Mary's Marbles
Mary's Marbles

The snow is just gone from the yard and the boys are outside with their marbles. This is the first time since they got them for Christmas that they have been able to go outside and play. Parts of the yard are still oozing mud. The wagons even get stuck. The knees of the boys’ trousers are very muddy already as they knuckle at taw. Brent did not know what taw meant. I had to explain that it means marbles and the boy playing has to make sure his hand is exactly where his marble had come to rest when he is ready to shoot. Josh told me he has a bag of marbles in his room at home.  He has a room of his own.

When the boys playing marbles have to decide who will begin the game, they use this counting-out rhyme. One of them tells of the words of this rhyme by tapping every player; and the one on whom the last word falls is the one who is “out.” They repeat this until only one boy is left and he begins the game:

Eny, meny, mony, mine,
Hasky, pasky, daily, ine,
Agy, dagy, walk.*

Some marbles are clay marbles baked by the sun or in a kiln. The boys call them muddies. I like the glass marbles. When I can play with them, I spin them in the sunshine to see the colors brighten. I don’t have any of my own. They are for boys. Josh told me that all of his marbles are glass.

Marble Terms:

Bosted – thrown
Getting fat – losing all of your marbles so that you are out of the game
Offing – the line from which marbles are shot
Pound – circle or ring where marbles are placed
Span – the length between a person’s thumb and smallest finger when the hand is spread apart
Taw – shooter marble

Subsequent to the period for marbles, the appropriate series of sports in New York was explained by the adage:”Top-time’s gone, Kite-time’s come, and April Fool’s Day will soon be here.”

– American Children Through Their Books: 1700-1835

by Mary Beekman

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