Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Mumblety-Peg And Middle Age
by [?]

“I remember that game,” said I. “I remember how Frank White, who could skate like a fiend, used to be the last one caught. Sometimes he’d get around a hundred boys, ducking and dodging and taking half a mile of ice to do it, but escaping untouched. Sometimes, if there weren’t many playing, he’d go around backwards, just to taunt us. But I don’t think that game was relievo. That doesn’t sound like the name to me.”

“What was it, then?” said Old Hundred.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “It’s funny how you forget things.”

By this time we were strolling along the road again. “Speaking of Birch Meadow,” said Old Hundred, “what glorious skating we kids used to have there! I never go by Central Park in winter without pitying the poor New York youngsters, just hobbling round and round on a half-acre pond where the surface is cut up into powder an inch thick, and the crowd is so dense you can scarcely see the ice. Shall you ever forget that mile-long pond in the woods, not deep enough to drown in anywhere, and frozen over with smooth black ice as early as Thanksgiving Day? How we used to rush to it, up Love Lane, as soon as school was out!”

“Do you remember,” said I, “how we passed it last year, and found the woods all cut and the water drained off?”

“Don’t be a wet blanket,” said Old Hundred, crossly. “The country has to grow.”

I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. The mood of memory was on him. I repented of my speech. “Yes,” I answered. “No doubt the country has to grow. The colleges now play hockey on ponds made by the fire department. But there isn’t that thrilling ring to your runners nor that long-drawn echo from the wooded shores when a crack crosses the ice.”

“I can see it all this minute,” said Old Hundred. “I can see my little self like a different person [which, indeed, he was!] as one of the crowd. We had chosen up sides–ten, twenty, thirty on a side. Stones, dragged from the shores, were put down for goals. Most of us had hockey sticks we had cut ourselves in the woods, hickory, with a bit of the curved root for the blade. You were one of the few boys who could afford a store stick. We had a hard rubber ball. Bobbie Pratt was always one goal because he had big feet. And over the black ice, against the sombre background of those cathedral aisles of white pine, we chased that ball, charging in solid ranks so that the ice sagged and protested under the rush of our runners, wheeling suddenly, darting in pursuit of one boy who had snaked the ball out from the maze of feet and was flying with it toward the goal, all rapid action, panting breath, superb life. It really must have been a beautiful sight, one of those hockey games. I can still hear the ring and roar of the runners as the crowd swept down in a charge!”

I smiled. “And I can still feel the ice when somebody’s stick got caught between my legs. ‘Hi, fellers, come look at the star Willie made!’ I can hear you shouting, as you examined the spot where my anatomy had been violently super-imposed on the skating surface.”

Old Hundred smiled too. “Fine little animals we were!” he said. “I suppose one reason why we don’t see more games nowdays is because we live in the city. Even this suburbanized region is really city, dirtied all over with its spawn. Lord, Bill, think if we’d been cramped up in an East Side street, or reduced to Central Park for a skating pond! A precious lot of reminiscences we’d have to-day, wouldn’t we? They build the kids what they call public play-grounds, and then they have to hire teachers to teach ’em how to play. Poor beggars, think of having to be taught by a grown-up how to play a game! They all have a rudimentary idea of base-ball; the American spirit and the sporting extras see to that. But I never see ’em playing anything else much, not even out here where the suburbs smut an otherwise attractive landscape.”