Mumbly Peg

mumbly-peg

Mumbly peg is a game I’ve seen boys and sometimes men play during my lifetime. I was always to afraid to play it myself.

The game is played with various rules depending on whose doing the playing.

The general gist of the game is: a circle is drawn in the dirt; the players take turns flipping an open pocket knife off their arm or balled up fist to make it land in the circle.

I’ve seen it played where you start with the knife on one knuckle and as you flip the knife and get it to stick you move to the next knuckle. The Foxfire 6 Book shares a version of the game where you keep moving the knife up, starting on your fingertips then moving to your elbows, shoulders, and eventually your head! The angle of the stuck knife dictated how many points you were awarded for getting the knife to stick in the circle.

A few years back when the game was mentioned here on the Blind Pig more than a few readers left comments about mumbly peg.

Michael Yarger: There is a book called Village Life in America by Caroline Cowles Richards that was published in 1908 and tells the story of a young girl growing up in the village of Canandaigua, NY from 1852-1872. In the book she recounts visiting a classmate “After school to-night I went out into Abbie Clark’s garden with her and she taught me how to play “mumble te peg.” It is fun, but rather dangerous. I am afraid Grandmother won’t give me a knife to play with. “

Bob Aufdemberge: We always called it mumble peg, and played it at recess at our one-room country school. It was a different world back then for sure. I don’t recall that we used a circle, just got points as mentioned for how the knife stuck. We always flipped it off of the back of the hand, didn’t change flipping positions. We had another knife game we called “stick ’em”. In that game two boys would face each other about a foot to 18 inches apart. The one who led off would try to stick his knife in the dirt in line with one of the other boy’s feet, and if he stuck the knife the second boy would have to move his foot out to touch the knife, then he would try to stick his knife and make the first boy move his foot. This kept up by turns, trying to stick your knife first on one side of the other player and then on the other. The winner was the one who managed to stick his knife far enough out that the other player couldn’t reach it with his foot.

Wanda Devers: We played this a lot. And amazingly, no one ever got cut (or put out an eye!!) that I can remember–those pocketknives were kept sharp as a razor. No one can sharpen like Mama & Daddy could.

Ever played mumbly peg?

Tipper

*Source Foxfire 6

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 11, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Tipper,
    I think I’ve told this before about mumbly peg and stretch or stickum….My brothers were playing while visiting my grandmother in NC…One Aunt went running to my Dad and said…”Your boys are throwing knives at each others feet, I’m afraid they will get hurt!” Dad without blinking an eye said…”Well, I ain’t skeered they’ll get hurt, but I just sharpened those knives!” My Aunt just stood there with her mouth wide open!…LOL
    Yes, played all these knife games back in the fifties…If you get caught with a pocket knife in school these days…well, sometimes you get expelled…
    All boys and some girls carried pocket knives back in my day…How in the world do kids nowadays make their slingshots, fix their bike tire, sharpen their arrows for their homemade bows, make a reed whistle…or play mumbly peg! Not counting all the uses for fixing up that cane pole and fishin’…Mercy!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    September 11, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I played numbly peg some but we played stretch more often which is the same as Bob’s stick-em. I guess it seemed a bit more dangerous to me to be throwing a knife in close proximity to someone’s feet and them doing the same to you. It’s the throws that don’t stick that you have to watch out for because it can bounce and hit you if it’s too close.

  • Reply
    Papaw
    September 11, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Never! I was taught that knives were like guns. You didn’t pull them unless you was going to cut something. And a knife is always loaded. Playing with them is, well, like playing Russian Roulette.
    I have developed some pretty good knife skills over the years but none of them ever involve the knife leaving my hand.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 11, 2018 at 8:40 am

    We called it mumblety peg, and yes, all the boys played it. Now, boys aren’t even allowed to carry pocket knives to school.
    Most girls didn’t have pocket knives, but I did. I still carry a small one that often comes in handy.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 11, 2018 at 8:27 am

    I have played it but only a few times. A point to ponder is that there was a time when boys carried pocket knives as a common thing. I did for one, still do. So the question is: What changed, boys or knives, or maybe parents? Of course I must have gotten some cuts along the way but I only have one lasting scar from a knife and it was not from my pocketknife. To this day if some guy asks to borrow my knife my first thought is, ‘How come you don’t have one?’

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    September 11, 2018 at 7:51 am

    I remember playing mumbly peg and we played from the fingers to the top of the head. I always had a problem with flipping it off my nose. It was too short. Fun times.
    Today kids cannot even have a pocketknife.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 11, 2018 at 7:40 am

    We played mumbly peg but our favorite knife game we called split. That is the same game Bob Aufdemberge called stick em. Maybe the only difference is the way we played split was you could throw the knife between their feet and they had to turn around backwarda. That really made it hard to throw. When you could split no farther, you lose.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 11, 2018 at 7:14 am

    I’ve never played this, Tip. I’ve never even seen it played. I liked knives when I was young and my folks did everything they could to keep me away from them!

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