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Source: Indian Games
Category: Guessing Games

Introductory Note.--This game is played among one of the basket making
tribes of California. As not infrequently occurs in Indian games, there is
in this pastime a reflection both of the environment and of the vocations
of the people who used it. The drama or theme of the play is the search for
a particular reed, which for the purpose of the game is marked in a special

_Properties_.--A mat or blanket and about fifty reeds; the reeds should be
similar in thickness and about a foot long.

_Directions_.--The number of points which shall constitute winning the game
should first be agreed upon; if ten be the number, then twenty reeds should
be set aside as counters and the rest used as game-reeds. All of these
latter must be alike save one, and that reed must have a black band about
an inch or so wide painted around the middle, that is, midway between the
two ends of the reed. It is this particular reed that must be detected or
its location guessed.

The mat or blanket should be laid east and west. The two players sit
opposite each other, one near the northern edge of the mat, the other near
the southern edge. The counters are divided in half, one-half put at the
eastern end of the mat, the other half at the western. The counters at the
east belong to the player sitting at the north, those at the west to the
player at the south. Two singers stand back of each player. The spectators
are grouped about the mat, but must not be too near the players. Lots are
drawn to decide which player shall "hold the reeds." The player who loses
the chance to "hold the reeds" becomes the one who is to be the guesser.

All the game-reeds, including the reed with the black band painted on it,
are thrown in a pile in the center of the mat or blanket. The player who is
to "hold the reeds" gathers all the game-reeds in his hands, brings them
behind his back, where he shuffles and divides the reeds into two bunches,
one for each hand. When he is ready to bring his hands forward, each one
with a bunch of reeds grasped by the middle, the two singers standing
behind him start the following song:



When the music begins, the player holding the reeds sways his body from
side to side, moves his arms and hands with the reeds and simulates being
blown by the winds. The opposite player, by the movements of body and arms,
indicates that he is pushing his way through tall reeds tossed by the wind,
searching for something he desires to find. Both players in all their
movements must keep in rhythm of the song, observe strict time and strive
to make their actions tell the story plainly. The guesser through all his
motions must keep his eyes on the bunches held by his opponent, seeking for
an indication to show which one contains the marked reed. When he is ready
to guess he extends both arms toward the bunch he has fixed upon, as if to
grasp it. At this action the holder of the reeds must open his hand and let
the reeds of that bundle fall on the mat. The guesser then searches among
the spilled reeds for the one that is marked; if he finds it, he holds it
up so that all can see that his guess has been correct and the reed
discovered. The two singers who stand behind him give the victory shout, go
to his pile of counters, take one and place it at his right hand, then the
reeds of the other bunch are thrown by the holder on the mat, so that all
the game-reeds are lying in the center, as at the beginning of the game.

The player who made the successful guess now picks up the game-reeds and
behind his back shuffles and divides them. When he is ready to bring
forward his two hands holding the reeds, the two singers standing behind
him begin the Game Song, while he waves the bunches, acting what is now his
role, that of the reeds being blown about by the winds. The other player
now becomes the guesser and must act as though he were searching among the
blown reeds for the one he desires.

The player who "holds the reeds" is thought to have the advantage; that is
why lots are drawn at the beginning to decide who shall have that part in
the game. The player holding the reeds aims to make the guessing as
difficult as possible by deftness in hiding the banded reed, so as to keep
his advantage.

Every time a guess is made the reeds of the bunch guessed must at once be
dropped on the mat, that all may see the reeds while the guesser searches
among them for the marked reed. If he cannot find it, the singers who stand
behind him call out that a point has been lost, take a counter from his
pile and place it at the right hand of the player holding the reeds, who at
once drops all the game-reeds on the middle of the mat, to be again taken
up by him, shuffled and divided behind his back, when he resumes the waving
of the bunches of reeds blown by the wind and the guesser who lost starts
to make another guess. Should he be successful, the counter he had lost
would be taken back and placed at his right hand. In this manner counters
lost can be reclaimed, until one or the other of the players has won and
been able to hold the number of counters required for the game.

The presentation of the little drama of this game rhythmically affords an
opportunity for considerable dramatic action and yields pleasure both to
the performers and to the spectators. This game was much played among the
tribes where it was known.



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