A game I played
For those who are interested, Bill Clinton, from age eight until he was 14, played touch football, softball, and hide and seek.
“When we didn’t have enough people to put together a game of football or softball, we would just make up a game,” he writes. “Everything we did became a game.”
As far as Hillary Rodham Clinton is concerned, hers was an idyllic childhood.
She states: “we had a well-organized kids’ society and we had all kinds of games, playing hard every day after school, every weekend, and from dawn until our parents made us come in at dark in the summertime.”
I’m disappointed that my childhood game didn’t make it into a book edited by Steven A. Cohen, The Games we Played: A Celebration of Childhood and Imagination.
As a child living in the White Bay community of Hampden, I too played games. One in particular was tiddly or, depending on where you lived, tiddley or tiddly.
Folks in Carbonear know all about the game, as the town is affectionately known as the Tiddly Capital of the World. Its fifth annual World Cup of Tiddly was scheduled for Aug. 5.
Douglas George of Dildo suggests that tiddly “was one of the more popular Newfoundland pastimes for both boys and girls. Rules varied from town to town and even from neighbourhood to neighbourhood; for that matter, they could vary from day to day, just as long as everybody had fun!”
Perhaps the main reason tiddly was such a big part of my childhood is that the price is right. Sticks and stones may very well break your bones, but the only equipment need- ed for this game are, in effect, sticks and stones or, more precisely, two sticks and two rocks. One stick, called the big tiddly, is about 4.5 feet long, while the other, called the little tiddly, is about 20 inches long. Both are about two inches in diameter. The playing rocks (or bricks or wood junks) are placed approximately six inches apart.
Douglas George provides additional information about the sticks: “The best tiddly sticks were those cut fresh or nearly so; black spruce was good. If the sticks were too dry, they would break more easily, but if they were ‘green,’ they would not only be more supple but heavier, thus allowing you to get more wallop and, therefore, more distance. You wouldn’t use a broom handle, for example, because it was too brittle and breaking would cause it to splinter–you could lose an eye!”
If you are unfamiliar with the game, the rules are available on the Town of Carbonear’s website. Some purists list as many as 10 steps, but these can be whittled down to a mere four.
First, determine which team is first “in” and which is in the outfield. Douglas George explains: “The big tiddly is tossed vertically into the air and grabbed by one of the captains; both go hand-over-hand until one cannot grip the stick enough to hold its weight.”
Second, the hook off. The player lays the little tiddly across the stones and, with the big tiddly, hooks the little tiddly off, sending it into the outfield.
Third, the bat off. The player stands at the stones, but without touching them, and either tosses or holds the little tiddly, hitting it into the outfield with the big tiddly.
Finally, the tiddly itself. The little tiddly is placed upright against one of the stones so the top of the stick is above the bricks. Hit the little tiddly so that it spins up in the air away from the bricks and then hit it in the air into the outfield.
Clear as mud?
Raymond Troke issues this caution: “If you decide to play this game, you should probably wear your bike or hockey helmet. All those whirling sticks could be dangerous, though I don’t remember any problems.”
Well, I do remember problems. On at least one occasion, either the big or little tiddly flew through the air before crashing through one of the windows in the church my parents pastored. To paraphrase something, which has been said about Queen Victoria, they were not amused.
Perhaps, at a time when computers, television, piano lessons, baseball practice and a host of other activities compete for a child’s attention, a game like tiddly can, in the words of Steven Cohen, remind us “of at least two things we all have in common– the gift of imagination and the wonder of childhood.” Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached