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Lost my marbles

By Staff | Jul 13, 2012

It was 12 years ago when I lost my marbles, and thanks to my nephew, Tyler Thompson of Ray, the entire congregation of the rural Rainbow Valley Lutheran Church, heard about it. Pastor Steve Anderson had called the children forward to engage them in a children’s sermon. In his hand he had a screw, a marble and a jar lid. He asked the children, “Have you ever heard of anyone saying- as held up the screw-He has a screw loose?” No response was given. Next he held up the lid. “How about-this guy has flipped his lid?” Still no responses were given. Finally he held up a marble and said, “How about this one-this guy has lost his marbles?” Immediately Tyler said, “My Uncle Chuck!” Now, mind you, prior to this many folks had thought this, but none could prove it! (However, when I claimed at the Underwood Laundromat that I actually enjoyed pressing my shoelaces along with the dishtowels, folks knew things were starting to roll around upstairs.)

As soon as Tyler took his first steps, he was interested in playing marbles. Our games were most often played at our older home in Rugby which has hardwood floors. Needless to say, when the marbles sprinted from the oriental rugs they took for hibernation under the piano, china cabinet, or sofa. This always brought about a full belly busting laugh from Tyler when I tried to retrieve hidden marbles. All that bending over, I must admit, was great for my waistline. Plus it was a real enticement to dust under all the furniture when we knew Tyler was coming.

I loved those moments and the sound of marbles scattered on a wooden floor. They, like Tyler, were running away as in a game of hide and seek. I loved his chubby little hands trying to hold as many of his very favorite marbles as possible and his little voice naming all the colors. It was a time of engagement, learning, and just plain fun! It reminded me that very simple things shared with children are often the best. I recall one summer evening when they came to visit. It was raining outside and we turned on the lights on our enclosed front porch and played marbles until bedtime. In fact, Tyler got ready for bed and then came downstairs to play one more marble game. Our game of marbles eventually led to our game of naming colors. Tyler happened to like one big bright yellow marble and before we knew it we had listed a mile long of related yellows: marigold yellow, sunflower yellow, sunshine yellow, Caterpiller yellow, lemon yellow, and shovel yellow. This, too, was a game of engagement and one that we played by telephone. He would call and say “I noticed a new yellow today-it was road sign yellow.”

It is true that marbles evoke memories of childhood and simpler times; that is why perhaps folks greet a game of marbles, or a jar of marbles, with enthusiasm. There were constantly marbles around our home to play with. Many of them came as gifts from our paper route customers who often remembered their delivery boys with either a box of chocolate cover cherries or a bag of marbles. Starting at a very early age I became acquainted with agates, oxbloods, cat’s eyes, shooters, peewees and the ever powerful steely. It may be hard for you to believe, but as a child I was shy. Upon entering first grade Mrs. Hepper encouraged us to bring games to play at recess, and my choice was marbles which nurtured several friendships. I had great experiences playing with my brothers, cousins. Marbles that looked like they had large colored rubber bands inside them were some of my favorite. I can recall while playing a game of marbles with my classmate, Tom Anderson, and winning a very nice large steely from him. Tom was not happy, and he was also a farm kid. This steely, which was shiny and had chrome, to him looked like it should be with the tractor. Tom’s mother, Bertha, was a gifted seamstress, and she had made Tom a wonderful cloth marble bag- blue with little roses on it complete with string tie top. No one said a word about Tom’s rose marble bag- after all, he was a big farm kid! Until I mentioned that if he gave me that bag, I would give him back his big steely! It was a done deal, and we both were smiling. The next day Tom arrived at school with two extra homemade marble bags which he also gave to me! So no matter how many games we played, I never went after his precious steely again.

Who knows where marbles began. They have been traced back at least to the time of the Egyptians. Some of the early marbles were made of clay, stone, wood, steel or any other suitable material. They have been made for thousands of years and games with marbles are popular in countries around the world. Marble collecting is also very popular, and I have seen Christensen marbles which were made by the Christensen Agate Company founded in 1925 in Ohio and operated until 1931 go for as high as $900 per marble. Now that is an investment in which you truly used your marbles! My lifelong interest in marbles continues. Their shape, feel, colors and the many games that can be played with them are interesting.

Marbles are often used in decorating. Over the years at auction sales, I have noted umbrella handles with unique marbles at the end of them. We once photographed a wedding where all the table centerpieces were colored marbles in vintage jars; growing out of the top was a full, lush cutting of a philodendron. Fish tanks often showcase marbles in the bottom, and not only are they decorative, but have a practical function of giving fish a safe place in which to lay their eggs. Marble jewelry is currently very fashionable especially with bracelets and zipper fobs. Who knows- there are probably still many other ideas rolling around on how to use the ever decorative marble!

As a child my favorite game to play was “Black Snake” also called Rattlesnake. A line of holes is drawn in the dirt to look like a snake. The players take alternate turns tying to shoot into each hole in order, going from left to right and then back again in order to become “poison.” Once a player is poison he can eliminate other players by hitting then. He, however, must be careful because if he accidentally goes into a hole, he eliminates himself also. The game is over when there is only one player left. Another one I enjoyed was “Eggs in the Bush.” I am sure some of you folks out there remember this one as well.

A marble tourney and teaching event will be held on Thursday, July 19 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby. It is open to anyone age 4 or older; all competitors receive a free bag of marbles. It will be the perfect setting to gain and lose a few of your marbles and know that it is perfectly ok!

The recipe I share with you today is inspired by the thought of marbles, and it incorporates two of my very favorite marble terms: marble and swirl. These cookies are easily served with milk or hot coffee while a discussion of the marvels of marbles gushes forth. You could also plan to play an indoor winter game of croquet using marbles; but remember, you still must be attired in white!

Tiger Cookies

This recipe came from the back of a Kellogg’s cereal box which features the tiger. It showcases marbling which has delighted chocolate disciples for years.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (and you may use margarine)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, or corn cereal, crushed to measure 1 1/2 cups

1 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels, melted.

Stir together flour, soda and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter or margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, Beat well, Add flour mixture, mixing until well combined. Stir in crushed Sugar Frosted Flakes or corn cereal. Drizzle melted chocolate over dough. With knife, swirl melted chocolate gently though dough to achieve marbled appearance. Drop by rounded measuring tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in 350 degree for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

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