The first two years we attended the one-room school the yard had only a sturdy teeter totter. There was not even a swing. Some time during the summer between our last two years, some of the neighbor farmers added a pole with a basketball backboard and hoop. We often used to shoot goals, but we never played the game. Very likely, no one knew the rules of the game and the rough grass was not very suitable for a court.
We played various games, some acquired from previous students, some we invented. Often the entire school participated together, notwithstanding a broad range of ages and abilities.
Steal the Sheep required two teams. A short stick (the sheep) was leaned from the porch floor to the ground. One team guarded it while the other attempted to sneak in and knock it down, then run so as not to get caught. Each member caught became a member of the rival team.
Ball Bouncing. This required no teams. All played together. One person threw the ball high against the building wall, calling a person's name. He or she was to catch it before it touched the ground or on the first bounce. This gave the younger ones a better chance.
Marbles. Every spring marbles was a popular game, continuing over several weeks. The children brought marbles from home. Playing "for keeps" was not allowed.
Jumping rope, individually or with others, was always popular.
Mumble-the-peg was a pocket knife game always popular with farm boys who often carried knives.
Baseball was played frequently, using a baseball I had made from a piece of a rubber heel wrapped with thread I had accumulated over a year or more, ripped from the tops of dad's work sox. The cover was cut from leather uppers from discarded shoes. The bat was a tree branch. There were not enough pupils for two teams, so we played Work-up. Essential positions were assigned: pitcher, catcher, batter, basemen and a pig-tailer (beyond the pitcher). After an out was made, or a run, each person moved up a position, as pitcher to catcher, etc. This way everyone had the opportunity to play often, even though there were not two teams. An out, by the way, was called when a ball was thrown in front of a runner, between him and the base toward which he was running.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.