Appalachia children Games

Marble Games


I’ve always loved marbles, not necessary to play with, just to hold in my hand and look at. I remember when I was in the second or third grade playing marbles was popular with the older boys.

During that time, my older brother, Steve, acquired a whole collection of marbles. He had the regular sized ones and the big marbles that he called dough rollers. Steve was particular with his stuff and didn’t like Paul and me prowling through his things, but I took advantage of the times he wasn’t home to look at his marble collection and marvel at the pretty swirly colors.

Chatter and Chitter collected marbles for a while and even as an adult I was still mesmerized by their pretty colors. Once the girls decided they were too big for marbles they shot them off the front porch with their sling shots. You can find marbles all over the place around our house from their sling shot ammunition. Whenever I find a marble in the yard I put it in my pocket and take it back to the porch and put it in a container. Maybe someday I’ll get them all back.

Ed Ammons shared a marble game called Jack in the Bush with me a few years back. He wrote up the game as if Chatter and Chitter were playing it:

Jack in the Bush

A game for two players, played with marbles or pennies. To start each player takes an equal number of pieces and hide them from the other’s view. The first player takes out a number of pieces and holding them in her cupped hands says:

Chitter “Jack in the Bush!”

Chatter “Cut him down!”

Chitter “How many licks?”

Chatter “Shake ‘em up!”

Chitter then shakes the pieces inside her hands so that Chatter can hear them. Chatter listens to the pieces and guesses how many there are. If she gets it right, she gets all the pieces. If she guesses wrong she must give Chitter the difference between what she guesses and the actual count. If she guesses 5 and there are 8 then she must give up 3 pieces. Then Chatter takes her turn”

Chatter “Jack in the Bush!”

Chitter “Cut him down!”

Chatter “How many licks?”

Chitter  “Shake ‘em up!”

This goes on, back and forth, until one player has all the pieces and the other has “lost her marbles.”


Blind Pig reader Tim Ryan had this to say about playing marbles:

In southern Kentucky where I was raised rolley hole was the main marble game. It was played with flint or agate marbles ground to a sphere by hand with a bench grinder. The court was large ….. maybe 20×50′ I forget. Both old men and boys played together. They have a national tournament in a state park there. I still have my set of marbles made from flint. Look it up!


Blind Pig reader B. Ruth shared this memory of marble playing with her brothers:

Here is how it started. First you have two brothers, the closes girl friend lived way down the road. Sittin’ around with nothin’ to do…a few kids would show up, of course boys from up the road. Someone would say, “Did you bring your marbles? Well, let’s play, another would shout. No Steelies or Doughrollers in the first game! When agreed, someone would yell, keepers or no keepers…Or keepsies.We went to the ground closest to the house that was bare. If a thick layer of dust and dirt had covered up the area, then I (girl) was sent to the house for the broom! The area was swept to relieve it of fallen twigs, extra dirt and pebbles. A strong broken limb..(or if Mother didn’t catch us) the end of the broom was used to draw the circle…”Biggin’ Littlin” was called..the most votes were to decide the size of the circle…I could see this was goin’ to be a serious game…The tough guys had some tough marbles…Thumbs with callus’s and knees that looked callused as well…I didn’t get to play in those games…The fun began, and my brothers would win a few and loose a few..Some special marbles were cherished, that were hard to come by. Agates, solid in swirled colors, not many transparent marbles…some very good cats eyes and occasional marble with the figure inside…You don’t know how bad I would love to go back to that place and dig around for old forty, fifty marbles…but alas it has been covered with blacktop…I have some marbles in a old milk jar in my kitchen window. Agates are hard to find for me. I did find a steelie a few years ago..and remembered the tough guy that always wanted to use the steelie!


You can go here to see how to play marbles a whole bunch of different ways.


p.s. Upcoming performances by The Pressley Girls

TODAY -September 8, 2018 @ 12:00 p.m. Cherokee County Indian Community Center Festival – Marble NC

September 22, 2018 @ 8:00 p.m. Unicoi State Park – Helen GA

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    September 10, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Marbles were big in my childhood! Cats-eyes, steelies, puries, and I think the big ones were called shooters no matter what color or pattern they were. I had one favorite shooter that was a pretty blue with a sort of white streak running through it – it reminded me of a cloud in a blue sky. And I loved the puries, partly because there only seemed to be a few of them in circulation amongst all us kids. They were one color but clear, and I had one that was the pale green of a coke bottle.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    September 9, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    I’m 71 years old, this post brings back such wonderful memories of those marble days that a strong feeling arises to play marbles once again…..Yes, I have gone on to other purely enjoyable games such as competition archery but the old days of marble playing have never been forgotten!…..Thank You, Tipper

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Reminds me of a rodeo clown joke…I’m sure it’s been told a million times. How do you know when you’re a bull rider? Feel your mouth with marbles…every time you ride a bull spit a marble out. When you’ve lost all your marbles you’re a bull rider! Have a nice day

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 8, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I loved playing marbles at school for keeps. Sometimes I would come home with a whole pocket full to shoot in my slingshot. Dad always called them gum slangs. There was one boy at school I never won even 1 marble off of. He always wanted to play one on one, never in a circle or square, or never using the big marbles we called the jake. When you go to shoot at his marble he would holler knuckles down and screw ball tight and if you hit his marble he would accuse you of fudghing or want you to prove your shot. sometimes he would say groundhog and stomp his marble in the ground and if you hit the top of it he would say nicks don’t count. I never won any slingshot ammo from him.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I loved marbles as a kid! Not the game played with marbles but the actual marbles. I collected them, all sizes and all colors. I was totally obsessed with marbles, they are beautiful and all different and all interesting.
    I was a girl so I wasn’t supposed to play marbles but no one could stop me from collecting them!
    I am still fascinated by the colorful little spheres!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 8, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Me and Harold made Sling Shots out of Laurel bushes. They were plentiful in back of our house where the Chickens Roosted. We’d take and cut strips out of an innertube and there was always a tongue of an old shoe to make the nest for the bullet. There’s plenty of marbles on the high mountains, we shot from our front porch. What Fun we had! …Ken

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Boys usually played marbles in my school while girls watched. Sometimes we would find a stray marble and bake it in the oven until it cracked. We would then twist a thin wire around it, attach it to a cord and have the prettiest necklace in town. I think I just gave your family jeweler an idea.

    • Reply
      September 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

      Shirl-I think you did 🙂

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 9:33 am

    • Reply
      aw griff
      September 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Papaw, ever since listening to swingin the other day. I can’t get it out of my head. It keeps playing like a stuck record.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 8, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Tipper–Possibly it’s an optical illusion, but it looks like you’ve got a “dough roller” (oversized marble) in that tea cup. They were hard to come by.
    I’m intrigued by mention of the twins eventually shooting away all their marbles using sling shots. Did they make them, did Matt, did Jerry, or was it a family effort. Some of my fondest memories of childhood focus on walking around with Grandpa Joe looking for just the right shaped and sized dogwood fork to make the base for a slingshot. I never became a deadly shot, but I had two cousins who could shoot slingshots with amazing accuracy.

    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      September 8, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Jim-I believe Pap made the sling shots. The girls weren’t worried about accuracy as you might imagine 🙂

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 8, 2018 at 9:13 am

    We played marbles in the barn hall on rainy days. Dad would even play sometimes but, as I’ve posted before, he would bust our marbles, even without a steely. I didn’t play marbles at school because we were told not to play for keeps and that was the only way at school.

    Dad and his brother used ball bearings (“steelies”) as ammunition in their sling shots (we called them “flip guns”) to hunt squirrels in the. fall. It was serious business, not just fun and games.

    Whether it was marbles or what, I am fascinated by those stone spheres one finds sometimes. I need them like another hole in the head but that doesn’t stop me from wanting them anyway.

    Now it is not common to find marbles among the toys. Got afraid kids would swallow them and choke I guess.

  • Leave a Reply