News / Arts & Entertainment

In Appalachia, Putting a New Spin on Marbles

In Appalachia, Putting a New Spin on Marblesi
X
September 24, 2013 7:01 PM
There was a time when Americans did not need video games or cable television to keep them entertained. All they needed was a few handmade marbles and a flat piece of ground. Reporter Mike Osborne recently visited the hill country along the border between the states of Kentucky and Tennessee where marbles play is still a popular sport.
TEXT SIZE - +
Mike Osborne
— On a warm, late-summer Saturday morning in the tiny community of Etoile, Kentucky, a small crowd gathers under a shade tree to watch a game of marbles.

The playing field is a flat piece of old carpet measuring roughly six meters on a side. Two, two-man teams are playing a game called Tennessee Square.

Getting down on hands and knees, they fire grape-sized stone marbles from between the thumb and forefinger with tremendous force. Their goal is to earn points by striking much larger lemon-sized marbles and knocking them out of the square.

Preserving tradition

Here in the hill country along the border between the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, marbles play remains a popular sport among men of a certain age. Enthusiast Buck Houchens says there used to be lots of marble courts in the area, but only a few are left.

“The old timers before me were playing in their backyards here, I know, 60 years ago," Houchens said. "We play different games, but this game we’re playing here today, it came up in the '30s."

Most of those still playing today are older men, many in their 70s and 80s, and there is a feat that the game will die out. But just across the state line in Clay County, Tennessee, Brian Cherry is introducing the game to a new generation.

“Most of the time the kids really get into it at about the age of 10," said Cherry, who coaches marbles teams in schools. "From 10 to 14, they really begin to develop their power and their spin. Once they start playing they really love it.”

Marbles tournament

Standing Stone State Park, in nearby Hilham, Tennessee, is also helping preserve traditional marbles play. For more than 30 years the park has sponsored a national tournament for a marbles game called Rolley-Hole.

Ranger Shawn Hughes calls it the king of marble games. “If you consider marble games like chess and checkers, all the other marble games would be like checkers and Rolley-Hole would be like chess. It’s quite strategic. Not only do you have to make shots, but strategy is almost more important than the shotmaking.”

A good player can shoot a marble so hard that even the best marbles can often be chipped or cracked. Many serious competitors make their own marbles.

Timothy Walden makes his out of a local variety of milky quartz.

“Pick it up out of a creek where water’s been; rivers, creeks. Around dried lakebeds is a good place; sand bars in the river where the river’s dropped down and washed stones into the river," Walden said. “You cut that piece of stone into an inch square and then go into the process of rough cutting it with a diamond cut wheel to get the corners just barely round. That’s just a repeat process. “

Both making and playing marbles are skills that take time and determination to develop. Ranger Shawn Hughes says it would be a shame to see them lost.

“It used to be a sport played on every playground, school ground and homes, and it’s gotten lost throughout the years," he said. "We don’t want marbles to die.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.