It’s been a while since I added a new post, but a recent message on Facebook inspired me to write about something I did not include in my book.
I wrote one chapter explaining what we did to earn money, but I did not go into any detail about what we did to have fun. Yes, in spite of the abuse and hard work we had to do on the farm, we also managed to have fun, but the kind of fun we had back in the 1950s and 1960s was much different from what children do now for fun and entertainment. In fact, today’s kids probably never even heard of some of the games we played. Before computers, video games and cell phones, we created our own fun and most of the time, it did not cost money.
Tin Can Off (also called) Kick the Can
This was one of my favorite games when I was young. To play this game we needed to have at least six or more kids and we always had enough since we had such a large family. Often times neighborhood kids would come over to our farm and play this game with us, which made it even more fun. Here’s how it worked:
One person would be “IT.” We set up a tin can on a home plate. The person who was “IT” would cover their eyes with their hands on their face and count to 100. While the person who was “IT” was counting, everyone else would scatter and hide. Living on a farm meant there were plenty of places to hide–like in the barn, pig house, chicken coop, behind bales of hay or any place where we would not easily be seen.
For the players, the objective would be to find a good hiding place that was not too far from where the can on the home plate was located. For the person who was “IT,” the objective was to find everyone who was hiding without getting too far from the tin can on home plate. Once the person who was “IT” saw anyone who was hiding, that person would run to the tin can, place their foot on it and call out the name of the player he or she saw.
Once a player was spotted, they had to go hang around at home plate. If that player could beat the person who was “It” to home plate and kick the can, the player would be free to run and hid again while the person who was “IT” would have to count again. The second time he or she might only have to count to 50 or 25. If the player did not beat the person who was “IT” to home plate, that player would be considered “caught” and they would have to hang around home plate, while the person who was “IT” tried to find and name the other players before they had a chance to kick the can. If seven kids were caught and another player managed to get to home plate and kick the can, they would all be set free to go hide again.
Nobody wanted to be “IT,” because it was usually very difficult to catch everyone before one of the players managed to get to home plate, kick the can, and set everyone free to hide again. If the person who was “IT” did manage to catch everyone, then the first person who was caught would have to be “IT.” Then the game would start all over again.
Sometimes we played this game in corn fields when the corn stalks were high enough to hide behind.
This game also required several participants. The bigger and stronger we kids were, the more fun it was to play this game, but it was a really brutal game for the younger and weaker kids to play. We formed two lines of kids facing each other and each line usually had about six kids. Each line had a team captain. The captains would take turns asking, “Red Rover, Red Rover, please send (Johnny or somebody else) right over.” Each line of kids held hands really tight and the object was to not allow anyone from the opposite team to break through their line. The team captain would try to ask for the weakest person in the other team’s line to run and try to break through the weakest link in the opposite team’s line. If a big, strong kid was able to break through, they could choose someone from that team to go and join their team instead. If the player who tried to break through the other team’s line failed, that player would have to stay and join that team. The objective would be to get the most players to win the game. Looking back, I’m surprised more kids did not get broken wrists or arms because the potential certainly was there.
Green Light, Red Light
We made a finish line in the yard with a rope, tape or some other marker, where the person who was “IT” would stand. Then we marked off another line about 30 to 50 feet away where everyone else would stand. The person who was “IT” would start the game by saying “Green Light.” As soon as the other players heard “Green Light” they would make a mad dash toward the finish line. However, the person who was “IT” would say “Red Light” any time he or she wished. As soon as the person who was “IT” said “Red Light,” everyone making a mad dash toward the finish line had to immediately stop and freeze in place without moving a single foot, arm or muscle. After calling out “Red Light,” if the person who was “IT” spotted anyone move, he or she would call their name and that player would then have to go all the way back to the line where they all started. The objective of this game was to be prepared to stop and freeze in an instant and not get sent back. The first one to get to the finish line would be the winner; and would then be the one in charge of calling “Green Light” and “Red Light.”
King of the Mountain
When the haymow of our barn was full of hay, we would all climb on top of the hay. The objective of this game was to push everyone else off the top of the hay, until only one kid remained standing on top. That player won the title of “King of the Mountain.” Looking back now, I’m truly amazed that none of us kids got broken arms, legs or head injuries from playing such a dangerous game. In fact, I think it’s a miracle none of us got seriously injured. I guess we somehow instinctively learned how to safely fall.
Other Outdoor Activities
We also went ice skating and sledding in the winter months and played softball games in summer months, went fishing and swimming, played jump rope “Cat and Mouse” tag, walked on barrows and stilts and did summersaults from the haymow ledge onto little piles of straw on the ground below. We could have broken our necks or backs and become paralyzed if we had landed wrong or hit our heads on the brick wall of the barn on our way down or missed the straw pile altogether and landed on the ground instead. That was also a miracle none of us sustained a serious injury doing that.
During long Minnesota winter months, we played a lot of board games and card games–like monopoly, regular checkers and Chinese checkers, scrabble, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, Authors and Whisk. My favorite card game was Authors.
I believe the fun my siblings and I managed to have in spite of the abuse, helped us to become survivors.
It appears most of today’s children are not nearly as active as my siblings and I were when we were growing up.