Tuesday, June 16

Long Live The King

There was a big variety of sports to keep us kids busy in Hazard. Basketball, football, baseball, fishing, swimming, hiking, hunting and more. But one of the lesser known was a contest that demanded a high level of physical skill, concentration and intelligence. The perfect game for the poor country boy who couldn't afford all the equipment and hype of the major sports. It was fairly simple. For ten cents you could buy a sack of 50 marbles at the dime store and you're ready to go! You could spot a marble player a block away. Dirty bib overalls with two high capacity front pockets full of something that rattled like a sack of diamonds with every step. The knees of his overalls were either dirty or worn through and for a little class, a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars topped off with a Kentucky Wildcat baseball cap. The main stream marble player had all the tools of the trade. He had agates, pee wees, crystals, cat's eyes, solids, log rollers and special shooters which we called Taws. The Broadway School playground was an excellent playing field. The dirt had a hard surface and it was perfectly level. All we had to do, to get started, was draw a big circle with a sharp rock, about four feet in diameter. Three or four players could join the game by putting 10 marbles in the center of the ring. We would each lag our shooters to the line and establish the shooting order. When it came your turn you knuckled down with your taw and fired across the ring. If you knocked one or more marbles out of the ring you got to shoot again. A young skinny kid we called Junior was always the guy to beat. He not only was a great shot but he used a steel ball bearing for a taw and he was deadly with it. With the added weight of the "steele" he could knock out a marble and his taw would stick in that spot. Then he would routinely knock out every marble left in the ring, working from left to right, in and out, reminiscent of a professional pool player. After it was all over and he had cleaned everybody out, he said "so long." Leaving with that cocky little walk. That's why we called him the Marble King. And I was never able to beat him. Long Live the King.

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