There was a childhood game we played on our front lawn at the farm, on warm sunny afternoons when a sufficient number of cousins showed up to join us. It was better than Simon Says, Hide and Seek,  Red Light or Mother May I, although we gave all of those a thorough going over too.

If this game had a name, I don’t remember what it was.  Everyone played a role, and the ‘play’ had a predictable plot that hardly varied.  And yet we repeated it over and over.  There was a parent (usually a mother), a wicked old witch, and the rest of the cast were the children.

The mother gave each of her children a name, based on some previously agreed upon category, the most popular being ‘fruits’.  These names were not shared with the witch, so Blueberry, Banana, Lemon and Purple Grape had to keep their identities to themselves.

After making the following little speech –

“I’m going down town to smoke my pipe and I won’t be back until Saturday night – DON’T LET THE OLD WITCH IN!” –

the mother would saunter off to the sidelines leaving her children home alone (on the front veranda) to fend for themselves.

Enter the old witch center stage, respectfully knocking on the door and asking to come in.  Well of course the children say no because they are good little children who always do what mother says.  Then the witch explains to them that she is making a pie and needs to borrow some fruit.  Do you have any apples, she might ask.  She continues to guess until she hits on the name of one of the children, and then off that child must go (across the lawn to the snowball bush beside the lily pond) to where the wicked witch resides.  Here the witch changes the child’s name to a category of her own choosing – birds, for instance, and Blueberry might become Sea Gull in the blink of an old witch’s eye.

Mother saunters home, noticing immediately that one of her children is missing.  The kids are afraid to tell her the truth and make up various stories as to where their sibling might be, but eventually they have to admit that the old witch got her.

Mother and children don’t learn much from this, and keep repeating the same mistakes of going down town and answering the door until all the children have been kidnapped by the witch and all their names have been changed.

Now it’s the mother’s job to march across the lawn to the snowball bush to confront the witch with her crime.  The witch tells her that the only way to get her children back is by guessing their new names. There are no fruits here, only birds.  If mom looks ready to give up, the kids or the witch can give her hints. Maybe the witch is having second thoughts about all these kids cluttering up her living space and making all that noise.

One by one the children are released and returned to the front veranda, renamed as farm animals this time, and on the game goes until all of them begin to suffer from identity crisis issues and start asking – “hey, wait, who am I again??”

Why did we love this game so much?  Why was the mother so negligent, and the witch considered wicked?  She was just taking abandoned children to a safe place after all and never harmed them.  Unless naming someone Watermelon can be considered a horrible thing.

I know there are many variations of this game, although the pipe smoking rhyme seems to be the one thing that doesn’t change.  Did you ever play this?  Or was there another childhood game that you loved and will never forget?

Cin’s Feb Challenge/Witchy Rambles

21 thoughts on “Play

  1. Wow, I wish I would have had games like that when I was growing up. I wonder who invented such elaborate rules. I should introduce it to my children. I guess there’s a minimum number of people needed to play, though? Are their alternate rules for less peoples? Probably not. Humbug.


  2. I didn’t know this game, but I would have loved it! My favorite had no name that I know of. but involved as many neighborhood kids as you could find. Played this with my friends who lived in town… one team would walk all over town (we lived in a small town) and leave clues to be followed. (a broken brick used as sidewalk chalk might draw an arrow pointing in a certain direction, a twig, pine cone, or flower might be left on the sidewalk pointing one way or another). As I recall there were few rules: stay on the sidewalk or alley and clues had to be out in the open) Second team would attempt to follow the clues and find where the first team was hiding. Simple, but fun.


    • That does sound like fun! We played something similar where we’d hide written clues to find a prize. It was pretty complicated, hiding something and then going backwards with the clues. Months later we’d find little cryptic notes that got overlooked or missed.


  3. My favorite toy was a wooden schoolroom – it had little wooden desks and a teachers desk (no walls). there were little bears to sit in the seats and a larger bear for a teacher. My friend and I would play school with that toy for hours! I wonder whatever happened to it.


    • Sounds totally delightful! Yes, where do these wonderful things go? I suspect it’s mothers cleaning out empty nests because kids don’t realize the value of childish things until it’s too late to save them.


      • You mean like the PRICELESS train set my parents GAVE AWAY?! It still makes my stomach hurt after almost 20 years. 😥 I was a real idiot. And I guess I should have said THAT was my favorite toy – since it even had little milk cartons that would load and unload, and the whistle was amazing, complete with steam!


  4. Never heard of that game (sounds fun!), but there was one little girl who liked to play “Princess” or “Queen” (go figure!) and everyone in the neighborhood was her subject. Except for the boys who showed up to be “valiant,” it was soon a little too predictable, lol.


    • Sometimes the best games are the ones you make up as you go along. I had one cousin who liked to invent new rules as the game progressed. They usually made things better for her (what a surprise) lol


  5. We did play it! It was a dad, not a mom. We stayed on the porch and he i’m going to town to smoke. My pipe and I won’t be back til Saturday night. Poof. Poof. And off he went to a tree. After a while he called us on the phone. ring! Ring! I need some old rags. One of us said, I used them all on my shoes last night. The dad says, well, I’ll be home. While he saunters home, we go the other way in our front yard and a child who is I guess a witch gives us pie or cake names. The dad is told whether each kid is a pieor a cake and he has to guess what kind. If he guesses, you make a run for the big maple tree. If you touch it you are safe. If the the witch gets you it is bad. The end. Best game ever. We only ever played it in our yard, strangely.

    Liked by 1 person

I LOVE reading your comments. Sometimes I even reply to them.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.