Mumble, mumble, mumblety peg


I stood with Dad in the circle (the yard between the barn and house). It was too bad that I wasn’t a boy, but I couldn’t help it. We girls worked as hard as any boy, but there were some passages of youth in which we were denied participation, such as hunting with our dads, scratching our backsides and spitting on the ground.

We had to behave like girls should. Luckily, dad gave us a little leeway, allowing us to shoot a BB gun and play mumblety-peg.

mumbly-peg: noun (mumblety peg, mumble-the-peg, mumble peg (Webster-Merriam)

definition: a game in which the players try to flip a knife from various positions so that the blade will stick into the ground.

Webster goes on to tell me that this game was first known to be used in 1627. Originally, the loser had to remove the peg from the ground with his teeth. Now I know why men spit.

Dad unfolded the knife and handed it to me. I must have been around eight at the time. I had watched the farm hands and Dad toss their knives many times. I thought it was a spectator sport, but now Dad handed the blade to me. I held the blade between my fingers and tossed it to the ground. Hm. Not as easy as it looked. After several tries and masculine instruction, I sent the blade into the earth. Then I wondered what the big deal was all about. But then a knife was entertainment for the male side of the equation. And, perhaps only a man would think of pulling the darn thing out of the ground with his teeth. I was glad I was a girl.

Many a man was seen cleaning his fingernails, carving a piece of wood, cutting twine and using a knife as his handiest tool. I noticed that women never did the same. Heck, Mom could have pulled out her pocket knife and cut pie dough, cleaned our dirty fingernails, pried open lids and found numerous other creative ways to use her handy pocket knife. Mom could even have used a tool belt as she cooked up a meal for those farm hands sitting out under the tree.

I was never given a knife. Perhaps I was not as trustworthy as a son would have been. Oh, wait! I just read an article that said that a knife and the prowess with it was a sign of manhood. Well, no wonder. I was definitely not striving for my manhood. But I sure did want my own knife. Maybe we girls didn’t have times of boredom when we needed to toss a knife or clean our nails. Maybe it was a good thing that girls spitting and scratching was frowned upon. Hm. One more thing to contemplate.

By Pamela Loxley Drake

On Neff Road

Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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