Playing with Marbles

July 2nd, 2016

Playing with Marbles


There were a number of houses being built in our neighborhood when I was growing up.  The earth in des Plaines was rich farmland, loamy, black earth, as far down as you could dig a basement foundation for a house.  This created mounds of clean, black earth, pure dirt, for a kid to play in.

Or on: a favorite game was “King of the Hill,” where the largest, or toughest, kid claimed the top of the dirt pile, shoving all challengers to the bottom.

King of the Hill was not me.  Being younger, and smaller, than the rest, I quickly lost interest in trying to keep up with the melee, and prefered to resort to my own devices.

For me, the great thing about the dirt pile was that you could build paths and tunnels in it down which you could roll marbles, watching their path down as though they were cars, trains, or just people hiding.  Carefully, carefully I would fashion intricate routes, twisting down  hairpin curves that went through delicately crafted dirt tunnels, no thicker than half the width of a glass marble.  I could spend hours constructing these courses, carefully planning and creating them, then letting my marbles go at the top, to wtch them descend, racing through the tunnel-holes, along the sculpted pathways, down, down, to the bottom.

Until, of course, the “King of the Hill” fight resumed, and all my careful works were destroyed in a mad frenzy of childish physical abandon, the tunnels and pathways scuffed and trampled away under unseeing feet.

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