The memory is sharp

Bill Quick introduces us to his pocket knife, an impressive little slicer, and down in the comments you’ll find this exchange:

Denny: When I was growing up most of us boys carried pocket knives and we carried them to school.

Bill: Of course. How else can you play mumblety-peg during recess?

Indeed. In my little corner of the world, we played a single variation more or less in reverse: the idea was to keep your footing as long as possible as the knives got farther and farther apart, until eventually one of you did a very clumsy split. (During my, um, prep years, this was one of two Contests of Choice, the other being gin rummy.)

You might be able to get away with playing gin at recess today, but God forbid anyone should spot you with an actual knife. Even if it won’t cut through I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! at high noon in the Mojave, you’re out the door.


  1. fillyjonk »

    8 July 2008 · 2:48 pm

    I teach college. Lots of “conservation” classes, which tend to attract the outdoorsy types. (I like them. There’s a certain chivalry to the outdoorsy guys at my school.)

    It’s kind of nice because if we’re out in the field, and I suddenly realize I need a cutting blade for something (like, the piece of new equipment we’re using wasn’t unpacked properly back in the lab), I just have to ask, “Does someone have a knife?” and usually at least five of the guys will step forward with theirs on offer.

    (And I suspect if the field vans broke down, more often than not there’d probably be a guy in the class who could jerry-rig it to get it running again.)

    I’m glad knives aren’t banned at the college level. (I have a nice little knife that I got free from a lab-equipment company, but it’s mostly good for lunch-related tasks like peeling fruit. And it has a corkscrew on it, not that I’d ever use that eating lunch in my office).

  2. Bill Quick »

    8 July 2008 · 2:50 pm

    until eventually one of you did a very clumsy split.

    That’s the way we played it, too. It wasn’t until long after my recess days that I learned outlanders played several different varieties that involved stunts of one kind or another.

    The card game of choice? Hearts, of course.

  3. unimpressed »

    8 July 2008 · 9:31 pm

    I’ve carried a pocket knife just about as long as I’ve worn a wristwatch. I feel naked without either of them. However, I’ve never played mumblety-peg, nor did I have a card game of choice during (or at least at) school.

  4. OldTexan »

    8 July 2008 · 10:24 pm

    I remember that fun with knife stuff in the 50’s. My little sister, who is now in her 60’s, still holds a grudge against me for the scar on her foot where I threw a knife playing splits and stuck it in her foot.

    Yep, she still thinks it’s my fault cause I neglected to tell her sandels were a poor choice for footwear playing splits. She always tried to blame things on me.

  5. Huts »

    9 July 2008 · 1:50 pm

    We called the game Stick ‘um and used sharpened sticks. Hurts just as much when you get hit in the foot, just not as lethal.

RSS feed for comments on this post