Playing for Keepers

| 8/20/2010 4:52:28 PM

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Sam Moore   
Sam Moore  

Readers may think I’ve “lost my marbles,” but this is about a game that used to be extremely popular with most boys – and some girls – but that’s almost unheard of today.

Just about every boy carried in his pocket a small cloth sack filled with brightly colored round marbles made of glass or clay. At every school recess, a group of kids could be found kneeling around a circle scratched in the dirt with a stick.

The object of the game is for each player to place one or two of his marbles in the center of the circle so the target marbles, or “mibs,” form a cross. Turns are determined somehow, often by seeing who can shoot a marble closest to a line. The players then take turns rolling their favorite “shooter” at the target marbles and trying to knock one or more out of the circle, while their shooter stays inside the line. The shooter holds his shooting marble in the crook of his index finger, with his thumb behind the marble. He kneels or hunkers down and places the hand palm up and knuckles touching the ground, takes careful aim, and flicks the marble with his thumb toward his chosen target.

If the shot is successful, the shooter picks up the knocked out marble and shoots again from wherever his shooting marble stopped inside the ring. If his shooter stops in the ring and he fails to knock out a mib, his shooter stays where it is and becomes fair game for the next shooter. It was a coup to win an opponent’s shooter, as most kids had a favorite that they prized highly.

When all the mibs have been knocked out of the ring, the player with the most marbles is the winner and the marbles are returned to their owners. If, however, the game is “keepers,” or “keepsies,” each marble becomes the property of the player holding it.