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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Barnyard Games

Barnyard Games

Marilyn (Kern) Elrod
Betty (Hickman) Mendenhall 
Raleigh Emry
other good sports and poor sports


Tag on the Stock Pens
by Marilyn Elrod

My husband mentioned Cowboys & Indians and of course vacant lot Baseball. Everyone knows the rules, but maybe others can tell their own stories of playing baseball.

You mentioned snipe hunting today. I was snipe hunting in the Black Hills of South Dakota while going to school in Rapid City and got the worse case of poison ivy I have ever had until this summer.

Another game we enjoyed, was playing tag on the stock pens. I think that is what they were called. Maybe the country kids can help me out here. I delivered the Omaha World-Herald while I was still in grade school, and remember waiting for the train to bring the newspapers to town. When the train was late, we would have a great game of tag on the loading pens that were just northeast of the train station. Then modern times came and the train stopped coming to Ainsworth.

I lived on the east side of town, and we also had stock pens east of our house (across the street from the old Catholic Church). When my "city" cousins came to town we always played tag on those pens, too. You can guess the rules, if you got caught or fell off the fences you were it! We got real good at swinging across the gates and balancing ourselves on the fences, but I can't guess how many splinters we got while playing that game.


Snipe Hunting 
by Betty Mendenhall

I do remember when I was new bride that my husband, who was also a Sandhills kid, took me Snipe hunting when we were visiting his parents at the Fish Hatchery in Valentine. We had gone frogging and fishing, so I didn't think too much of it when he said he wanted to take me Snipe hunting.

As I recall, we drove away from the house a ways, he gave me a gunny sack to hold while he went out and scared up the Snipe, which I was to catch into the sack. It was after dark. I had a flashlight. I believe the flashlight was supposed to attract the Snipe so they would run toward the sack.(?) Now, he didn't go far or leave me there long before he doubled up in laughter because I had fallen for the "Snipe hunting, and holding the bag."

I do not remember any other particulars. I don't think I was as amused as he was though at the time. :)

I'm sure there's more to it than that, so hope you'll hear from someone with more expertise. Good luck, and hopefully somebody will remember how to play some of these games. I would love to know.


Nearly all I Remember About
Barnyard Games
by Raleigh Emry

Here's nearly all I remember about barnyard games. I was usually the youngest in my Niobrara Canyon playgroup of siblings and cousins and thus never had full comprehension of the rules. It seemed that the rules always changed when I was gaining the slightest advantage and I soon found myself "Out", "In Jail" in "FAR Outfield" or in some other non-participatory role. The oldest, or loudest participant seemed to always have the bat, if we were playing ball, or to be the "changer of rules" in games that weren't going his/her way.

WORK UP: You need one bat, one ball, and more than one player. Everyone gathers around and a player gently tosses the bat straight up into the air ... A couple of feet will do... no sense killing someone. A second player catches the bat with one hand. Then another player grabs the bat with one hand just above the hand of the one holding the bat. The new holder allows another player to grab the bat tightly above his hand, and so on. This continues until there is no more bat to hang onto. The player who has the last hold on the bat is the batter.

I don't recall ever being batter. It seemed that no matter how close to the end of the bat I gripped it, the oldest person could sink his fingernails directly into the knob on the end of the bat, pry it out of my grasp, and thus become batter. The rest of us all went out to field the ball. The smart ones went to a position where they believed the batter would bat the ball and thus could quickly "work-up" to be "batter". They then directed the excess (me) to far right out-field calling out, "No! Don't stop yet! ... Keep going! Back farther! ... Farther! ... No! Keep going! ... There behind the barn! ... Keep going! We can still see you!" There, that's good!" By then I would be out of earshot and looking for corncobs and chicken feathers.

Players who were still conveniently in sight of the batter would ready themselves to catch the ball. The batter would toss the ball up and hit it toward the other players. I'm not sure how "work up" worked as I never "worked up", but I believe it went something like this. If you caught a fly-ball you worked up to the next position (outfield to infield, etc.) and finally replaced the batter. My only experience at an "in-field" catch was entirely accidental. I had been given my assignment to catch any wayward balls that might dribble all the way back to our fish pond. I decided if I was going to be way out there in FAR outfield communing with nature, I might as well fish while I played "Work Up". So instead of carrying a fielder's mitt, I carried my fishing pole as I walked through the infield toward the far outfield fish pond. I was about ten paces in front of the impatient batter when I heard the CRACK of his bat followed by a split-second of SIZZLE as the ball closed at near Mach one. I then felt and heard the CRACK of the ball as it found a spot directly between my shoulder blades. I suppose, with such a catch, I should have been designated "batter" on the spot. Instead, I was prone and speechless until I had enough breath to scream. If you have never been hit between the shoulder blades with a near-super-sonic baseball, then you will never know how much it hurts. I envied our livestock. They only had to suffer through a red-hot branding iron. That's my memory of "Work Up".

STEAL STICKS: Teams choose up sides. I was usually the last picked because I was never a Captain. The Captains were the oldest and/or loudest. We drew a line across the barnyard to separate each team's territory. At the end zones of each territory we drew a circle and filled it with sticks (ten I think). The object was to steal the other team's sticks (one at a time). It took strategy because some had to stay back to guard sticks while others went forward on offense. Anytime you were across the center line and in the other team's territory, you could be tagged. Those who were tagged went to jail (a circle in the corner of the barnyard - one for each team)... that's where I always went. If an older "changer of rules" player became tagged, he didn't go to jail. It was no fun in jail. So if a "changer of rules" player was tagged, he insisted on either being sprung from jail through a prisoner exchange, by someone going to jail in his stead... me... or by his team trading one of their sticks for him. Once in jail, I wasn't worth springing from jail even for a lowly stick. "Steal Sticks" then was most always a spectator sport to me. Sometimes I never went across the center line where I could become tagged and go to Jail. Instead I went the other way in search of a pointed stick and some green apples.

ANTE-I-OVER: You need a ball. A small rubber ball is best. A tennis ball would be perfect, but we didn't have any tennis balls. Teams choose up sides. I was usually the last.....etc., etc. Each team gathers on opposite sides of the house, school house, (or outbuilding) and out of view of the other team. Both teams huddle and devise a strategy that never works. The player with the ball calls out "Ante-I-Over!" and tosses the ball over the roof. If you are on the opposite side you watch for the ball and try to catch it. That's why a rubber ball works best. If you are squinting into the sun you won't get your teeth knocked out with a baseball or rock. The player who catches the ball then runs around the house with his team-mates (some to the left and some to the right). The one with the ball can tag players on the other team before they get to the opposite sides of the house. Those so "tagged" by the ball carrier are "Out". The ball is awarded to the other side and they Ante-I-Over. As "Out" is no fun, the older "changer of the rules" player can insist that if he/she is "Out", he/she can play for the team that tagged him/her. When I was "Out, I was "Out" for good. No one listened to my plea for a rule change. That's my memory of "Ante-I-Over". I often wandered off in search of a tin can lid.

SOLITARY GAMES: If you found yourself in my position during team play, you made use of games you could play by yourself. Here's a few:

(1.) A nifty dart: Scout around the barnyard and find a good clean corncob and a few wing feathers from a chicken or other large bird. Stick two or three feathers into one end of the corncob with the natural curve of the feathers arcing outward. Make it as symmetrical as possible. Throw it like a dart. It's so much fun that before long one of the big kids will swipe it and start throwing it and you can get back into the team game when he/she isn't looking.

(2.) An arm extender: Find a lath or sturdy stick about three feet long. Sharpen it on one end. Find some green apples or potatoes or other ammo that will stick onto the pointed end of your launcher. Stick the apple or potato or horse-apple or whatever on the end of the launcher and use its leverage to fling the projectile for amazingly great distances. In the best of conditions, you may be able to hit the "changer of rules" right between the eyes. In the worst of conditions... run fast! But drop the pointed stick or you might put your eye out. Better yet, throw it onto the barn where the chaser can't get it.

(3.) The original Frisbee: Find a tin-can lid. Throw it like a Frisbee. WARNING: Don't try to play catch with a tin-can lid Frisbee. Wounds, especially scalp wounds, from tin-can lid Frisbees bleed like the devil! If you do connect with flesh, plead that the wind caught it and knocked it off course... that you never intended to hit anyone... then run fast!

(4.) Running: Just use your two feet and make tracks. Running is the only barnyard, vacant lot, back alley sport that I excelled at. I could run like a rabbit. I can still run if chased.

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