Country kids’ games and toys in the old days were creative — not because the kids were all that smart but because they didn’t have many store-bought ones.
Mumbly peg was a favorite. You open your pocket knife’s long blade all the way, and the short blade halfway. You play over ground that’s muddy, and flip the knife up. The way it sticks when it comes back down determines your score — 100 points if the long blade sticks, 25 points if the short blade sticks. If nothing sticks, nothing is what you get.
Whoever gets to 500 points first wins.
Then comes the fun part. The winner gets a piece of twig or wood to make a “peg,” which is buried as far as possible in the mud. The loser must pull the peg out using teeth only — no hands.
As for toys, we built our own stilts out of long slabs of wood with foot rests nailed onto the slab. My brother and I once made some stilts so tall we had to climb up on the chicken house roof to get on them. Of course, if we wrecked it was spectacular, but fun.
I’ve noticed although the toys have changed through the years the basic attitudes we have toward them are the same. As kids get older their toys and other possessions become more sophisticated — or at least bigger. Plus, we feel the need to customize them to make them uniquely our own.
Many ranch parents register a brand for each child and begin branding a calf — usually a heifer — for each kid every year, the idea being they’ll have a herd by the time they’re grown. That made customizing all the toys easy. My stilts had my brand on them, as did my brother’s.
The biggest, most important toy — then and now — is a car. Not just any old car, either. It’s gotta be a wow car. And we’ve gotta earn the money to buy it ourselves. That usually doesn’t happen until the late teen years.
Ah, the late teens. Then is when we’re absolutely immortal. The car I managed was a red 1957 Chevy hardtop convertible. The woo-hoo factor was really something, and me being immortal I drove it pretty much as fast as it would go everywhere I went.
Then we had a hailstorm. It left little dents on everybody’s car. We all had insurance, so it paid for repairs. I looked my car over and decided to spend the insurance money on other things than dent fixing — like rear seat radio speakers, fender skirts, power radio antenna. Double woo-hoo then.
One guy I knew felt terrible because his car had been safely in the garage during the storm. It didn’t have a dent anywhere, and he wanted in on our fun. So he got a ball-peen hammer and put round-shaped dents all over it.
Unfortunately for him, the insurance adjuster was quite bright and figured it out. So he had the dents and no fender skirts, etc.
Sometimes country kids get a little too creative with their bigger toys.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org