Continued from last week
Reprint: Berks County TV web site 2012, First Use
Outside, yard, barnyard, and fields
When we ventured outside, there was no stopping us, whether summer or winter.
There were the usual summer games like Kick the Can, Red Light, marbles, Simon Says, roller skating and jump rope. We knew many phrases jumping rope. This is one I recall:
Cinderalla, dressed in yella,
Went downtown to buy some jello.
On the way her girdle busted.
How many people were disgusted?
1,2,3, 4 etc. (the count is to see how many you can jump)
Then there was a game called Statues, where we’d swing someone round and round by their hands, drop them and see who created the best statue.
In some games you had to make a decision to eliminate a person or decide who goes first. This was done with a bat. Two people took turns wrapping hands around the bat, starting at the bottom to the top. The person who couldn’t fit their hand on the bat any more was eliminated. These are two phrases we used:
Eeny, meani, miny, mo
Catch a tiger by the toe,
If he hollers, let him go.
My mother says you are out
One potato, two potato,
Three potato four;
Five potato, six potato;
Seven potato; more!
When I was a youngster, I gave up music lessons for my summer pool---a tub of water. Then there was our pond, which was really too low to swim in, but we knew how to enjoy it anyway. We could hang on a willow branch, take a run and swing over the pond and splash into the water. Our next swimming hole was a large pipe under the highway (Route 222). We’d dam up each end and swim (or pretend) back and forth.
I can’t forget the creek in the meadow. All of us knew the art of skipping stones. The creek came in handy for washing our bare feet after stomping in warm cow plops in the meadow.
Pop did not like dandelions, but we did. When the stem and the round seed head were left, we’d pick a bucket full. Before they were placed in the bucket, we had the fun of blowing those hated seeds for a good start for Pop’s next year’s crop. We took the bucket to Mom’s little outside fish pond and put water in it. The stems were scraped with a dull knife and curled in the water. This was truly fascinating to us.
A pile of wood, near the lean-to-shed was all we needed to put together make-shift stilts. We’d try to find a long board, about 4 feet in length. Near the bottom—about 12 inches up---we’d nail a small piece of wood for supporting the shoe, which had to be tied on. To get on the stilts, we’d have to stand on the edge of the porch in front of the railing.
Fields captured our imagination as well. When the corn stalks were high, we’d run back and forth between rows trying to catch someone. When fields were freshly plowed, we’d tag along with Pop looking for arrowheads on Sunday afternoons.
In winter, the frozen pond was used for both sledding and ice skating. Mom often got hand-me-downs at the auctions she attended. I’d wear my older sisters,’ ice skates, stuffing them with an old sock. It worked.
If someone new was sledding with us we always made sure we played the elbedritsch prank on him or her. We’d ask if they’d help us catch a small animal called an elbedritsch. If they agreed, we’d give them a burlap bag to catch it in. We told them to stand at the bottom of the hill and we’d go to the other side and chase the animal towards them. Once out of sight, we’d head for the house for Mom’s hot cocoa and pop corn until the person “being had” returned.
Anita told me, “We took the narrow strips of wood from Pop’s old barrels apart. These curved boards made terrific snow skis. Like stilts, we tied our boots on them. It was fun!”
On the hill above our house were two high banks on either side of the dirt road. Before the plows came through, they were the best places to build igloos. Anita told me, “When I was young we didn’t have snow plows. Farmers had to have their lane open for the milk man. They would chop snow---deep thick cuts---in blocks to clear the road. These blocks made the best and sturdiest igloos. They were so big, we sat in them.”
I’m sure Mom was happy to have us play outside, even if she was concerned about our barn games.
I’ve never been on the barn roof. I’d rather be called a “scardey cat.” Most of my siblings did climb the barn roof and slid down to the lean-to-shed, next to the barn. One time Mom caught Anita and Paul. They found her out of breath at the bottom. She managed to get out, “Go to the house now!” Paul vouches his behind hurt for days.
Another dangerous feat was walking the high beams---with your hands. For this too, I was a “scardey cat.” My brother, David, goaded me into trying the beams in the butcher shed. I did. I fell into an already broken jug. Luckily, Mom’s spinster sister lived in our “old kitchen” and was able to get me to the doctor for stitches.
Anita, the oldest, told me, “Pop had a blind horse, called Prince. We’d tie a rope around bales of hay and guide Prince to the barn, where a certain section held the bales. There was a pulley at the rafters. We’d hang on the pulley and jump off into the hay bales.” Gladys told me she sprained her ankle doing this stunt.
We also built tunnels in the hay bales, which we were told not to do. Upon hearing Pop come in the barn, David, Gladys and I kept very quiet. Pop tromped on the bales, not knowing we were there, and they toppled all over us. We screamed. Pop quickly ran to the barn door and yelled, “Mom, get here fast before the kids suffocate!”
We survived---all three of us. We did have red behinds though.
Another jump we liked was into straw. The threshing machine was on the second floor of the barn. It blew the straw out the big door and onto the barnyard. This was a neat jump!
Of course, there were the safer games like hide and seek and tag in the barn. If there weren’t enough siblings, we always had neighbor kids to play with.
Once we were teens, the barn held a basketball hoop for games. If someone parked their car nearby and blasted the music, we could even dance ---at least the girls did.
I know if I’d tackle a romp in the corn crib my fanny hurt for awhile, but I still did it. We’d run up and down the cribs filled with corn, stumbling, falling, and giggling. Today, I am scared of mice, but as a kid I romped with the baby pink mice in the corn crib.
Our farm entertainment may be over, but we’ll always have the memories. Always!
Carole Christman Koch grew up in Berks County and has been published in numerous publications. She has a passion for writing and has many stories from growing up on a farm to raising children to humorous stories about her and her husband to everyday stories to season stories and more.