Playing for Keeps

We had to be careful.  No doubt about that.  Not just one of us, but every one of us kept a keen eye out, making sure we didn’t get caught.

Back in those days, I was a gambler.  Every day, willing to put everything I had on the line.  Winning and losing.  I loved it.  I was good at it.

That was when I had no responsibility.  I could have lost it all, walked home and not a word would be said to me.

You see, we played marbles for keeps.  I had plenty of marbles.  I could buy more at the dime store about a block from our house.

I didn’t lose all my marbles.  Although some friends  have sworn I lost them…..many times.

Kenny, Tal, Al, Chris, Bolton and a few others.  Every day at recess, we ran to hide behind  the big oak tree, at the front of the school, right next to the fence

Someone would draw a triangle in the dirt, each leg about a foot long.   Another friend would take three giant steps away and draw another line.  The lag line.  We stood behind the triangle and rolled our marbles to the lag line.  The closest to the line shot first.  The second closest was second and so on.

Everyone who played put a marble in the triangle.  We had to ante up.   I learned my first gambling word under a pin oak tree in Louisiana.  We all put our cheapest, dirtiest, ugliest marbles inside that triangle.  Marbles we could afford to lose.  Everyone had a favorite shooter marble.

First shots were from the lag line.  You had to get close to the triangle.  If your shooter ended up in the triangle, it stayed.  You reached for another shooter.  The pot was more valuable.

We guarded our shooters with our lives.  Some of us had ball bearings.  They were deadly inside the triangle.  The oversized Crystals and Agates were almost as good.  Cats eye marbles were pretty, but you could buy them by the bag. They were losers.

The objective was to use your shooter and knock a marble out of the triangle.  The marbles you knocked out, you  kept.

When you knocked a marble out, you kept it and took another shot, at another marble.  A good shooter could run the table, leaving the rest of us reaching into our pockets, searching for another loser marble.

I think that’s what the school officials disliked.  The loosing and keeping of our marbles.

If the teacher caught us, we lost all our marbles.  Confiscation and a trip to the office.  Bad.

We were vigilant.  We didn’t see any harm.  We were learning the ways of man.

Today, people say kids need a million dollars worth of playground equipment to have fun.  I think they lost their marbles.


Please feel free to share.  I welcome your comments and thoughts.  Contact Mike Windham at  You may follow me at


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