My Forty Years Scribblin's
Personal Memories
Playtime

This piece was written in 1961 or ‘62 and published in Montana’s Little Legends (1963). Everyone made their own amusements in the early days.


Today’s beautiful toys were beyond the imagination of the moppet of yesteryear, whose doll was often fashioned from a stocking leg stuffed with rags or sawdust, and with a string tied around the neck to mark off the head. Lacking this she might expend her mothering instincts on a large grasshopper tenderly swaddled in mullein leaves. Small cowboys burned up the miles on stick horses just as they do today, but while his “horse” rested he might while away hours whittling wooden playthings or making whistles from hollow reeds, willows or pumpkin stems. Having outgrown the wooden steed he would likely take to stilts with some danger to life and limb trying to see who could walk on the highest ones. Pig bladders made dandy balloons and the cry of “antee-yi-over” heralded the flight of many a bean-bag over the roof—until the larder ran low and somebody cooked up the contents. A girl entering her teens could terminate a game of playing house to giggle with a chum as they plucked daisy petals (“loves me—loves me not”) and just as painlessly return to her dolls again. A favorite pastime was a mud ball dried in the toe of a stocking. (“Get one of Mom’s. They’re nice and stretchy!”) The Starter, with a firm grip on the stocking top, would “wind up” like a baseball catcher about to let fly a homer. (“Watch out, you ninny! You wanna get beaned?”) The barefoot one to recover the small comet, which was usually out in a stubble field, got the next turn. Long winter evenings did not pall. There was always the cheery wood fire and often music, which, like most things of the time was without embellishment, homemade and satisfying.