toting the rewards of play.

“Ringers” was the game of choice in my circle of friends. We started by scratching out a large circle in the dirt with a stick.  Then each boy would have to drop in the agreed ante in marbles all at once, letting them fall where they would. If they stayed in the circle, they were fair game, but if they fell outside the circle, you had to re-drop them inside. When all players anteed up, the shooting began based upon a predetermined order reached by a separate competition like lagging to see who got closest to another line scratched in the dirt, or odd-manning by drawing straws, flipping a coin, or rock-paper-scissors.

The object: by firing his shooting marble, fixed between thumb and forefinger, from anywhere along the outside of the ring, the player attempted to knock all the marbles out of the ring, one at a time. No “fudging” was allowed –no sneaking your hand slightly into the circle to gain an unfair advantage – and if you fudged, you lost your turn. As long as you knocked a marble out, you got to keep shooting until you missed. And if your shooting marble stuck inside the ring when you knocked another out, you gained the advantage of being closer to your target. We all hoped to “stick,” and certain marbles were believed to have greater stick-ability. If you had a “sticker” and the skill to use it well, you could fill up your marble sack pretty quickly. Your sticker became your “doogie” (not the same definition as the modern Urban Dictionary). Hence, we sometimes invited play by saying, “Hey, wanna shoot some doogies?”

If you missed your shot, the next person in order would shoot, and so on until all the marbles were knocked out of the ring. Any marbles you knocked out became yours, so the object was to “go for all the marbles.”

marbles_by-star1950-on-flickr
Marbles by star1950 on Flickr

All sorts of shooting innovations were imagined and tried, always causing a proliferation of new rules designed to counter them in the next game. One such invention was to stack your shooting hand on top of your non-shooting hand elevated off the ground in spider fashion, in order to be able to shoot downward at a sharp angle with the hope of being more likely to stick in the ring. It didn’t take long for prohibitions like “no steelies” to preempt those who wanted to use shiny ball-bearings as shooters because of their extra heft and durability.

Other difficulties could be introduced through making larger rings (thus requiring harder, better shooting) and putting various trenches inside the circle to deflect shots. But if you created a circle like that, you usually weren’t going to have very many players for very long.

Child-play without electronics, … back in the good ol’ days. Get some kids in the great outdoors today, and they’ll still invent games to engage each other. Just sit back and watch the fun as they “go for all the marbles,” then consider a big reduction in screen time — yours and theirs. Just sayin’ …!

Carpe diem. Vita brevis!

© December 7, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights to my original work reserved.