The next few posts will be a miscellany of items from one of my most cherished and precious books, Cassell’s Book of Sports and Pastimes from 1896. It’s dedicated to “moderate indulgence” in “athletic and other manly exercises”. These include not just manly (again) games and exercises but also “minor out-door games”, lawn games, games of skill, recreative science, the workshop, and home pets. Yes, you heard me: keeping canaries and building miniature steam engines are both officially manly exercises.
Incidentally, will anyone cherish a DRMed file of a 2013 ebook in a hundred years time? I seriously doubt they’ll be able to even if they might want to.
It’s time to get manly, fill the various offices and ask the male friend you’re straddling “Buck, Buck, how many fingers do I hold up?” No, stop, I said offices.
BUCK, BUCK, HOW MANY FINGERS DO I HOLD UP?
This is a game for three boys, called respectively the Master, the Buck, and the Frog, who should alternately fill the various offices. The Master places himself with his back to a wall, and has to guard over the interests of the Buck. The Buck makes a back by bending down and placing his head at the pit of the Master’s stomach. Frog then takes a leap and seats himself straddle-leg fashion on Buck’s back, and asks the question that gives the game its name, at the same time holding up his right hand with or without some or all of his fingers distended. If Buck in answering has guessed the right number he is released, but if he has failed frog keeps his seat until a correct guess is made. The number of fingers held up may be varied after each guess. When the guess has been correctly made, Frog becomes Buck, Buck becomes Master, and Master becomes Frog, and so on with each change.
Like many of the activities in the book that make one grateful for the modern world, this game sounds absolutely exhausting and not fun in the slightest. Here’s another one that involves mounting a manly comrade:
The game of Mount Nag is also known by the names of Jump, Little Nagtail, and Hi Cockalorum.
The players are divided into sides, the one to act as nags the other as riders. In the case of the former, the first player stands erect, with his face usually, but not necessarily, to the wall. The next of the side forms down in the manner explained in the game of Buck, Buck, how many Fingers do I hold up? the remainder of the side forming down in the same way, each one “tailing” on and holding to the player immediately in front, in order to secure stability and to preserve steadiness.
The nags being thus all down, the riders one by one mount until all have secured a seat. It will be necessary that the first rider take his leap as far forward as possible towards the nag at the wall, in order that space behind may be left for the remaining riders, and that each succeeding rider vault as far forward as he can. No rider is allowed to move after he has once taken his seat, and every rider, before proceeding to take his seat, must give notice of his intention by calling aloud, “Here comes my ship full sailing– cock warning!” After the riders are all seated they have to shout aloud three times either the words, “Jump, little Nagtail, one, two, three,” or “Hi Cockalorum, jig, jig, jig,” calling at the third time the words “Off, off!” If the nags have throughout supported the riders, sides then change places. It is sometimes made a condition of the change in position of the sides that the nags, by wriggling and other manoeuvres, should unseat one or more of the riders, or that one or more of the riders touching the ground with a foot before the final “Off, off!” has been uttered outs his sided out. Under either arrangement, however, the nags are released if any one of the riders fails to secure a seat on the nags owing to earlier riders not taking their seats sufficiently far forward.
Next time: some puzzling manly scenarios.