Source: Indian Games
Category: Guessing Games
Introductory Note.--This was a favorite game among the natives of the
Northeastern States; its "strange whimsies" were first mentioned by William
Wood in his book, "New England Prospect," published in London, 1634. It is
probable that some form of this game still persists among the scattered
descendants of those nearly extinct tribes, but it is not likely that at
the present day the victor would proclaim his prowess, as was formerly
done, by wearing in the holes of his ears the counters that marked the
number of his successful guesses.
_Properties_.--A number of wheat or other straws cut about a foot long; a
mat or blanket; a pointed staff for the Leader.
_Directions_.--Ten straws must be laid aside as counters for each player.
The rest of the straws are separated into tens and each ten tied with a
wisp, making a bundle; one bundle must have eleven straws. There should be
as many bundles as players. The bundles must all be tied alike. The game
consists in guessing which bundle has the eleven straws. The number of
guesses allowed in a game must be fixed upon before starting to play.
All the bundles are thrown in a heap upon the center of the mat. The
Leader, who is generally chosen by lot, leads the players to the mat
containing the bundles. Each player holds in his left hand his ten counters
and follows the Leader with his staff as he moves around the mat from left
to right, while all sing the following song, taking steps to the rhythm of
When the Leader strikes his staff on the ground every player must stop just
where he happens to be, stoop and pick up a bundle with his right hand and
begin to wave it above his head and sway his body to the time of the song.
When the Leader points with his staff to a player, that person must make a
guess. As he scans the waving bundles he points with his left hand that
holds his counters to the bundle which he thinks contains the eleven
straws. If the guess proves to be correct, the guesser puts one of his
counters in his hair or behind his ear. At once all bundles must be thrown
in a heap on the mat. The Leader then moves forward by the left, followed
by the players, every one singing and keeping time with the song. When the
Leader strikes the ground with his staff, all halt. Each player immediately
seizes a bundle, holds it aloft and begins to wave it. The Leader
designates with his staff a person who must guess. If the guess is wrong,
the guesser drops one of his counters on the mat and the Leader points to
another player who must guess. If he loses, he drops one of his counters on
the mat; the guessing goes on as described, until some one is successful
and puts a counter in his hair, when the bundles are all thrown on the mat
and the play begins again as before. Should the person designated by the
Leader to guess think that he holds the bundle with eleven straws, he must
point it at the Leader. If this surmise is correct, the person guessing
puts a counter in his hair and all bundles are again thrown on the mat.
In this way the game proceeds until some player has won the requisite
number of counters and has them all standing in his hair. Throughout the
game the singing must be kept up, accompanied by rhythmic movements of the
feet and the body, the players acting as though searching among the tall
grass for a desired clump. When a point is won, the Leader should shout out
the counter won, without interrupting the song or the play. Among the
Indians the game, once started, is kept going without halt or break in the
song or the movements. The calling out of the winnings in no way disturbs
the singing or the playing.
The victor should wear his successful counters in his hair the rest of the
day, if possible.