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.
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Matthew Wade sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his new CD, “Diamond from Coal,” his fourth album with his band, My Silent Bravery.