The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 22, 2013

Playing Jungle Jim and many other childhood games


Fishing with a cane pole lasted longer than the fish in some streams, largely because of mine refuse waters. Country streams that once supplied families with daily catches eventually were void of minnows, let alone sizable bass and bluegill.

And yet, fish tales abound about “lunkers” cradled between an angler’s knees after it was brought to the bank to prevent it from escaping back into the water.

School playgrounds, meanwhile, were littered with a hundred circles in the dirt drawn by skillful marble shooters. Boys honed their craft at sticking in the ring with their favorite tall and clearing the mottled glass ornaments.

Cow pastures were alive with aspiring ballplayers, all eager to swing the bat when it came their turn.

Running from daylight till dark was the norm for most kids of the day. Exercise was plentiful, considering that few neighbors lived within hollering distance. Bicycles were the transportation of choice, even if it meant pushing the vehicles uphill when the going got rough. Doubling a friend on the front wasn’t considered dangerous back then, even though many a tumble was recorded on twisted downhill grades.

Today, most of the woodland where we used to play as children has disappeared, swallowed up by homes, businesses and thoroughfares. I wonder whether the children who live there ever want to play jungle games, or if they even lament there’s no place for them.

On the other hand, I doubt that anyone would notice. And if such games are still played by youth, they’re probably only imitations of the real thing, having been replaced by videos, joy sticks and virtual reality.

What a pity.

Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail:

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