White people seem to think that Indian children never have any play and never laugh. Such ideas seem very funny to me. How can any child grow up without play? I have seen children at our reservation school playing white men’s games—baseball, prisoners’ base, marbles. We Indian children also had games. I think they were better than white children’s games.
I look back upon my girlhood as the happiest time of my life. How I should like to see all my little girl playmates again! Some still live, and when we meet at feasts or at Fourth-of-July camp, we talk of the good times we had when we were children.
My little half sister was my usual playmate. She was two years younger than I, and I loved her dearly. She had a pretty name, Cold Medicine. On our prairies grows a flower with long, yellow root. In old times, if a warrior was running from enemies and became wearied he chewed a bit of the root and rubbed it on his eyelids. It made his eyes and tongue feel cold and kept him awake. The flower for this reason was called cold medicine. When my father spoke my sister’s name, it made him think of this flower and of the many times he had bravely gone out with war parties.
We had a game of ball much like shinny. It was a woman’s game, but we little girls played it with hooked sticks. We also had a big, soft ball, stuffed with antelope hair, which we would bounce in the air with the foot. The game was to see how long a girl could bounce the ball without letting it touch the ground. Some girls could bounce it more than a hundred times. It was lots of fun.
A girl now lay downward on the hide. With a quick pull, the others tossed her into the air, when she was expected to come down on her feet, to be instantly tossed again. The game was to see how many times she could be tossed without falling. A player was often tossed ten or more times before she lost her balance.59 Each time, as she came down, she kept turning in one direction, right or left. When at last she fell, the pile of weeds saved her from any hurt.
Children playing on the beach
A ring is formed by the players joining hands, whilst one child, who is to "drop the handkerchief," is left outside. He walks round the ring, touching each one with the handkerchief, saying the following words:
"I wrote a letter to my love,
But on my way, I dropped it;
A little child picked it up
And put it in his pocket.
It wasn't you, it wasn't you,
It wasn't you—but it was you."
When he says "It was you," he must drop the handkerchief behind one of the players, who picks it up and chases him round the ring, outside and under the joined hands, until he can touch him with the handkerchief. As soon as this happens, the first player joins the ring, whilst it is now the turn of the second to "drop the handkerchief."
Boy leading the charge
In the olden times this game was known by the name of "Hood-man Blind," as in those days the child that was chosen to be "blind man" had a hood placed over his head, which was fastened at the back of the neck.
In the present day the game is called "Blind Man's Buff," and very popular it is among young folk.
A ring of children
Two of the players join hands, facing each other, having agreed privately which is to be "Oranges" and which "Lemons." The rest of the party form a long line, standing one behind the other, and holding each other's dresses or coats. The first two raise their hands so as to form an arch, and the rest run through it, singing as they run:
"Oranges and Lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's;
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's;
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
I do not know,
Says the big bell of Bow.
Here comes a chopper to light you to bed!
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"
At the word "head" the hand archway descends, and clasps the player passing through at that moment; he is then asked in a whisper, "Oranges or Lemons?" and if he chooses "oranges," he is told to go behind the player who has agreed to be "oranges" and clasp him round the waist.
The players must be careful to speak in a whisper, so that the others may not know what has been said.
The game then goes on again, in the same way, until all the children have been caught and have chosen which they will be, "oranges" or "lemons." When this happens, the two sides prepare for a tug-of-war. Each child clasps the one in front of him tightly and the two leaders pull with all their might, until one side has drawn the other across a line which has been drawn between them.
Hide-then go seek
Girl walking heel to toe
Girl washing her doll
Girl playing with her doll
Girl playing with a kitten
Kitten playing with a ball
All persons below the `rank` of an esquire were excluded from the justs and the tournaments; but the celebration of these pastimes attracted the common mind in a very powerful manner, and led to the institution of sports, that bore at least some resemblance to them: tilting at the quintain was generally practised at a very early period, and justing upon the ice by the young Londoners. The early inclination to join in such kind of pastimes is strongly indicated by the two boys represented here: the place of the horse is supplied by a long switch, and that of a lance by another. The original delineation occurs in a beautiful MS. book of prayers, written in the fourteenth century.
A crowd of boys running in such shoes [wooden] over the hard paved roads makes a great clattering. On Sunday the wooden shoes of men and boys are usually fresh whitened; if their owners enter a house, they leave the shoes outside the door. I am sure you cannot guess what little Dutch boys do with old wooden shoes. They make capital little fishing boats out of them, which they sail on the canal. The real big fishing boats are really shaped very much like shoes too.
Girl reading a story to her doll
Kitten and puppy playing with a basket of apples
A Kitten playing (or sleeping)
Girl pushing a little girl along in a sled
Little girl swinging on a swing attached to a tree
Little girl standing in a puddle at the beach while lots of other children play in the background
Seven little children are all pointing at one little girl
Two little girls blowing bubbles in the garden
Street Tumblers playing Kangura in Tokio
The man who sells the gold-fish, with fan-like tails as long as their bodies, has also turtles. These boys at last settle that of all the pretty things they have seen they would best like to spend their money on a young turtle. For their pet rabbits and mice died, but turtles, they say, are painted on fans and screens and boxes because turtles live for ten thousand years.
The boys in the picture must be playing with the puppies of a large dog, to judge from their big paws. There are a great many large dogs in the streets of Tokio; some are very tame, and will let children comb their hair and ornament them and pull them about. These dogs do not wear collars, as do our pet dogs, but a wooden label bearing the owner's name is hung round their necks.
The masker goes from house to house accompanied by one or two men who play on cymbals, flute, and drum. He steps into a shop where the people of the house and their friends sit drinking tea, and passers-by pause in front of the open shop to see the fun. He takes a mask, like the one in the picture, off his back and puts it over his head. This boar's-head mask is painted scarlet and black, and gilt. It has a green cloth hanging down behind, in order that you may not perceive where the mask ends and the mans body begins. Then the masker imitates an animal. He goes up to a young lady and lays down his ugly head beside her to be patted, as "Beast" may have coaxed "Beauty" in the fairy tale. He grunts, and rolls, and scratches himself. The children almost forget he is a man, and roar with laughter at the funny animal.
The tops the lads are playing with in this picture are not quite the same shape as our tops, but they spin very well. Some men are so clever at making spinning-tops run along strings, throwing them up into the air and catching them with a tobacco-pipe, that they earn a living by exhibiting their skill.
Some of the tops are formed of short pieces of bamboo with a wooden peg put through them, and the hole cut in the side makes them have a fine hum as the air rushes in whilst they spin.
The two little boys are playing at snowball. These lads enjoy a fall of snow, and still better than snowballing they like making a snowman with a charcoal ball for each eye and a streak of charcoal for his mouth. The shoes which they usually wear out of doors are better for a snowy day than your boots, for their feet do not sink into the snow, unless it is deep. These shoes are of wood, and make a boy seem to be about three inches taller than he really is. The shoe, you see, has not laces or buttons, but is kept on the foot by that thong which passes between the first and second toe. The thong is made of grass, and covered with strong paper, or with white or colored calico. The boy in the check dress wears his shoes without socks, but you see the other boy has socks on.
After the heavy autumn rains have filled the roads with big puddles, it is great fun, this boy thinks, to walk about on stilts. His stilts are of bamboo wood, and he calls them "Heron-legs," after the long-legged snowy herons that strut about in the wet rice-fields. When he struts about on them, he wedges the upright between his big and second toe as if the stilt was like his shoes. He has a good view of his two friends who are wrestling, and probably making hideous noises like wild animals as they try to throw one another.
The woodcut shows us a group of pages imbibing chivalrous usages even in their childish sports, for they are “playing at jousting.” It is easy to see the nature of the toy. A slip of wood forms the foundation, and represents the lists; the two wooden knights are movable on their horses by a pin through the hips and saddle; when pushed together in mimic joust, either the spears miss, and the course must be run again, or each strikes the other’s breast, and one or other gives way at the shock, and is forced back upon his horse’s back, and is vanquished.