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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”