Healthful Sports for Boys
Marbles: Where and how made; different games; terms of game; how to gain skill.
WHIP TOPS AND TOP GAMES
Whip tops, peg tops, and some other tops; how they are played; top games.
KITES AND HOW MADE
About kites; how made; their practical uses; flying contests.
HOOPS, WHEELS AND BUZZERS
Hoops, wheels and buzzers; stilts, different kinds; how used and how procured.
LET'S GO A-FISHING
"Let's go a-fishing"; bait of many kinds and how to get it. Fishing outfit; its care.
BOATING AND CANOEING
Useful hints on boating and canoeing. "Don'ts" to be observed. Definitions.
SMALL SAIL BOATS
How to make and manage small sail boats.
HOW TO SWIM
Can you swim? How to learn. Confidence.
STYLES OF SWIMMING
Styles of swimming; floating, diving; water games.
THINGS BOYS SHOULD KNOW
How sides are chosen in games of contest; some things all boys should know.
CURIOUS RHYMES FOR GAMES
Curious rhymes in counting out games.
TAG AND BULL IN THE RING
All about the good old game of tag, and bull in the ring.
ALL ABOUT LEAP FROG
Do you know all about leap frog?
DUCK ON THE ROCK—CAT
Dead Turtle; Duck on Rock; Brick Skittles; Tip Cat; Country Cat; American Cat.
BALL, BAT AND RACKET
And now for ball! Some good games that can be played with ball, bat and racket. Town ball; two old cats; hand ball.
The great American game of baseball. Some things every player should know. Rules.
ALL ABOUT FOOTBALL
The strenuous game of football. How to lay out the ground. Pointers for players.
MUMBLY PEG—HOP SCOTCH
Mumbly peg; jackstones; Hop Scotch.
HOW TO CAMP OUT
How and where to prepare camp. A delightful way in which to spend a vacation, if you know the way.
BICYCLES AND LASSOES
Can you ride a bike? Information on wheels. How to throw a lariat.
GOLF, HOCKEY AND SHINNY
The old Scotch game of golf, hockey and shinny.
On the ice and snow. The royal sport of skating. Some hints on skiing and snow shoes.
Coasting. How to make sleds. The bob sled. The toboggan. Snow games.
Walking, Running, Jumping.
Battle cries, hailing shouts, and college yells.
Vanishing feats. Curious illusions. Various deceptive amusements.
Balancing. Juggling. Transformations.
Among the many good and wise things said by the great Lincoln was this: "Give me the boy with promise of the man in him, and give me the man with the memory of the boy in him, and both can sit at my table, and if they sit together, we'll have all the better time!"
This book of out-door games for boys will make better boys, and they'll get a lot more joy out of life and be the better men in time, for having read it and carried out its rules as to wholesome, honest sport.
The boy who plays an honest game will do an honest business, and he'll win over "the sneak."
If you are "a grown-up," read this book, and in doing so live over again the joyous, gladsome days of your boyhood, and you will sigh, as we do while writing this: "Would I were a boy again!"
We want the mother, as well as the father, to read this book, for it will recall the brothers of far-off days, and bring her into closer sympathy—we must not say "love," for that is already strong enough —with the exuberance of her boys.
And the girls? Why, bless you! They, too, should read every scrap of this book, for they will find in it many of their own games, and not one that they could not play and enjoy, if circumstances permitted.
And the grand-parents? God bless them! Why, they'll enjoy it quite as much as the young folks.
MARBLES: WHERE MADE; TERMS OF THE GAMES; DIFFERENT GAMES; HOW TO ACQUIRE SKILL
Each season has its own particular work for the farmer, and he does his work without direction from or consultation with his neighbors or any one else. Each season has its own particular games for the young folks, and they take to them without any suggestion from outsiders, just as young ducks take to water, without any instructions from the mother bird. The seasons in the south temperate zone are just the opposite to those in the north. Some years ago I spent the months of July and August in New Zealand, and great was my surprise to find the boys down at Dunedin snowballing on the Fourth of July, while the sleigh-bells made music through the streets. In the following October, which is the spring month in Victoria, Australia, I found the youngsters of Melbourne playing marbles, just as the boys in New York had been doing when I left it the previous May.
We have reason to believe that the first marbles were fashioned from pebbles on the ocean's shore, or ground into roundness by the action of river currents. We do not know when or where marbles originated, but of the antiquity of the game we are very sure. Egyptian boys played marbles before the days of Moses, and marbles are among the treasures found buried in the ruins of Pompeii, which you will remember was destroyed by an eruption of lava from Vesuvius in the first century of the Christian era. To-day marbles are played in every civilized land under the sun, and with slight differences, the method of shooting and the games are practically the same.
Germans are the greatest toy and game-makers in the world, and so we should not be surprised to learn that that great country not only produces the most marbles, but also the very best. From Germany we get the finest "agates," the beauty and value of which every lover of the game knows. The more common marbles are made in Saxony, of a fine kind of white limestone, which is practically a variety of the building material known as "marble," and from which the name is derived. Broken into small pieces, and the irregular bits placed between two grooved grinders, the lower one being stone and the upper wood, power is applied, and after much rotating the spheres are turned out, hundreds at a time, and these are afterwards sorted and polished.
Glass marbles, some of which are imitation agates, are cast in moulds that close so perfectly that the place where they join cannot be seen in the finished product. China marbles are made from pottery-clay, and after being joined are baked, and sometimes they are painted. The small gray, brown or black marbles, usually called "commies," are little balls of clay, baked and glazed. These, being the cheapest, are the most numerous, and are usually the objects of attack, and so change owners the oftenest.
NAMES OF MARBLES AND PLAY TERMS
While the names of marbles and the terms of the game may vary slightly in different parts of the United States, they are in the main so much alike that the following will be understood by all boys throughout the land:
The Taw or Shooter is the marble used for shooting.
The Taw Line, or Scratch, is a line drawn for a starting point in the game.
Ducks are marbles to be shot at.
Dubs, an abbreviation of "doubles," means that you get all the marbles knocked out with one shot.
Fen Dubs, an abbreviation of "defend doubles," is shouted by an opponent before the play, and means that you must put back all but one marble.
Lofting means shooting through the air, so that your taw does not touch the earth till it hits the object aimed at or a point near it.
Knuckling Down means resting the knuckles on the ground while shooting.
Histing or Hoisting is holding some distance above the ground. It is not permitted in Bull Ring or in Meg-on-a-string.
Roundsters means taking a new position to avoid an obstruction. It is not allowed in Bull Ring.
Sidings means moving your taw from one side to the other in a straight line when about to shoot It is barred in Bull Ring.
Burying is when the taw, if in a good spot, is forced into the ground with the heel of the shoe. This is seldom allowed; "Fen buryings" being the accepted law of experts. Laying means placing the marbles in the ring.
Clearances means the removal of all obstructions between the players and the ducks.
Sneaking means shooting for a position.
Babying is shooting so as not to send the taw too far. Good players often do this so as to secure a position from which they can "skin the ring."
Dabsters are little squares of cloth or skin laid under the knuckles when playing to keep them from being cut by constant contact with the hard ground.
Marble Bag saves pockets and explains itself.
According to quality, marbles are known as "agates," "crystals," "chinas," "alleys," "potteries," and "commies," or the cheapest and least prized.
The three great essentials of the game are the boys, the marbles, and suitable ground.
The marble is shot from the hollow of the crooked index finger, and projected by the thumb. Good shooting is often done in this way, but the most expert shots place the marble on the point of the index finger, and project it with a firmer grip of the thumb. This method is more difficult to acquire, but it pays as does everything that requires practice and effort. A good player, as in billiards, can make his taw carom for position, or he can make it remain stationary, while the marble struck shoots away in a straight line.
SOME GOOD GAMES
A boy can practice the above, and I would advise him to do so, but it takes at least two boys to make a game—just as it takes two to make a quarrel, and you must never be one of the latter. Just here let me say that the boy who loses his temper, or who has not the manhood to accept defeat in the right spirit, does not make a desirable friend or playmate, for if he cannot conquer himself he is unfit to contest in the sports of youth or in the business of maturer years.
Fat is one of our oldest and simplest marble games. It is played in this way: Make a ring eighteen inches or two feet in diameter; ten feet back draw or scratch a taw line to shoot from. If four boys are playing, each places a marble, as indicated, or if there are more players the marbles are placed at equal distances about the ring. The order of the play having been decided on, by shooting or rolling towards the taw line, the nearness to which decides the question, number one shoots for the ring, and if he knocks out a marble, he shoots again from where his taw rests, and so keeps on until he has missed. Number two knuckles down at the taw line and shoots, as did number one. If the first taw is within range, he can shoot at that, and if he hits it, then number one must hand number two all the ducks he has knocked from the ring. If number two can hit number one's taw again, then number one is killed, and must retire from that game.
When number two misses, the next in order shoots, either at the ring or at the line taw, and so the game proceeds till all the marbles are knocked out, or all but the last player are killed. In the second game, the first man killed is the last to shoot, and so they take turns in the order of their defeat This game is the more fascinating for its uncertainty, for often the last player knocks out the taw of one who so far has been getting all the ducks, and he gets credit for his score.
can hardly be called a game. It is played by two boys—usually when they have more important business on hand; the first boy shoots in the direction both are traveling; the second follows, and whenever one chances to be hit it counts one for the shooter.
In this game, one boy, called "Knucks," takes a small marble between his knuckles, then places the clenched hand on the ground. The other player knuckles down at the taw line, four or five feet away, and shoots—he must not roll—at the marble held by the other. Every time the "Knucks" marble is hit, it counts one for the shooter; each time he misses in the three shots, it counts an additional shot for "Knucks" when it comes his turn.
THE LONG RING
About eight or nine feet from the taw line make an elongated ring, composed of two sections of a circle, crossing each other. Draw a circle down the center of the long ring, and on this place the marbles. If there are only two players, then each lays a duck at the intersection of the curves. Each additional player adds a duck to the line.
Where there are only two players, the first is sure to "sneak," that is, to roll his taw so that it will rest near one of the marbles in the ring. If number two hits number one, and so kills him, he wins the game, but if there are more than two in the game, number one is put out. Number two has another shot, from the place where his taw rests, at the ducks in the ring, and he keeps on till he misses. So the game is kept up till all the ducks are knocked from the ring. If it is agreed in advance, each player may lay more than one duck in the ring. In this game the killed are not dead, if there are more than two players. They can play when the turn comes, but it must always be from the taw line.
THE BULL RING
This is one of the oldest and best games. The ring should be from four to ten feet in diameter. The ducks are placed in the form of a cross, in the middle of the ring, the number each is to "whack up" being agreed upon in advance. The order of play is usually decided on by knuckling down and rolling for the opposite side of the ring. The first player "lofts" at the ducks. He must drive the marble outside the ring for a win. If his own taw goes outside, the successful player can come back to the ring edge for his next shot. If it is a miss and the taw goes outside the ring, it must be replaced inside at the point of exit. When a taw is struck the owner is "dead" for that game, and the successful player keeps on shooting till he misses.
When two or more ducks are knocked out of the ring, the player is entitled to raise his score by that number, provided he shouts "Dubs" before the others cry "Fen dubs." If a player is caught "hunching," that is, pushing his fist beyond the line while shooting, and makes a hit, he must replace the marble and shoot over again. "Histings" and the use of "bowlers" are barred in the bull ring.
"Sneaking," that is, shooting the taw so that it will rest near the middle of the ring, is allowed. If this taw is not hit, it may be able to skin the ring when its turn comes. A dead man, when his turn comes, and there are enough ducks remaining to warrant the risk, may re-enter the game by placing in the ring twice as many marbles as were at first required, and an additional duck near the edge of the ring; on this duck he caroms so as to send it out, then if his taw is in a good place, he may come out ahead.
Make three shallow holes, and about ten feet away draw the taw line. The holes are three feet apart. The object of each player is to shoot his taw so that it will enter and stay in the first hole. If he succeeds, he is allowed to place his thumb on the far edge of the first hole, and using his hand as a pair of dinders, by a twist of the wrist he marks with his longest finger a curved line on the ground. This is called "taking a span." From the span line he shoots at the second hole, and if successful continues on to the third. If this is won, he takes a span backward for the middle hole. If he reaches the first hole, he repeats it over, but this time he is entitled to two spans. The third time, if there is no miss, he can take three spans, and if he succeeds, he becomes a "King Duck," and takes four spans.
If the first player misses, and the second player rolls into the first hole, he takes a span and shoots—if it is near—at the first taw, and if he hits, he can place his taw in the second hole, and so on till he misses. When number one's turn comes, he must shoot from the spot where his taw rests.
In this game the first king has a great advantage because of his four spans. Each time a player hits another, he scores one point, and the hit loses one. By the time all have become King Ducks the game is over, or it may be decided in advance that when one has made five or ten points, the game shall end.
differs from the foregoing game, in the fact that there is no taw line. The player shoots from one end at the middle hole. If he succeeds, he is entitled to a span, and he keeps on as before till he becomes a king. Before this, he can take but one span in any direction, but as a king, he can take one foot measure—his own foot —and a span from the first hole; two feet and a span from the second hole, and three feet and a span from the third hole. This gives him a great advantage, and if there is no rival king he is "Monarch of all he surveys." If there is a second king, the first one assigns him the first hole to guard, because from this he can take only one foot and a span. When all become kings, or the points agreed on are won, the game is over.
A "Square Ring" sounds odd, but such things go in playing marbles. The square may be of any size, but four feet is the best. The taw line must be from twenty to thirty feet away. Before a player can win the game he must first kill all the others. Perhaps that is why it is sometimes called "Injun."
The first player is at a great disadvantage, for if he knocks out a duck he must replace it, and if his taw stops inside the ring he has killed himself, and is out of the game. The best way is not to knuckle down but to toss for a good position near the ring. The second player, for obvious reasons, must keep away as far as possible from the first, so he shoots through the ring with force, hoping to get a duck on the way, for he does not have to replace it. He can take the duck back to taw and holding it in his left hand shoot at it so as to send his own taw close to number one, which he can then kill.
If number two misses, number three pitches his marble off to one side, and so the game goes on, each player guarding his own taw and trying to kill his rivals. Knocking out ducks gives the privilege just described, after which the duck is replaced.
WHIP TOPS, PEG TOPS, HUMMING TOPS AND SOME TOP GAMES
Why it happens, no one knows, not even the boys themselves, but that it does happen we all know. Tops come in when the marble game is in full blast, and gradually it drives out, till another spring, its beloved rival. Tops are of great antiquity, and the Chinese and their neighbors, the Japanese, are famous for the variety of their tops. I have seen adults in those countries enjoying the game with all the zest of American boys in springtime.
It is a good idea for boys, where they have any facilities for so doing, to make their own play tools. In the old days, they whittled out tops, but it hardly pays to do so to-day when well-shaped spinners can be had in every toy shop at a very low price. However, good little tops can be made from the wooden spools on which sewing thread comes. Two tops, that will amuse the younger children, can be made from each spool, by whittling down from the rims to the middle of the spool till the parts break at the opening. A peg driven through answers for a spindle. These can be made in a few minutes, and may afford some fun for a winter evening.
If not the very oldest, these tops are certainly the most widely distributed. If a good whip top cannot be bought, a first-rate article can be made from a section of a rounded timber, either natural or turned. It may be of any size, but from two to three inches in diameter, and about a half inch or more in length is the best. Whittle this, with care, to a blunt point, into which drive a smooth-headed tack, and there you are. With colored crayons, or paint, the top may be decorated, so as to add to its effect when spinning.
Tough rags, or leather thongs fastened to a handle about a foot in length, will make an effective lash, but the best whips are made from pliant leather thongs, or still better, from a dried eelskin.
To spin the top, put your whip under your left arm—I have seen boys grasp it between their teeth—then with the flat of the fingers of both hands on either side of the top, give a smart twirl. As soon as the top is in motion, ply your whip along the sides, drawing the lash quickly away at each stroke.
Playing whip-top alone soon gets to be monotonous, but where there are two a "fight" can be arranged for. At the word "go," two boys spin their tops, and then lash them till they crash together. The tops must be kept within a described ring, and the one that knocks the other out is regarded as the King top. If a boy strikes his opponent's top, it is a "foul," and he loses the game. Another contest is where, after the lashing, one calls "stop." The one that "dies" first, is naturally out.
Racing is done by drawing a taw line, from which the whip tops start for a designated goal, the first one in winning. This is an exciting game and not so easy as at first appears.
The tin or wooden humming top is but an interesting toy. The Japanese make them with a slit in the point which fits into a string or a thin wire, and on such supports they can be made to do remarkable feats.
THE PEG TOP
The Peg Top is, after all, the King of the top family, and the greatest source of joy to the youth with a sure eye and a steady hand. The "Plugger" is the top you spin; the "bait" is the top you strike with the plugger. A "Giggler" is an unsteady top that goes dancing and hopping about. Boys love their "old reliable taw" in marbles, but their pride in this is never so great as that which they take in a conquering plugger. This should have what is known as a screw peg, which prevents splitting. It can be made, but on the whole, I think it better to buy the pegs.
A good, stout, pliant cord is quite as necessary as a well-balanced top. It should have a button, never a loop, to keep it from slipping through the fingers, and it should be of a thickness to fill, without overlapping the grooves. The end should be frayed and moistened to insure a firm grip when starting to wind. It requires much practice to become expert in spinning the peg, but, as in everything else, it pays to learn accuracy.
As with whip top, playing alone soon ceases to be good fun, but the game makes for enjoyment. Mark out a bull ring about six feet in diameter. Put as many tops inside the small ring as there are players, then toss up, or in any other way decide on the order of play. After winding up his peg, the first player, with his left foot toeing the outer ring, strikes for the tops in the center. If he misses and fails to spin, or if he strikes outside the inner circle, he must put another top within the circle and await his turn. If he strikes the tops with the big end of his plugger, it is a miss, and he must replace any top knocked out; but if the peg of the plugger hits a top and knocks it out of the center ring, he pockets it and has another whack. If in spinning in the center ring the plugger jostles out a top or tops, it counts as a hit, and the player is entitled to another "try." If the plugger spins and dies in the ring without knocking out a top, it is a miss, and the player must add another top.
Sometimes a crack player throws with such force and accuracy as to split a bait top. This is the acme of the game and the crowning glory of the player. Often the bait consists of toothless, battered wrecks, but this does not lessen the fun of the game.
KITES: WHERE FOUND; HOW MADE; THEIR PRACTICAL USES; CLOSELY RELATED TO AEROPLANES—A GREAT SPORT
Spring winds favor kite flying. This is another world-wide sport, and it was popular with old and young in China—the land of the kite—at the time when the Egyptians were cutting stones for the pyramids. Everybody knows, or should know, what the great Ben. Franklin did by means of a kite, though the kite through which he learned the nature of lightning was of a model that is not often seen at this time. This was the old bow kite, the kind that every beginner learns to make, and which needs no detailed description here.
The hexagonal or coffin-shaped kite is more reliable than the old sort, and is quite as cheap and as easily made. Kites of both these kinds have been used to get a line from a stranded vessel to the shore, and engineers have used them. They did it when the first suspension bridge was built at Niagara, to get a line across the chasm, which gradually grew into the great suspending cables.
Kites have been used to draw light vehicles over smooth ground, and they make good sport when made to draw sleds over the ice, or as "top- loftical" sails for small boats. I have seen in New York a tandem team of ten kites used for advertising purposes.
The Star Kite is easily made and is well worth doing. Get three sticks or sections of light string, both of equal length. These are fastened in the center, so that, with the ends of the sticks equal distances apart, they will form a six-pointed star. The covering should be of thin, close cotton cloth, or, better still, of light, strong paper, which must be pasted so as to present the side of greatest resistance to the wind, else it will soon be blown off. The tail band is simply a loop fastened to the sticks at the bottom so that it will hang below the kite, and balance it when it ascends. The belly-bands for support and steering—in the latter case two lines are used—must never be attached below the central cross-piece.
Boys often find fun in sending "messengers" up the strings to the kites. After the kite is up a good height, round pieces of colored paper with a hole in the center and a slit by means of which they are slipped on the string, are sent up. They travel with the speed of the wind till they reach the kite, where they stop. If too heavy, or too many, the messengers may get the kite out of balance.
A messenger has been sent up 6,000 feet, or over one mile. That is the height to which American scientists have sent kites with thermometers and barometers attached, so as to record the elevation and the temperature.
THE HARGRAVE, OR BOX KITE,
is something new and hitherto unheard of in the kite line. Rigidity and strength, without too much weight, are the prime essentials of the Hargrave. It may be made by a boy with a knack for mechanics in the following way: Take eight stiff, slender pieces of bamboo, eighteen and three-quarter inches in length, such as are sometimes used for fishing poles. These pieces must be of uniform weight and length, and as nearly alike as possible. Next cut six sticks, each eleven inches long, and as nearly alike as possible. These are for the middle uprights and end stretchers. After finding the middle of the longer sticks, lash them together in pairs by means of stout waxed thread, or light brass wire. Notch the ends of the sticks and make the spread between A and C just eleven inches. This will give you four pairs of crossed sticks. Next take one of your eleven-inch uprights, and bind it to the two pairs of cross-sticks. Take the other eleven-inch upright and fasten the other two pairs of cross-sticks in the same way.
This done, cut two spines, or connecting rods of bamboo, each thirty inches long and as nearly alike as possible. Next, with waxed thread, or light wire, bind the two spines over the ends of the eleven-inch stretchers. The spine must fit like the top of a letter T over the stretchers and be square; that is, at right angles with the stretcher. Each end of the spine must project beyond the uprights five and one- half inches; that is, the ends must each be five and one-half inches long, which leaves nineteen inches between points named. Bind the other four stretchers to the ends of the sticks. Now string the frame so that all the sticks, except the diagonals, shall be at right angles, or "perfectly square," as boys say. This done, paint all the joints with glue.
The frame when finished should measure 11 x 11 x 30. This is the measure for each of the two boxes or cells, which should have eight inches between. Cover the frame with a strong, light cloth that will not stretch, and sew it on so as to form two boxes covered at the top, bottom and ends. The two broadsides of each one are left open to receive the wind. On the bottom boom, at or near the edge of the cloth cover, fasten a small brass ring for a belly-band. If the foregoing be well done, you will have a kite on the principle of a flying machine, and you will be up with the times.
Kite String must be considered. In a light wind and with an ordinary kite, good, strong twine answers all purposes, but with large kites and a stiff breeze, the best string is a twisted linen line. Learn how to tie knots that won't come undone, and take care not to cut or blister your hands in letting out or hauling in.
are fast superceding the old-time kind, and they are quite as easy to make and are much easier to manage. Here are directions for making it: They can be made in different sizes and flied tandem, from twenty to hundreds of feet apart. The longitudinal stick should be of strong spruce, sixty inches in length and about three-eighths or one-half inch in width and thickness. It can be of any size, if these proportions are maintained. The cross-piece should be a similar stick and of equal length. When in position it is slightly bent, say four per cent, of its length. The frame should be of light spruce, the same size as the cross-pieces. Care must be taken to have the angles right. When the frame is finished, cover loosely with manila paper, so that there will be some concavity on the face of the kite on each side below the cross-stick, so that it will belly like a sail; bind the edges with thin wire which stretches less than string. This kite will fly in a very light breeze. The string, particularly if you have a tandem, should be flexible and strong. In a stiff breeze, and with more than one kite, it is well to have a reel, as in a fishing rod, for hauling in.
The best way with tandem kites is not, as is usually done, to fasten one kite behind the other on the same string, but to hitch each kite by means of a separate string to the main cord. The tail kite will do for tandem, but as the tails are apt to get snarled, it is not so desirable as the tailless kind.
THE BARREL KITE
As the bird and the butterfly kites of the Chinese can be bought at a low price, I shall not attempt a description of them here, but the barrel kite, which is distinctly American, cannot be ignored. This kite was tried some years ago by the U. S. Weather Bureau officers in California. It is cylindrical in form, about four feet long, and two feet in diameter. The frame is made up of four light hoops, braced together by four or more thin strips of wood. The twelve-inch space between the pair of hoops at either end is covered with a collar of paper, and the string, by which the kite is held, is attached to a stick, which passes diagonally through the inside of the cylinder from end to end. When this kite catches the wind it lifts quickly and gracefully. As it is easily made, I should like some of my young readers to try it.
I have not seen a barrel kite in a tandem, but I can't see why it should not work. Between kites on a tandem line, flags of same size, and of any designs that may be thought of, may be strung with good effect.
SOME OTHER SPRING AMUSEMENTS, NOT FORGETTING STILTS
It is said that hoops are loosing their popularity, but be that as it may, I am very sure they will never go out of fashion with the young folk who delight in a good outdoor run, while at the same time they find work for the eyes and the hand.
Neat iron hoops, with a crooked iron hook to propel, I find much in use, but—and it may be because I am a bit old-fashioned—I much prefer the well-made, wooden hoop with a wooden stick. Why, I've had no end of fun with a wooden barrel hoop, but I could never make the iron barrel hoop respond to my urging.
Some makers have attached bells and other jinglers to hoops, but no boy fit to wear boots cares for these baby contrivances. Small light wheels—they can be had from a retired baby carriage—are excellent things to trundle, and some of them require more skill than does a hoop. Even tin-can covers or the top of a blacking box may be made to afford fun and test skill.
When I was a boy, and I am sure boys do so still, we used to make buzz wheels out of circular tincan tops. Two holes, about an inch apart, were cut near the center of the tin. Through both openings a string was passed and the ends tied. By trowling, the strings—its ends were held one in each hand—are made to twist. When tight enough, the ends are drawn, and the buzzer starts off with such force that it half winds itself up on the other start.
is a good philosophical toy, for it illustrates air pressure and affords some fun. If you don't know how to make one, this is the way: Get a piece of thin sole leather, about four inches square. Trim off the corners till the shape is nearly round; next lay the leather on a flat substance and bevel off the edges until they are as thin as you can make them.
Now, without cutting through to the under side, cut a hole through the top of the leather, just large enough to force the end of a strong string through. Before using, soak the leather till it is soft. Next find quite a flat stone or brick, force the sucker to the top with your foot, taking care that there is no turned edge, then you can walk off with that stone, forgetting that it is not the stick of the sucker, but the air pressure—some fifteen pounds to the square inch— that holds the two together.
are as old and as world-wide in their use as marbles, tops and kites. These are the things that set the boy up in the world without making him too proud. The first stilts I ever used—I was brought up on a farm—I cut "with my little hatchet." They were made from two beech saplings, with the section of a branch retained at the same height on each for foot rests, and the length sufficient to come under the arms and be easily grasped. These were rude makeshifts, but they did to start with, and on them I learned to balance.
Much better stilts can be made from sticks or board strips, of sufficient length for grasping with the hands, and with foot rests nailed at any required height from the ground part. In the "Gadabout" stilt you will notice that the stilt above the foot rest is strapped to the leg, just below the knee, which leaves both hands free. Any boy with tools, timber and leather for straps can make "Gadabouts," and the arm stilt is still simpler. The natives of the Marquesas Islands use very high stilts, and they become so expert in their use as to dance with them and to wear them in wrestling matches. The shepherds on the flat plains in the south of France use stilts to enable them to look over a wide stretch of country, and they become so expert in their use that they can travel twice as fast as an ordinary walker on foot. They carry a long pole for balancing purposes and to take soundings when wading through bog or water.
differ from the "Gadabouts" in that they reach to the hips, and are strapped securely about the thighs. These can be made at home, but it requires much practice to become expert.
LET'S GO A-FISHING—SOMETHING ABOUT BAIT
Do not despise the earth worm. Scientists tell us that without this creature's work in preparing the soil, but little of the earth's surface would be fit for cultivation. To its voluntary efforts we owe our supplies of vegetable food, but not satisfied with this, we conscript him that he may help us to catch fish.
Some boys, and men too, make hard work of getting worm bait, but in this, as in everything else, it all depends on how one goes about it.
If you are going a-fishing in the morning, secure your bait to-night. Worms are nocturnal, and they come out of their holes at night, provided it is not too dry on top. The ideal time for scooping them in is about dusk, after a long warm rain. Get a lantern and with it carry your bait can half filled with wet moss or soft moist earth. You will find, if the conditions are right, swarms of worms along the edges of beaten paths, or in the short grass alongside. Usually the worm has one end of its body in a hole, and as it is very alert, you must catch it before it has time to think, perhaps I should say, to act. For this purpose the bait gatherers will do better in pairs. One holds the can and lantern, while the other seizes the worm. Always grab the worm at the place just above the earth.
Worms, I mean bait worms, are not all of one family, nor is each family equally inviting to fish. The red, fat fellows never come amiss, but the light, flabby kind afford no great lure for even the hungriest sort of a fish. The worm that keeps its tail a-wiggling after he is on the hook, is just the thing. The manure worm, the marsh worm, and a worm found at the root of the sweet flag, all make good bait; but the best of all is the night-crawling earth-worm.
are best kept in a tin box in which a number of holes are pierced to admit air, but they must not be so large as to let the worms out. Moist, but not too wet wood or other moss is better than earth as a nest for worms, if they are to be kept some time. Keep your bait box in a cool, damp place, and whenever you want worms, lift the moss and you will find the worms hanging to it.
Soap suds or luke-warm water, if poured over a place where there are worms, will bring them to the surface. If at the same time you pound on the ground, it is said their egress will be hastened.
SLUGS AS BAIT
The hellgrammite, a black, ugly slug to be found under stones in summer streams, is the most tempting bait you can offer a black bass. After a time the hellgrammite comes to the surface and takes to the air as a beetle, but in that state he interests the naturalist rather than the fisherman.
are the larvae of beetles, and may be found about manure heaps and in rotten logs. They make good bait for trout, bass, perch, cats and other fish, and they may be kept, but not for long, in the manner described for worms.
or the grub of the blue-bottle fly, are an excellent bait for trout, though they are not good to look at nor pleasant to handle. These can be cultivated by placing offal in a tin can, and keeping it where it will be safe from rats or mice and inoffensive to the nostrils of passersby. In this the blue-bottles will lay their eggs, which will soon develop into gentles. They can be kept in a box filled with moist sand or bran. If kept too long they will start off as flies.
which raise such a racket from the trees, particularly at night and after the middle of July, are rather hard to get, but they pay for the trouble, particularly if you want to tempt pike or pickerel.
are always abundant in pasture fields, and are tempting to all kinds of fish, but particularly to bass and trout. They should be kept in a roomy box with chips and stones to hide under at the bottom; otherwise, they will kill and eat each other.
is nearly as good as the cricket, and it is easily captured and kept. They will live for some time in a box filled with green grass. FROGS,
if not too large, are a standard bait for pike, salmon, pickerel, and bass. Frogs are best caught with a net, but they will take a small hook baited with a bit of red flannel, or they will bite without the hook. Be careful in fastening the frog to your hook not to injure it so that it cannot swim. The hook through the web of the hind feet, or through the skin of the back, is, I think, the best way.
are easily procured, and, on the whole, they make the most reliable bait. A small, fine-meshed net, fashioned like a sieve and handled by two, is one of the best means of collecting minnows. They should be kept in a bucket and taken out with a scoop made of meshed wire, and the water should be frequently changed.
to be found under stones in many shallow brooks, make a good bait. Keep them in a box filled with wet moss or aquatic plants.
By dead bait is meant bits of pork, fresh beef, or even other fish cut up into tempting morsels for "skittering"; that is, where you cast your line with a sinker, and then haul it in over the water, usually by lifting the pole, walking back, or reeling in; a dead frog or a dead fish is just as good as a live one.
Boys, as a rule, prefer to fish with bait, leaving artificial flies to the seniors. Any small live creature will answer for bait; even mice have been used with good effect, and cheese, if it can be kept on the hook, is eagerly swallowed, in bottom fishing, by carp and catfish. When I was a boy we used to string our catches, through the gills, on a cut switch, but if it can be had, a fish basket is better.
should be considered. This is of every variety, from the bent pin fastened to a string, and the string fastened to a stick, which most of us began with, up to the elaborate and costly rods, reels and flies of the wealthy sportsmen. Boys, who seldom use reels, will find the bamboo, which is sold cheap, the lightest and strongest rod for general use.
Hooks are of endless size and variety, as are fishing lines. These must be bought with regard to the kind of fish they are to be used on, and of these, boys on the ground are the best judges. But let me urge this: When the fishing season is over do not throw your pole, line and hooks carelessly to one side, but clean them, wrap them, and put them away in safety for another season. The boy who does not take good care of the tools that give him pleasure is making a bad preparation for the serious business of life. Summer [Blank Page]
HINTS ABOUT BOATING AND CANOEING
The following rhyme was thought to be very funny when I was a boy:
"Mother, dear, may I go in to swim? Yes, my lovely daughter; Hang your clothes on a hickory limb, But don't go near the water."
I must reserve for "Swimming" a good long chapter, but let me say in all seriousness, before writing anything about boating, that every boy should learn to swim before he undertakes to manage a boat, or even to handle a raft. It is surprising at what an early age this most essential art is acquired, and once learned, it is never forgotten.
It is better, if you are going a-boating, not to wear your Sunday-go- to-meeting clothes. Any old clothes will do, provided they are not too heavy. Shoes are always in the way, more particularly if you should be sent splashing overboard.
A bathing suit, good for a swim or a row, can be made from an old undershirt, with the sleeves cut short. An old pair of drawers, cut off at the knees and hemmed will do, and these can be fastened to the shirt by a light belt or buttons.
Of course, in such a rig as I have described, you are pretty sure to get sunburned to start off with, and I need not tell you that there is no fun about that. Now, if you stand the exposure for about an hour and then cover up, and the next day try an hour and a half, and so on, the skin will turn at first to a light pink and gradually pass to a brown, without the slightest pain or inconvenience. Or if you begin by covering the exposed parts with sweet oil, vaseline, lard, or mutton tallow, without salt, you will not suffer from sunburn.
As I have said, learn to swim, but in the event of a capsize, even if you can swim, stick to your boat or canoe till help comes, unless you should be so close to the shore as to be quite sure of reaching it, and even then it is best to tow the boat along.
Every canoe should be provided with cork life preservers. They are cheap and can be used as seats, if placed in the bottom.
Every boy, whether living by an inland stream, where a boat can be used, or at the seashore, should know the names of the different parts of boats. Here is a short definition of the terms that may be of use:
The Bow is the front end of the boat.
The Stern is the rear end.
Fore'ard means toward the bow.
Aft, toward the stern.
The hull is the part of the boat without masts, spars, oars, or rigging.
The keel, like the runner of a skate, runs along the center of the bottom of the boat. It keeps a boat under sail from sliding sideways.
Starboard is the right-hand side of the boat as you face the bow.
Port is the left-hand side, looking in the same direction.
After dark ships and boats carry a red light at the bow on the port side, and a green light on the starboard.
The Rudder is a movable piece of board at the stern, by means of which the craft is steered. It is worked by a lever, ropes, or a wheel. The lever is called "the tiller."
The Helm is that part of the machinery you grasp when steering.
The Deck is the roof of the hull.
The Center Board is an adjustable keel that can be lowered or raised at pleasure.
The Masts are upright poles to support the rigging and sails.
The Yards are poles hung on the masts at right angles to them, from which the sails hang when in use, and on which they are furled or folded when not in use.
The Boom is the movable spar at the bottom of the sail.
The Gaff is the pole or spar for spreading the top or head of the sail.
The Sail is really a canvas kite fastened to the boat.
The Bowsprit is the stick projecting from the bow.
The Rigging consists of the ropes attached to masts and bowsprit.
Stays are strong ropes for supporting the masts fore and aft.
Shrouds are strong supporting ropes reaching from the masts to the sides of the boat.
Ratlines are little ropes fastened to the shrouds by which sailors may climb up or down.
The painter is a rope at the bow, used to fasten small boats as a halter fastens a horse.
Windward means the side of the boat against which the wind blows.
Leeward, opposite side to windward.
Ballast weights of stone, iron or bags of sand used to balance the boat. A good way to learn about the parts of a boat is to whittle out a small working model. This is a help, but only the actual experience can teach you how to manage a sail and at the same time steer the boat. Of course, you can learn this for yourself, but the better way is to serve an apprenticeship to some more experienced companion.
The first essential to a sail boat is that it should be well made and properly balanced. The second, that it should be carefully rigged, and the third that the man in charge should know just how to avail himself of these advantages.
Sailing before the wind is easy enough. It is in tacking and beating up against the wind that skill and care are required. Jibing, that is changing the boom and sail when tacking, requires the greatest care, particularly if the wind is stiff, and beginners should never be permitted to attempt it.
Where the water is apt to be rough, the sail of every boat should be provided with reefing points—that is little ropes. They are on both sides of the sail. The sail is rolled up from the bottom and tied down to the boom. This is called "reefing" or "shortening" sail.
At nights small boats and canoes should carry lights, as before indicated. It is a difficult thing to make a sailor through books. The best that can be done is to advise what to do, and still more, what not to do.
Don't overload the boat.
Don't carry too much sail.
Don't trust yourself alone in strange waters.
Don't leave your anchor at home.
Don't forget your oars.
Don't sit on the gunwale-the edge of the boat.
Don't alter course too suddenly.
Don't let go the helm for an instant.
Don't mistake caution for cowardice.
Don't be afraid to reef.
Don't let your gear get snarled.
Don't jibe in a stiff wind.
Don't get rattled.
Don't sail with "fool" companions.
Of course, there are many other "don'ts" that will suggest themselves to the sensible boy; among them, "Don't fail to keep your boat pumped out or bailed," and "don't forget to carry an anchor of some sort," and not the least important," don't leave your eatables and drinkables ashore."
SOME SMALL, SAIL BOATS THAT CAN BE MADE IN THE WINTER, OR THAT CAN BE BOUGHT WITHOUT MUCH MONEY
There is no small boat so popular or so generally useful as the American catboat. The cat can sail into the very eye of the wind, while before the wind she is a flier, and yet she is not the best sail boat for a beginner. Let me tell you why: First, the sail is heavy and so it is hard to hoist and reef. Second, in going before the wind there is constant danger of jibing with serious results. Third, the catboat has a very bad habit of rolling when sailing before the wind, and each time the boat rolls from side to side she is liable to dip the end of her heavy boom in the water and "trip herself up." When a boat trips up she does not necessarily go down, but she is likely to upset, placing the young sailors in an unenviable, if not dangerous, position. Fourth, when the craft begins to swagger before the wind she is liable to "goose neck," that is throw her boom up against the mast, which is another accident fraught with the possibilities of serious mischief.
Mr. Dan Beard, the famous American artist and author, and an authority in such matters, thinks the sloop is the most graceful of all the single masters. This is the type of our great yacht racers. Next to the sloop, and very much like it, is the schooner rig yacht. This is a fine boat, but beyond the pockets of boys; however, smaller sizes can be rigged on the same plan, with a jib and mainsail, and they will be found to be both safe and swift.
Without careful working drawings, which but few boys could manage without the aid of a skilled workman, it would be impossible to show just how a good sail boat can be made. It should be said, however, that the ordinary rowboat may be easily changed into a sail boat, provided a keel is attached, or a lee board provided. The latter, as you know, is a broad piece of board that is slipped, when needed, into a groove along the side of the boat, to keep it from drifting when the wind is not full astern.
Good, light string timber that is easily worked should always be chosen. See that it is free from knots; if this cannot be had, do not try to build a boat.
After all, unless all the conditions are favorable, and you have great talent for such work, it will be easier to save your money and then buy such a boat as you need, or if you cannot do this, get a carpenter who knows how to build such a craft to make the boat for you.
I have known cases where a number of boys, living near the water, bought a sail boat which they owned in common. Each had the right to its use on a fixed day, though, as they were school fellows, it happened that they usually went out together. The latter is the better way, provided always that when the crew starts off for a cruise it is distinctly understood that one of the number is to be the captain for the time and is to be obeyed accordingly.
It was told when I was a boy, but I doubted the story then and I don't believe it now, that when migrating squirrels, that do not take kindly to the water, reach a wide stream they secure bits of wood or bark large enough to float them, then with their tails erect to catch the wind they sail gaily across.
The natives of North Australia, the most primitive people of whom we have any knowledge, use logs, singly or lashed together with vines, to cross rivers and arms of the sea.
Our own American Indians were more advanced. Even the rudest of them had learned before the coming of the white man to hollow out the log by means of fire and to shape it with stone axes into the form of the present canoe.
The birch-bark canoe, made by the Indians of the northern rivers and lakes, is really a work of art. It is a model of lightness, and when we consider its frailty, and then the way in which it can be managed in the most turbulent currents, our admiration is divided between the craft of the maker and the surprising skill of the man who handles the paddle.
The ancestor of the graceful yacht and of the great ocean steamers, that carry their thousands with as much comfort as if they were on shore, is the rude canoe or raft of our own forefathers.
It is from these forefathers that we have inherited our love for outdoor life, for fishing and for water, and the instinctive desire to hunt which is inborn in every healthy boy.
In the evolution of water craft, the vessel propelled by pole, paddle or oar must have preceded the use of sails. The former required more strength and the latter more skill. But no matter what science and art may do to make sailing more secure and comfortable, the boy, particularly if he be country bred, and so forced to be more self- reliant, will have a try at the raft, dingey or canoe before he aspires to anything more elaborate and expensive.
I like work that develops the ingenuity of the boy. On a long mill pond out in Kentucky—this was some years ago—I came upon some boys who were managing a raft propelled by a sail made from two bed sheets. The body of this strange craft consisted of four logs, sharpened at the bow and of varying length, so as to present a wedge point to the water. Across the logs cleats were nailed that kept them together and answered for a deck. A stout pole, secured in front, served for a mast and a smaller pole, with a piece of board nailed to the end, acted as a rudder.
On board this strange craft there were four boys and a dog, the latter, judging from his barking, quite wild with the fun of it. Before the wind this sailing raft made good time, but as the craft refused to tack, the boys lowered the sail and poled back for another try, just as boys clamber up hill in winter for the sheer joy of coasting down.
We have learned from the South Sea Islanders how to build and manage a catamaran. This consists of two canoes or long thin boats, placed parallel and joined together by wooden strips, which also answer for a deck. This craft can be rowed or driven by a sail, placed well forward. Its great advantage is its stiffness, for it cannot be upset in an ordinary sea.
The dingey, shaped like the bottom of a flatiron, with a blunt stern and a sharp nose, is the boat with which the boy in the country first makes acquaintance. It is propelled by two oars, usually fastened to the sides by pivot row-locks. This is a handy boat for getting about in, but it is quite impossible to learn the art of rowing from such a mechanical contrivance.
Properly done, there is no single exercise that develops the arms, chest, back and leg muscles as does rowing. Whether your boat is a dingey or an expensive rowing shell, always enter it, if the purpose is pleasure and exercise, with the determination to get the best out of it.
Be sure that your oars are of the right length, so as to avoid the contact of the ends. Have the row-locks so arranged that the oars will turn or move in any direction without creaking or strain. The braces for the feet should be movable, so as to accommodate any length of leg, and the seat should not be too high.
There are many styles of rowing, none of which may be discussed here. It is well at the start to learn how to "feather" your oars, whether you are handling one or two. This consists in bringing the edge of the blade parallel with the water—a splendid exercise for the wrists— then turning the blade as it reaches the water, and with all the strength of every muscle drawing the oars steadily, never jerkily, till the stroke is finished. The one purpose is to keep up a uniform speed, and this can be done only by a uniform stroke. Endurance, rather than mere brute strength, is the thing to be kept in mind in rowing, as in everything else requiring effort. Always have in reserve a stock of endurance to be used should occasion require. Never start out with a dash, even if you are in a hurry, but strike a gait that you can keep up without making severe demands on that most essential of all the organs—the heart.
The canoe, as you know, is managed by a single paddle, though I have seen, up in some of the Adirondack lakes, canoes that were driven by oars. But, excepting in name and shape, these were not canoes; they were long, narrow boats.
The Indian, and the white man who would learn the fine art of canoeing, sits in the bottom of the canoe and close to the stern end, though in fact a canoe is all stern and all bow, sailing equally well no matter which end is in front. The Indian does not paddle on one side and then on the other. He uses, as a rule, the left hand side. He grasps the blade right hand at the top, left hand a foot or more down, and then reaching the paddle forward, he digs it into the water with a strong, firm grip, keeping it perpendicular and drawing it aft. When the paddle is abreast his erect body, he suddenly turns the blade so as to bring the flat against the body of the canoe. This acts at once as a lee board and a rudder. With these graceful movements the canoe is managed from one side, and can be made to go as straight as a bullet to a bull's-eye. Unlike the dingey or flat bottom boat, the canoe is easily upset. Therefore the paddler and his passengers, if he have any, must sit on the bottom. Never rise unless you are alongside a float or dock. The boy or the man who "rocks the boat for fun" is either idiotic or insane; in either case he is unfit to care for precious human lives. Now, the ordinary boat will stand a little of such fooling, but the canoe refuses to be rocked. At the first insult of that kind it very properly dumps out its occupants.
THE CANVAS CANOE
The lightness of the birch bark canoe is not the least of its advantages; but as birch bark is not available in the settled parts of our country, a substitute was desired, a substitute quite as light and of a material that would not be seriously injured by dents. This was found in a canvas cover over a light wicker, collapsible frame.
A frame can be made of bamboo, rattan, willow or light strong pieces of pliant wood such as spruce or hickory. The pieces can be joined with screws or wire, never nails. The length as to breadth to insure safety should be as eight to one, though many canoes are narrower.
With tools and material, both of which are easily obtained, any boy, with patience and some skill, can construct a frame to his own liking. The frame must be covered with a light, strong canvas, cut and sewed to make a good fit.
When this is done, paint the canvas inside and out, taking care to paint under the frame, which can be removed if necessary. A second and even a third coat of paint may be needed. Canvas covers should be made for the aft and front decks, under which a small tent or camping appliances can be carried.
In a canoe of this kind, fourteen feet long and eighteen inches wide, three young American students made a voyage from the head-waters of the Rhine to Holland and the North Sea. They made the canoe in Paris, and carried it in a bundle to Switzerland. This vessel held a complete camping outfit and provisions.
IF YOU CAN'T SWIM, LEARN AT ONCE—HELPS TO LEARNERS—CONFIDENCE IS THE THING
Every animal, except man, can swim naturally on finding itself in the water for the first time, for it takes a position nearly the same as if it were on land and walking.
The physical structure of man, the lord of creation, is not so favorably adapted for his making his way through the water, his head being much heavier in proportion to its size than his trunk, while he has to make an entirely new departure, in abandoning his customary erect position, and has to adopt movements of the limbs to which he has not previously been accustomed. Still, the specific gravity of the human body, particularly when the cavity of the chest is filled with air, is lighter than that of water, in proportion to the obesity of the individual, stout people being able to float more easily than those of spare build. There are thousands and thousands of boys in this vast country who have never seen big rivers, like the Ohio and Mississippi, or beheld the broad ocean, with its white, sandy beach and small, quiet bays, or the great blue lakes, and whose only chance to swim is in the deep holes of some small stream, a mill-pond or small lake.
Beginners are just as liable to meet with serious accidents in such places as in the large rivers or the salt sea. For it must be remembered it is not the width of the water, but its depth, that troubles a beginner.
HOW TO LEARN
Beyond the practice that makes for perfection, the only other thing necessary for swimming is confidence. Every man, woman, and child— even if never in the water before—could keep afloat if he, she or it had the required confidence, but as they have not this confidence, the question is: "How can it be acquired?"
There is an old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt." While, like many other home-made proverbs, this is only partly true, there can be no doubt but that familiarity makes for confidence. The new recruit may be as strong and brave as the veteran soldier, but the lack of experience makes him nervous and unreliable under a fire which the older soldier faces without a visible tremor of eye or hand.
It is difficult to get confidence if you begin by getting "awfully scared." Every boy, and every girl too, should know how to swim, and both are more than eager to learn. Now, the boy who can swim, and who is properly proud of the fact, will, if he stops to think, recall a time not very far distant when he lacked confidence and could not keep himself afloat for a second. And he may recall how frightened he was when some foolishly thoughtless friend or heartless bully tried to duck him, or to push him beyond his depth.
The first hard fight I ever had was with a big boy—it is the conflict I look back at with the most pleasure—who was holding a smaller boy under the water. We fought quite naked, and—well, I licked the bully, and never after that did he try to frighten small boys in that swimming hole.
Boys will be boys, but even then each should have in him much of the man he hopes one day to be. Therefore I say, be a protector, a guide, philosopher and friend of the younger boys, and if you know more than they do of anything, and they want to learn, teach them in a cheery, manly fashion, if you have the time. Avoid conflicts, but if you must have one, see to it that the bully will not be eager for another such meeting.
Before saying more, let me give you another bit of good advice. Never enter into water the depth of which you are not familiar with, unless you can swim, and in any event do not venture far into strange water unless you are accompanied by a companion as skillful as yourself.
Big boys, as a rule, are glad to help the smaller ones, and in this way they teach by assuring confidence and showing by example how the thing can be done.
Planks, floats, bladders and other artificial contrivances are advised by some, but after swimming for years in nearly all the waters of the world, I cannot endorse such doubtful assistance. As one cannot actually swim when supported in this way, it is far better to start in without them.
There must be a beginning, and it should be made in the easiest and most sensible way.
A GOOD WAY
With your back to the shore and the water almost up to the armpits, bend your knees till the water nearly reaches the chin. Then gradually throw your bead back as far as it will go, until the base of the skull is immersed and the water covers your ears. Now stretch your arms backwards behind your head, at their fullest extent, the palms uppermost and slightly hollowed. Take a full breath, and swelling out the chest, give a little push off the bottom with both feet. Keep your mouth shut, as, perhaps for an instant only, the water will ripple on your face as the head takes its position, and then you will find your legs, which must be stiffened and separated. In this position you will float for a second, moving the while towards the shore. Then the water will dash over your nose and mouth, but, before it chokes, regain your feet and after a good long breath, try it again.
Another capital dodge is that recommended by Dr. Franklin, in which the buoyant power of water is still more strikingly exemplified. Procure an egg or lump of chalk of an easily handled shape, and, when the water is up to your chest, face the shore and let the egg drop in front of you. Now take breath, shut your mouth, but not your eyes, which you can open and shut as easily in the water as out, duck under, and try to pick up the egg. You will find that while your legs rise from the bottom you will have to struggle with your arms to get down far enough to reach the "egg," owing to the great resistance offered by the water, and two or three attempts may be necessary to accomplish your object. You can come up at any moment by depressing the feet, and, as you face the shore, your struggles are working you into shallower water, so that the experiment is a safe one enough.
You have now gained confidence, which is half the battle, and the next thing to be done is to try to move on the surface of that element which you have proved capable of sustaining you when motionless.
It is certainly easier to float when the body is moving through the water than when it is stationary, on much the same principle which sustains the oyster shell that skips along the surface of the sea, until, the impetus given it by the thrower being exhausted, it sinks to the bottom. In like manner the pace acquired in swimming helps to sustain the body.
If you can keep afloat while you count five, or long enough to inhale the breath once, the battle is won; and while you may not be qualified to enter for the long distance championship, you can modestly call yourself "a swimmer."
Books give us valuable information about how to do many things, but when it comes to swimming, all the book can do is to advise, and if the author gives us his own experience, as I am trying to do here, it must be of great help.
I have said that in learning to swim confidence is the great essential, but while still sticking unchangeably to that, I will add that perseverance is a good second. Never get discouraged. Stick to it. Repeat over and over again either of the two exercises before given. Each time you will find them easier. Then suddenly, and before you know it, you will be keeping yourself afloat. What if it is only for a few seconds and you have not moved a foot? Don't give up. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" That's a motto you should heed, particularly in learning to swim.
There are a great many strokes in swimming, but pay no attention to these at the start.
When I was a boy, and I presume it is so still, there was a stroke known as "dog fashion." As a matter of fact, it might as well be called the fashion of any other animal, for all quadrupeds swim exactly as they walk, that is by moving the feet alternately forward; and this is the very way one is inclined to try it at the start.
If you can go dog fashion with some confidence, it will be well to learn the "breast stroke," which, though not the fastest, is perhaps the most general, as it is the most graceful, among non-professionals. But first a word as to the management of the legs.
While the arm movements can be greatly varied, there can be, in the nature of things, no such variation in the action of the legs. It is said, and truthfully, that the motion of the legs of a human swimmer are much like the motion of a frog's hind legs when swimming. That is, the boy draws his legs up simultaneously and kicks them out in the same way, but in so doing he is not imitating a frog, for if he works the limbs together there is no other possible way in which he can do it under water. The frog's breast stroke is another story. A man swims very much as does a frog, though he cannot do so well under water as the amphibian. The legs are kicked in the same way and there is the same motion of the arms of one as of the forelegs of the other.
Some swimming teachers believe that the main reliance is the legs, but this has not been my experience, and I have seen many swimmers in many waters. The legs steady the body, but it is the arms that make for speed as well as for steering, though on the back it is the legs that do the business.
HOW TO DO IT
Bring your hands together under your chin, with the palms down, fingers straight, close together, and pointing in the direction you are about to move. Next shove the two hands straight out in front of you, keeping your thumbs touching. As your hands are pushed forward, kick backward with your legs, as previously described. When the knees are straight, the legs will be spread wide apart. Bring them together, and, if you time this properly, your position will now be that of an arrow, the point being your extended hands.
While the arms and legs alike do their share in the propulsion of the body, the legs perform by far the most important work, and the importance of a good "kick" cannot be too strongly urged. Though the action of the soles of the feet upon the water helps the "drive," the momentum is also given by the "wedge" of water embraced and driven backwards by the action of the backs of the thighs and calves, as they almost come together at the completion of the leg stroke. Hence, the wider the stretch the more powerful the "drive," and the beginner should try to rival as closely as possible that acrobatic performance known as "the splits" when trying to master the kick. The action of arms and legs is alternate; that is to say, when the legs are making their sweep, the arms are thrown forward to their fullest extent, thus helping to sustain the upper part of the trunk, and serving as a prow or cutwater; then, during the first part of the arm stroke, the legs, almost touching after finishing their work, remain stiff and extended, so as to offer as little resistance as possible. These positions are but momentary, but their rigid observance is necessary to ensure pace with the least expenditure of force.
The breast stroke will require some practice, and this can be helped by out-of-the-water exercise. Close your fingers tightly, but not so as to be very conscious of the effort. In this position, bring them up till the chin rests on the two thumbs, which are side by side and parallel. Next separate the hands, fingers still close together, shoot them edgewise as far in front as you can reach, then with the flat palms and closed fingers to the resisting water, draw them smartly back, like oars.
For the second stroke, draw the arms edgewise to the first position and repeat as often as may be necessary. This exercise will strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles and greatly facilitate the movements when you come to use them in swimming.
Be careful always to bear in mind the following rules: Keep the head thrown back so as to clear the mouth and chin. Try to swim as low as possible. The lower and the nearer level the plane in which the body lies in the water, the less the waste of power and the greater the speed, so that all rising and falling must be avoided, and nothing seen below the chin. Always keep the trunk steady and the spine hollowed, avoiding all squirming, wriggling and bending, while the motions must be made steadily, avoiding all hurry. Exhale your breath when the hands are extended in front supporting the head, and inhale as they are brought back—an action which expands the chest and gives you almost instinctively the signal for taking breath, which should be inhaled through the nose as much as possible.
METHODS OF SWIMMING, FLOATING, DIVING, AND SOME GOOD WATER GAMES
Some girls, after they have learned the alphabet of music, and are able to play elementary scales on the piano, are eager to surprise themselves and annoy their listeners by starting in to play tunes, if indeed they are not ambitious to tackle grand opera. But the wise learner is satisfied to take one step at a time, and before going on he is sure that he can do the previous steps reasonably well.
I am old enough to have boys of my own, still I hope I shall never be so old as to forget my own boyhood, nor to feel that much of the boy nature does not still keep with me; and this is why I advise my boy friends who read this to learn surely whatever they undertake; in this case it is swimming.
After you can manage the breast stroke well, try the side stroke, which you will find more speedy, but it has its disadvantages in a long swim, by reason of the tension thrown on the muscles of the neck in keeping the head thrown so far back from its normal position, while the chest and shoulders, square to the front, offer considerable resistance to the water. History has not handed down the name of the founder of the side stroke, but he deserves canonization equally with the man who ate the first oyster. Nature evidently intended man to swim on his side, as in this position the body moves more easily in the water, to which it offers less resistance, while the action of the arms is not so fatiguing, and the head is supported by the water at its proper angle to the trunk.
There is no arbitrary rule as to which side you shall swim on, left or right being a pure matter of choice; but while I think the left is preferable, as it gives greater play to the right arm, the right is the usual side "put on" by the majority. The great thing is to be able to swim equally well on either, as this enables you to keep your face to the breakers in a rough sea on whichever tack you lay your course.
When you have mastered this stroke you will seem to move forward continuously, and not in a succession of jerks, as with the breast stroke. The natives of the South Sea Islands, who are, to my thinking, the best swimmers in the world, use this stroke for a long, steady swim, and I have been surprised at the speed they make and the length of time with which they can keep it up without a sign of fatigue.
The racing stroke is effective for speed, but it soon wears out all but the strong, expert swimmer. In acquiring it you must remember that pace is the great desideratum, and, consequently, rapidity of action is requisite. To gain this you must combine two movements in one, by striking with the propeller on whichever side you swim at the same time as the feet, the sustainer acting in the same manner as before. As the legs are brought up for the kick the propeller is lifted clear of the water, the arm being slightly bent in a graceful curve, and thrown forward in an arc to its fullest extent, the hand being held in the scoop-like position it maintains in the water. Now kick, and bring the propeller simultaneously downwards and backwards, with a bold and vigorous sweep, until it reaches the thigh when the elbow is bent, drawing the hand upwards to be thrown forward again. As this stroke is being made, shoot out the sustainer quickly forwards, and while this arm is pulled in towards the body the legs and propeller are quickly brought into action for the next stroke. The learner will have to count one, two, only in effecting this movement, as, when the propeller and legs are striking, the sustainer is shot out, and vice versa.
Swimming on the back is very easy, once the confidence is assured. In this method the hands are folded on the breast, or still better, kept under the water and close to the sides. This done, the feet are drawn up together, as in breast swimming, and then kicked out together. As the arms are the chief driving power, swimming on the back is at best but a slow, jerky method of proceeding, but if one has not learned to float, it is a good way to rest for a bit in a long swim.
Some swimmers, particularly those that are narrow chested or lank and lean, can never learn to float, though once you know how, it is easier and far more comfortable than "falling off a log."
At first, when learning to float on your back, and by the way that is the only way to do it properly, you will find yourself sinking slowly, feet foremost, until you seem to be standing up, and must use some exercise to keep afloat; but you can learn.
Before lying flat on your back, inflate your lungs fully; as you do so you will be surprised to see how you seem to lift out of the water. Now, before your lungs are exhausted, for you will sink as they empty, breathe deeply again and exhaust slowly as before, keeping your arms by your sides and your legs close together and extended.
Don't expect to float like a life boat at the first try, for you are not built along life boat lines; but if you stick at it, and make the experiment at least once every time you go in swimming, you will float well before the summer is over.
If you know the water, the best way to enter it is by a quick plunge or a straight dive.
To walk into the water and "duck" is rather an ignominious proceeding, only to be excused in the novice or the lady bather we see at our watering-places bobbing up and down at the end of a rope. The swimmer should not rest content until he is able to plunge in like a workman; but first, a word of caution! Never attempt to dive unless you know that the water is deep enough for the purpose.
Many serious accidents have occurred from this mistake, notably when bathing at sea. An incautious plunge from the ship's side into the sail bath extemporized overboard to ward off any danger from sharks has resulted fatally to the rash swimmer, and at all times danger attends rash plunging.
It is, nevertheless, astonishing into what shallow water an expert can fearlessly dive from a height, his arms and head emerging almost before the feet have disappeared beneath the surface. The diver needs to be very quick of hand and eye, and many accidents attest the fact of the game not being worth the candle.
I have seen bathers extend the arms over their heads and fall forward, which generally entails a smart tingling of the chest and stomach, as the body is almost certain to drop flat on the surface.
A very neat plunge, which requires practice and a little pluck, is made by standing erect on the brink edge or board and, instead of springing from the board, allowing the body, kept rigid, to fall forward until it attains the proper distance, then suddenly throw up the feet and plunge in like an arrow and without a splash.
It requires some practice to swim under water, but you can soon do it. It is well to learn how to keep the eyes open under water. This is no more difficult nor painful than it is to keep them open in the air. This skill may be of great use in locating a body that has sunk for the last time. Many such cases have been brought up and restored to consciousness, under proper treatment.
are not as many as land games, but some of them afford good sport. One of these is "Water Bladder," which requires good swimmers, at least they must not be afraid of the water.
To play this game place two places, for goals, at proper distances where the water is overhead, and mark each with crossed rods, the tops about a foot out of water. Divide the party into two sides and take your positions as in an old-fashioned game of football. At the word "Ready," the umpire, who is on the shore or at some convenient point, throws an inflated bladder between the opposite sides. The object of the players is to send the bladder over the enemy's goal, and the rules are very simple. It is foul to interfere with an opponent by putting your hands on him, it is foul to use more than one hand in handling the bladder, but you may swim in front of a man, dive under him, in fact "interfere" in every way you can. Each goal counts one point, and five points make a game.
One might suppose that this would come under the head of boating, but one would be mistaken, for it properly belongs to swimming, as any one who has witnessed or taken part in such a race will tell you.
Each contestant supplies himself with an ordinary washtub. At the word "Go!" he places it in the water, climbs in as best he can, and paddles with his hands for the taw line. This is great fun, and if one out of ten gets through he may count himself fortunate. He may not succeed a second time and will not if the others can help it.
When I was a boy we had no end of sport in running and diving from a springboard. This, as you know, is a long, strong board—the longer the better—one end of which is firmly fixed in the bank and weighted with logs or stones; but no matter how weighted you must see to it that it does not get out of balance.
The free end projects over the water at any desired angle, and care must be taken at the start to see that there are no stones or snags from which harm may come below the surface.
It would be difficult to find anything more graceful than a lot of slender boys speeding up this spring-board and shooting out, feet first or head first, into the river, pond or swimming pool.
When a boy can turn a somersault from the end of the board, and come down feet foremost in a clean-cut way, he may be said to be an expert.
Contrary to the belief of those who have not tried it, it is much easier to turn a back than a forward somersault, though neither can be achieved without some practice.
In the back somersault great care should be taken that the diver leaps far, so as to be free and clear of the board when he turns; otherwise his head may strike with bad results.
As I have said before, diving may be useful in saving life, or in finding objects that have been lost in the water. In such cases it will be necessary to keep the eyes open, otherwise you will be much like one groping in the dark.
The tendency in diving is to keep the eyes closed. There is a feeling that if they are opened the water will hurt them, or that its touch will be painful; but this is a great mistake. If the water is clear, and clear water is the best to swim in, one can see under water nearly as well as on top and the eyes are in no way affected.
Pearl divers in the Persian Gulf sometimes stay under water for minutes at a time, and if they could not keep their eyes open while searching for the pearl shells, their descent would not profit much. The eyes of these people are never injured.
In the Bay of Apia, in the Samoan Islands, I have seen native boys diving from a canoe under the bottom of a great ocean steamer. On one occasion a boy brought up from a depth of fifty feet a silver coin that had been tossed overboard to test his skill.