Appalachia children Games

How Do You Know Who’s It?

counting taters

Did you ever use the counting potatoes method for picking who was ‘it’ in a game? As kids we used counting potatoes to tell us who was going to be the seeker while the rest of us hid, to tell us who was going to be blindfolded for an always dangerous game of blind man’s bluff (some parent would usually scream”you’re going to put an eye out”) or to tell us who was going to hide the key first.

The choosing rhyme consists of everyone who’s playing standing in a circle with their fists out in front of them. One person begins counting by hitting their fists on everyone else’s while saying: 1 potato 2 potato 3 potato 4 potato 5 potato 6 potato 7 potato instead of going on to 8 the fist they hit after 7 was ‘or’. The person whose fist was ‘or’ would place the ‘or’ fist behind their back and the counting would start back at 1. Whoever was left with a fist in the circle would be ‘it’ for the game.

Sometimes we used big potatoes instead of making 2 fists each person laced their hands together to make one big potato and the counting went the same way. Big potatoes were especially useful if there were lots of kids playing the game or if you were in a hurry to get on with the game.

I hadn’t thought about counting potatoes in years until a friend mentioned it a few weeks ago. Out of curiosity I thought I’d ask the girls if they knew about potato counting.

I said “Chitter if I say 1 potato 2 potato 3 potato 4 do you know what I’m talking about?” She said she thought I was crazy and left me standing in the kitchen.

Later in the evening, I was sitting on the couch when Chatter came and sat down beside me. I ask her the same question. She said “What?” So I explained it again even giving her the hint: it’s said when a bunch of kids are standing together in a circle. Chatter said “Momma I don’t know what you’re talking about. All I know is I like to dig taters and I like to eat them.”


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  • Reply
    August 13, 2018 at 10:05 am

    So fun reading and being reminded of all these, we also said ”more’ at the end of the 7th potato, popped the belt, and did rock ,scissors,papre and also …ennie,meanie,minnie ,moe ….

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    I remember it almost the same, but “7 potato, MORE” and I don’t remember at all how it helped choose who was “it”! We used to do a different thing when it was two people deciding who would go first or whatever. One person would choose Evens, the other Odds, then each person would make a fist. One would say, “Once, Twice, Threes, SHOOT!” and on “shoot,” each would throw out a fist with some number of fingers extended. Add up the fingers, and you’d know whether Even or Odd was the winner 🙂
    Gosh, Tipper, the things you make me recall! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Alot of kids games when we were small. Remember Red Rover, Red Rover let (?) Who ever they called to come over. Everybody would be holding hands so the person couldn’t break threw. Sometimes they would get threw. They all were fun to play.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 11, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    We said it “One potato, two potato, three potato, more”. “More”, was said again after six potato.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    August 11, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Funny, the things we forget. Can’t really remember what games needed to have an “it”. Hide and Seek, was one. Kids these days are really missing out. I do remember “that “Eenie-Meenie” had a racial slur if you lived in the South.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    Eenie Meanie Minie Mo
    Catch a Tiger by the Toe
    If He Hollers Make Him Pay
    Fifty Dollars Every Day
    You Old Dirty Dishrag You
    My Momma Told Me to Pick the Very Best One
    And You Are (Not) It!\

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 10, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    We called out one potato, two potato…also…We called Eenie, meeny, miney moe too…We also said something like my mother said you are “IT” at the end of the rhyme…or my mother said you were “OUT”…can’t remember exactly…Mostly the LAST one to yell “NOT IT” was “IT”. If this didn’t work and an discussionfuss ensued the counting game was used…

    I missed the “home free” post the other day as we just got from the 127 Corridor Sale…so I had to catch up on your posts…
    However here are my thoughts about it…
    Here’s my take on Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free!….There was a farmer who had Oxen that he used daily in his fields plowing and weeding etc. At the end of the day those big wooden harnesses were taken off…One was named Ollie Oxen the other smart young ox was named Olive Oxen…After he rapped Olive on the hind side she immediately jumped a little and walked off into the pasture giving her shoulders a little shake of relief as she knew the heavy harness was off…Then he rapped Ollie on the rump…well he just stood there…he rapped him again…he just stood there…being of older age and very tired, he was assuming that what he felt was a bump of the harness still on his shoulders and neck…Finally the farmer gave him a good strong rap on his hindquarters yelling….OLLIE, OLLIE OXEN FREE! To that Ollie loped off to join Olive in the pasture. The day came when finally the farmer told all his children and family that Ollie was getting too old to plow and it was time for him to just graze and play hide n’ seek in the weeds and bramble of the pasture. He was getting hard of hearing’ and could barely make it home at the end of the day, so the farmer was going to let Ollie, Ollie Oxen free…and he did…Then the children picked up on Ollie being free at home, hiding every day in the brambles and weeds of the pasture! So then, they incorporated the saying’ into their games….having to yell loud so everyone could hear…OLLIE, OLLIE OXEN FREE (at home) They eventually dropped the “at home, you know how words change or are dropped with time…..
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 10, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Every now and then they forget to send the Blind Pig and the Acorn to my Inbox, but I know how to get it anyway. Last week, I didn’t get mine till after 11 am but it finally came in.

    I laughed when you were talking with your girls about counting potatoes. And I liked Ed’s comment with Dolly singing “The Seeker.” She is one of my Favorites. …Ken

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 10:40 am

    We seemed to have no rules for our games, but we could enjoy them all day. I would get so busy playing I did not want to eat. Dad would make me sit at the table for thirty minutes, and I would sit there until boredom made me eat.

    We played tag, hidey go seek, and a very dangerous game with cousins we simply called “hot belt.” We would hide the belt and who ever found it got to lash the closest victim. This could go on for hours with no rules nor adult intervention. Now, this was a wild game I have to admit! Nobody complained nor tattled if they got hurt, and I am still amazed the adults never intervened. This was usually played only when I visited an uncle and aunt my age, and we would have loads of cousins also. I still recall the screaming and scattering in all directions as somebody found the belt. I do not know if this was played by anyone else besides my huge extended family or if it was just a really old game handed down. Since I recall being the victim of that hot belt in that game, it is obvious why it never caught on. 🙂

    • Reply
      August 10, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      We used to take a leather belt, fold it in the middle and hold it by the ends. One hand held the buckle and tip, the other the fold at the other end. You push your hands toward each other in order to separate the two sides, then pull quickly so that they came back together with a loud pop. Put it up near somebody’s ear when they weren’t paying attention and they would jump like they had been shot.
      I learned that from my daddy. One time he made out like I had done sometime worthy of severe punishment. He took me in the bedroom and closed the door. He took off his belt and made 4 or 5 pops like that with it. “Just stay in here til I tell you to come out.” He went back in the living room with his belt in his hand. “Well, that takes care of that!” he told his startled audience. They had never seen him punish one of his kids at all much less with a belt. He stood there with a grim look on his face for a few moments then when back and opened the bedroom door. “Now you can come back in here!” I pranced right back in as if nothing had happened because nothing had happened.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 10:03 am

    I had forgotten all about the one potato, two potato thing. I’m reliving my childhood in these recent posts.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 10, 2018 at 9:52 am

    That was supposed to be my Momma told me to not go to the store and you are IT.

    • Reply
      August 10, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      That is an alternate ending to Ennie-Meanie-Moe, I think. The one I heard most was “Out goes Y-O-U!”

      • Reply
        aw griff
        August 10, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        Papaw, now that you have refreshed my memory I know you are right.
        Enjoyed the song. One of the best country sangers.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 9:33 am

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 9:27 am

    What’s a potato?

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 10, 2018 at 7:58 am

    We did the tater one too, but there were a couple more. Maybe someone can get this one right for I may not be totally accurate. Well here goes. My Momma me to not go to the store and you are IT.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 10, 2018 at 7:04 am

    Yes, we used the potato count in picking ‘it’ for all the yard games. The yard games, as best I recall, were usually played in the late afternoon/evening time, and included mist all the kids in the neighborhood. That was a long time ago for me!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Yea that was a common thing for us to choose who goes first, or Rock, Paper , Scissors but more so potato counting, Seems everybody has a different set of rules with Rock, paper, scissors and it would end in somebody getting mad before the game even started.

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