Monday, March 31, 2008

Mumbly Peg...

A few days ago, my lovely wife, Kristen, says to me...

"I've got the word 'mumbly peg' in my head. Where's that from?"

This does not surprise those of you who know us. Kristen very often, and quite randomly, will recall strange words or phrases from our past and inquire as to their origin or value.

It's usually my job to remember the historical setup for such sayings. (I usually remember them quite well. Strange...I can remember that but can't seem to remember to take a couple of DVDs back to Blockbuster.)

"Mumbly peg" sounded familiar to me, too, but I couldn't place it.

Enter Google. From my limited research, I have discovered information on "Mumbly peg." It's fascinating, but I have no idea how we know those words.

"Mumbly peg" is a game. Some sites reference it as a drinking game, but I think I was able to discover it in its purest form here.

"A Summer's day, a shady nook, a close-cropped green sod, two or three boys, and a jack-knife are the things necessary for a quiet game of Mumbly Peg [or mumbley peg, mumblety peg, mumble peg, mumble-the-peg, mumbypeg, or mumble de peg].

The first player takes the knife and goes through as much of the game as he can without a blunder. The second follows in turn, doing the same. The last one to perform all of the difficult feats is beaten, and must pull a peg, two inches long, from the ground with his teeth. The winner drives the peg with the knife-handle for a hammer, being allowed, by the rules of the game, three blows with his eyes open, and three with his eyes closed.

This usually drives the peg out of sight in the sod, and in that case the boys cry: "Root! Root!" as the defeated player, using only his teeth, literally roots, until, with a dirty face and a broad grin, he lifts his head, showing the peg between his teeth. From the penalty that the loser pays comes the name of Mumbly or Mumbelty-Peg.

The Feats:

First: Hold the right fist with back to the ground and with the jack-knife, with blade pointing to the right, resting on top of the closed fingers. The hand is swung to the right, up and over, describing a semicircle, so that the knife falls point downward and sticks, or should stick, upright in the ground. If there is room to slip two fingers, one above the other, beneath the handle of the knife and if the point of the knife is hidden in the ground, it counts as a fair stick or throw.

Second: The next motion is the same as the one just described, but is performed with the left hand.

Third: Take the point of the blade between the first and second fingers of the right hand, and fillip it with a jerk so that the knife turns once around in the air and strikes the point into the ground.

Fourth: Do the same with the left hand.

Fifth: Hold the knife as in the third and fourth positions, and bring the arm across the chest so that the knife-handle touches the left ear. Take hold of the right ear with the left hand and fillip the knife so that it turns once or twice in the air and strikes on its point in the earth.

Sixth: Do the same with the left hand.

Seventh: Still holding the knife in the same manner, bring the handle up to the nose and fillip it over through the air, so that it will stick in the ground.

Eighth: Do the same with the handle at the right eye.

Ninth: Repeat, with the handle at the left eye.

Tenth: Place the point of the blade on top of the head. Hold it in place with the forefinger, and with downward push send it whirling down to the earth, where it must stick with the point of blade in the earth.

Eleventh to Fifteenth: Hold the left hand with the fingers pointing up, and, beginning with the thumb, place the point of the knife on each finger as described above, and the forefinger of the forefinger of the right hand on the end of the knife handle. By a downward motion, throw the knife revolving through the air, so that it will alight with the point of the blade in the sod.

Sixteenth to Twentieth: Repeat, with the right hand up the left hand on the knife-handle.

Twenty-first, Twenty-second: the same from each knee.

Twenty-third: Hold the point of the blade between the first and second fingers and, placing the band on the forehead, flip the knife back over the head, so that it will stick in the ground behind the player ready for the next motion.

Twenty-fourth: After twenty-three the knife is left in the ground. Then with the palm of the hand strike the knife handle a smart blow that will send it revolving over the ground for a yard, more or less, and cause it to stick in the ground where it stops. This is called 'plowing the field.'

When a miss is made the next player takes his turn, and when the first player's turn comes again he must try the feat over that he failed to perform last. A good player will sometimes go through almost all the twenty-four motions without failing to make a " two-finger," that is, a fair stick, each time; but it is very unusual for anyone to run the game out in one inning. This is the game in twenty-four motions; many boys play it with double that number. "

If you managed to read through all of that, then you discovered how truly odd this game is.

Anybody ever played this? Anybody ever even HEARD of it?


david runnels said...

i'd mentioned mumbly peg to kristen. i don't remember the circumstances. but i distinctly remember the questioning look and inflection in her tone as she said, "mumbly peg?"
my father, as a child, played mumbly peg (sans alcohol). he had a scar on his calf from playing. in boy scouts we played a version of the game with large tent stakes.

Robert Conn said...

True story. I taught my entire dorm floor how to play this during my Freshmen year of college. Except I grew up calling it "Root The Peg."

I also played it minus any alcohol.

Rachel said...

Jason and I play all the time. Maybe we don't know how to play Texas Hold'em, but we play a mean Mumbley Peg.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather who is 90yrs old played this game in the 1920's. I just googled this to see what it was all about. I read him the feats and now he is taking me outside to show me how 2 play! Excellent post - cheers