When Chub and I bicycled the 500 miles across Newfoundland, we traveled the eastern part of Highway 1 through thinly populated forest land. Sharing the road with us were huge lumber trucks - and Canadian Mounties in cars. We saw three other bicyclists and not many residents in those 11 days. Occasional homes were tucked between wooded hills, back from the highway when we pedaled from Corner Brook to St. Johns. Most activity was along Newfoundland’s coast, where "fish" meant codfish and everybody helped when fishing boats came in.
We camped eight nights in quiet forests. As we pedaled along, I wondered about the kids in these isolated homes: What did they do for fun?
My own fun on a dairy farm must have been like theirs: "Flinch" or marbles on the living room rug after supper, popcorn and taffy candy, dressing the kittens in dolls’ clothing, making slingshots or simple acorn rings and horse chestnut baskets from the woods, whittling, finger games and string "crow’s feet," spool-knitting and playing in the boxes that came in the mail or at Christmas time. There were never enough kids at one time to have a ball team, but we played "work up" baseball with four or five friends. Newfoundland kids were even more isolated than I was on the farm.
Native Americans - we called them Indians, of course - played with peach seeds, bones, stones and sticks of all sizes. I imagine the kids dammed up trickling streams, learned to whistle tunes and to fold their hands together to blow a loud noise.
I learned the latter - the first time any noise came from blowing into my hands - after several days of trying to imitate big boys who could make two tones. Success came with a loud blast in Miss Edna Wood’s history class! She went right on teaching, but kids giggled; I was embarrassed.
Animals and Indians taught us snow games. A "fox and geese" wheel pattern, made by coyotes, was discovered on our farm by a hunter. Indians cut long, straight wands and played a winter game when rain fell and froze on top of new snow. Pushing the wooden wand forward, heavy end first, they vied for accuracy to hit a target and also for longest distance for the stick to bob along on the icy snow. They played games of chance with peach seeds or stones.
In Pago Pago, Samoa, I watched a ballgame between the local residents and a boat load of people from Western Samoa. There were no officials, no uniforms, not even colors for the teams. They played on rough ground with some grass, but it was mostly packed sand. There were no bases; the pitcher’s "mound" and home plate were marked off with a stick.
At an elementary school, I watched as students exploded out to the beach, picking up small driftwood sticks as they ran. They built "jack-straw" towers by adding stick after stick without knocking the tower down. Younger children covered their bare feet and legs with damp sand and packed it down - then wiggled their toes free.
In New Zealand, Britain and in our own country, kids like playing in cardboard boxes. Given a steep incline, they get into the box or open it out and use it flat.
We have watched children playing while attending football games at Memorial Stadium: Steep inclines on the southeast end of the stadium have had eight or 10 youngsters sliding down a steep bank - when action on the field wasn’t enough fun!
Creating spontaneous fun - with friends or strangers - can’t be beat!