Sunday, August 26, 2018

Musing About Childhood Games

I just saw one of those little margin surveys on a web site, and it got me reminiscing. :)

It asks, what's the best childhood game? and offers kickball, capture the flag, hide-and-seek, or other.

For me, remembering how we played those games, it depends.

In the daytime, it's capture the flag, hands-down. At school, we played capture the flag on the soccer field, with extra-large chalkboard erasers as the flags. The 50-yard line divided the field in half, and jumpropes marked out huge circles at either end of the field, two on each end, one where your side's flag hung out, and one as the "jail" where captured players from the other side hung out.

For anyone who never played, the point is to get over the border, through/past the other team, grab their flag, and then carry it back across the border to your side, all without getting tagged. This, as you can imagine, is very difficult and takes considerable cunning.

If you're tagged while on the other team's side (or if kids from the other side could lean over the border and grab you -- without moving both their feet onto your side -- and drag you over the border so both of your feet were on their side) then you were captured and had to go to their jail. I have a feeling the grab-and-drag part of the program probably wouldn't be allowed in today's elementary schools. [cough]

If you could make your way past the other team without getting tagged and get to their jail, you got a free walk back with some one person who was in jail -- you could "rescue" them. You had to walk back holding hands, or grabbing their wrist, or whatever your childish ego would allow. :)

An out-and-out win was rare, and when it happened it took cunning. One of my favorite tricks was to wait until nobody was watching me, then step over the border and start walking, all slumped down and dejected-looking, toward the jail. Most of the time, anyone who saw you were assume you'd been captured, and you might get some jeers, but rarely would anyone bother tagging you. When I got to the jail, it was all, "Hah-HAH!" and "Losers!" as I walked back with one of my teammates.

Alternately, I'd walk dejectedly to jail, but then stay there, as though I'd actually been captured, whether or not there was anyone from my team legitimately there. Rescue wasn't the point. Then from jail, where I was free to leave whenever I wanted since I hadn't actually been captured, I'd watch the other team. Most of their attention was usually facing away, toward the border and my side, as they watched for incursions from the front. I'd wait until some other of my teammates were making a push to get over the border, and when all the enemies were fully engaged elsewhere, I'd dash over from the jail to the flag circle, grab the flag and hotfoot it to the border, passing enemies from behind. I actually made it a few times, which was pretty awesome. :D

Out of school, the kids on my block played a sorta similar game we called British Bulldog. We played on a large lawn, the adjoining yards between two houses. Each house had a concrete walk leading from the front door, along the side of the garage, then a short jog back (away from most of the lawn) to the driveway, which continued on to the sidewalk and the curb. We played between Tommy and Jimmy Tousignant's house, and Jimmy Ramirez's house, because there were no intervening trees or bushes, just a big expanse of lawn from one walkway/driveway to the other.

Someone started as the Bulldog, and went in the middle of the lawn. Everyone else lined up on the walk or the driveway, which were Base, a safe zone. The sidewalk was out of bounds. The Bulldog yelled, "British Bulldog" (I don't know why, that's just what it was) and everyone tried to dash across the lawn to get to the walk/driveway Base on the other side.

While this happened, the Bulldog would try to "get" someone. They had to get the person they were after down on their butt on the grass. How they did this was up to them. Pretty much anything was allowed -- tackling, pushing, grabbing and arm and doing the swing-and-slam... whatever. Yeah, it was a rough game. I think that's why we liked it so much. (Yeah, I was the only girl playing.)

If the Bulldog successfully got someone down on their butt, they were captured, and they stayed in the middle. Now there were two people trying to "get" the kids still running across. The game continued until everyone had been captured except one person, and that person got to be the new Bulldog for the next game.

No flags or anything, but there are similarities, and it was one of our favorite games to play in the daytime. :) The fact that it required no equipment at all was probably a major plus.

At night, though, hide-and-seek was king. We played in the daytime sometimes, but twilight and after dark were the best times. The shadows were your friends, and you could be a lot more creative with your hiding places.

I'm going to assume everyone knows how to play hide-and-seek. In the daytime, you have to actually hide someplace where you're hidden. As the light faded, though, you could be sneaky. We played in the front yards of five or six adjacent houses along our street, so there was quite a lot of territory to go through. One neighbor had a row of loose bushes running down the border between their yard and the next; in the dim or dark, you could kneel down on all fours between two bushes and fade into the ragged row of foliage, whereas in the daytime you'd be laughably visible. And once (but only once!) I successfully hid by standing up, straight and still, against a neighbor's garage, along a line of tall, straight, juniper bushes that grew there, a few feet apart. The kid searching didn't notice that two pairs of bushes were twice as close together as all the others. [grin]

Ninjas weren't really a thing at that time in popular kid-culture, in the early- to mid-seventies, but we were totally ninjas on those summer nights, hiding from each other in the shadows and the dim-blurred yards.

What games did you play as a kid?



Suzan Harden said...

Growing up on a farm, usually there was only my younger siblings to play with. Once morning chores were done in the summers, we'd pack lunches and go exploring or berry picking when they ripened in July.

If we drove into town, we'd play with our cousins or the next-door kids at our grandparents. Since it was usually in the evening, we'd play tag or hide-and-seek until the lightning bugs came out. Then it was a race to see who could collect the most.

I'm such a country girl. LOL

Angie said...

Suzan -- I did not get a notification for this. :/

Definitely a country girl. :D Although we did something similar.

I lived in a subdivision, rows and rows of houses for miles around, with the occasional school or park or church or shopping center. But three blocks away there was a creek running between the backyards of two streets' of houses. It was a concrete-sided creek, all neatened up and tamed, that was mainly used for flood control and such; that's where the sewer water went. But it wasn't dead; the bottom was covered in fine silt, and there were a few kinds of plants, and there were tadpoles every spring.

So earlyish in the spring, two or three of the boys on my block and I would troop down to the creek (climbing over the chainlink fence to get in) with buckets. We'd scoop up a good amount of creek water, along with a bunch of moss and water plants, plus either strings of frog eggs (okay, they were toad eggs, but we called 'em frogs) or tadpoles, whichever was there depending on when we showed up.

We took them home and raised them. We learned the hard way (after trooping back to the creek for more eggs/tadpoles :( ) to keep the buckets filled with hose water as the sun evaporated what was in there. We had enough of the creek environment that we didn't have to worry about feeding them, and in truth I never thought about it, so it's just as well there were/was enough of whatever they ate in the stuff we put into the buckets. [wry smile]

It was great watching them develop legs, then lose their tails. When they were grown-up frogs, we let them go in our yards.

Then in summer, we went out after dark with those same buckets and flashlights and hunted frogs. Sometimes we kept them for a few days, and sometimes we just played with them for a while and then let them go again. One of my friends put together a frog circus, and tried to teach one to walk a tightrope, LOL! The frog could actually cling pretty well to a string stretched between two sticks, but wouldn't move forward or backward on it. The frog circus never really went anywhere.

It was fun, though, and we did it every year for as long as I lived in that neighborhood. Kinda similar to catching lightning bugs? Molesting the local wildlife, anyway. :)


Suzan Harden said...

LOL "Molesting wildlife" doesn't sound quite right.

Google has been messing with settings again. I got an e-mail from them last week week, asking if I still wanted to be notified by e-mail if I got a comment on my blog. If you didn't get one, you might want to check your spam folder.

Angie said...

I did get that e-mail, I think it was a couple of days ago. [nod] I suppose they might've suspended notifications for a few days, maybe some wires got crossed. :/ I keep a pretty good eye on my spam folder, eyeball everything before flushing it.

"Molesting" the wildlife does sound dirty [innocent humming] but if you go back to the original meaning of the root word, it just means "to bother." The original usage of "molest" with sexual implications was a euphemism, and then we stopped using it for other contexts. I'm just trying to restore the original fullness of the language. :D