The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939



[illustration - An old Indian ball-game.]

THE Indian of North America is commonly supposed to be a grim and sober creature, who never laughs; a man who at all times conducts himself in a sedate and rather gloomy manner. He is very dignified, and never, never smiles. It is said that, when at home, he is always thinking of going on the war-path, or planning a grand and mighty hunt, or sitting by his wigwam thinking of nothing in particular, which is always a solemn proceeding in anybody.

Now, it is a curious fact that the Indian has been strangely misrepresented. It has been discovered that he really liked a little fun, and could enjoy a game as well as any one. The Chinese fly kites, and the wild Arabs of the desert tell stories. It is thought the ancient Egyptians played jack-stones, and we may be sure the Japanese enjoy many games, as you may learn by looking at their picture-fans. All the civilized nations have games: the English like cricket, we have base-ball, and the people of Holland are supposed to have invented skates, for which they deserve the lasting gratitude of mankind. It is interesting to find that, after all, the Indians have been very badly treated by historians, and that they, too, had an eye for fun, and even had a game of their own.

When the French first explored the great country to the north, along the St. Lawrence and the lakes, they found the Indians had a wild and exciting game that they played on the grassy intervals along the rivers, or on the ice in winter. Hundreds of Indians would sometimes play at a ball game, like that shown in the above picture. They used a ball of stuffed skin, and a curious bat, looking somewhat like a "hockey," having a
net of reindeer hide between the handle and the crook of the hockey. The French called the bat a crosse, and, naturally enough, the game was soon called "La Crosse." This is fortunate, for the Ojibways called it "Baggataway," and there certainly would be little satisfaction in playing a game with either of these distressing names.

It always is interesting to know where things come from, and explorers, you know, must always look sharply into every new custom and sport they chance to encounter. So, when they first saw Lacrosse played, they of course asked the Indians where they learned the game. But the Indians looked surprised as Indians can, and solemnly said they did not know. The rules of the game had been sacredly handed down from father to son, and all the tribes had played "Tekontshikwaheks," they said, ever since the world began. They had no printed "book of the rules with an historical preface," and consequently the origin of Lacrosse is lost in obscurity. Like "tag," and jack-stones, and "follow-my-leader," it had been played so very long that it had no history at all.

However, this melancholy circumstance makes no difference now. The interesting fact remains that this wild, exciting, and rather rough sport has been tamed and civilized by the Canadians, and Lacrosse is now a capital game for boys. It is now called the national game of the Dominion, and every year it is becoming more and more popular. It is played here in the United States quite often in the summer, and the bats can now be bought in any good toy-shop.

No boy can afford to be ignorant of any of the good games in the world, particularly if they call him out-of-doors, and teach him to be brave, strong, and active. Clearly, it is our duty to learn how Lacrosse is played, and to witness a good game.

Lacrosse is played on a level, grassy field, like a base-ball ground. The things used in the game are a rubber ball, about eight inches in circumference, four light poles or flag-staffs, each about six feet long, and a bat or "crosse" for each player. The field for a boys' game should be about one hundred and thirty yards long, and about forty yards wide. The four poles are in pairs, and should have flags at the top in colors; say, two in blue, and two in white. The two poles of a pair are set up in the ground about six feet apart, the white flags at one end of the field and the blue at the other, the two "colors" being about one hundred and twenty yards apart. These form the goals, and the players should wear some kind of cap or uniform in the same colors as the goals, say, half the players in white caps or shirts, and half in blue. The poles and flags can be made at home, the bats cost about a dollar each, and any good rubber-sponge ball may be used.

The game is led by two captains selected from all the boys, and, to decide disputes, there may be also two umpires. Each captain, beginning with the eldest, takes turns in selecting his team from all the boys, each choosing twelve, making twenty-six in the game. The two captains do not play, and have no bats; their duty is to start the game, to look after their sides, to watch the ball, and tell their players what to do. The umpires merely look on from the edge of the field, one near each goal. The senior captain places his men in this order: first one in front of the opposite goal, second one a short distance in advance of him, a third still farther in advance, and a fourth at the center of the field. At the home goal he also places one man, a few yards in advance of the flags. The remaining players are placed at the sides of the third and fourth boys. Then the other captain does the same thing, and the field is filled by the twenty-four players in pairs, except two on each side. Thus, the two [illustration - A lively scrimmage.] sides are distributed over the entire field. The rules of the game say that there must be no kicking nor pulling to get at the ball, nor must it be once touched by the hands. All the work is done
with the bat. The game is to start the ball from the center, and to throw it between the goals, the blues trying to get it past the white flags, and the whites trying to fling it between the blue flags. Each side tries its best to defend its own color, and to get the ball into the enemy's goal. A player may pick the ball up on his crosse, or catch it on the fly, or the rebound, and he may, if he can, run with it on the course and throw it into the goal.

Let us see them play. Every one is now ready. Two players, a blue and a white, take position at the center, with one knee on the ground, their crosses resting on the grass before them, and the ball lying between the crosses. The other players stand ready and watchful in their places. The senior captain gives the word—"Ready"—"Play!" In an instant there is a lively scrimmage, and the ball goes skimming through the air. The captains call up their men. There is a grand rush for the ball. Down it comes on the bat of a white, but a blue knocks it off, and away it goes. White and blue struggle for it. It darts here and there, round and round, and, with a vigorous knock, a white sends it whizzing through the air toward the blue goal. It falls on the grass, and the players from every side run to catch it. A white reaches the ball first, pulls it toward him with his bat, and sets it rolling. Then, with a quick movement, he shifts the bat in front of it, and it gently rolls into[illustration - "The whole field is after him."] the netting. Away he darts on the full run for the blue goal. The captains shout, and the whole field run after him as fast as they can go. Those in front try to head him off. This is fun! Look at them in the picture. The fellow ahead holds the cross steady before him, with the ball resting on it, and the others in a jolly rout are after him, blues and whites together. Two are down and out of the race. Never mind. Their turn will come soon. Now a fast race after the swift runner, who keeps his bat before him with the ball resting on it. A blue comes up from the side and tries to strike his bat and knock the ball away. A quick jump aside,—and the runner dodges the blow. Others gather in front to head him off. He turns this way and that like a deer. Down they go on the soft grass. Quick as lightning he turns around, darts the other way, and runs on in a wide circle, still aiming for the bue goal. Ah! they are after him again, blues and whites all together, and the captains yelling like mad. Hurrah! They gather around him, dodging and jumping from side to side, friend and foe together; the swift runner is nearly lost, but he turns around, and with a clever movement throws the ball straight ahead. The blue goal-keeper tries to stop it, but it flies between the flags. The game is won for the whites in just two minutes and four seconds.

Whew! This is lively work. Score one for the whites. Who ever saw such running, such jolly fun, before? If it 's all like this, a boy may learn to run like a deer and leap like an antelope.

Once more the ball is placed in the center, and the game is started. Round and round, backward and forward, now here, now there, skimming along the ground, first on one side, then on another, flying overhead and bounding along the grass, the ball is hotly pursued by blues and whites, pell-mell. The captains run and shout, driving on the players, or calling to the rescue as the ball comes dangerously near home. The players keep their places as nearly as they can, but all are watchful, and run for the ball when it comes near their[illustration - "The goal-keeper tries to stop it."] side—if they have it and cannot keep it, flinging it to a friend, or sending it flying to the other end of the field. There she goes! Hurrah! Run, whites; the blues are upon you! Ah! It 's down, and there is a wild scrimmage. Here they are! Pushing, wrestling, and having a good, manly struggle for the ball.

Down they go on the grass, tumbling over and over in the effort to reach the ball. Whiz! Here she goes! There she goes! Run, fellows, run! The blue boy with the long legs has it. Whack! Somebody knocked it away. It skims through the air. Another blue has it! Run, short-legs; you are a good one! Hello! Tall white fellow in the way. Bang! It goes high over his head, and with a shout, the blues rush up to the goal. Fair game! The blues have it this time!

When the Indians played Baggataway, they staked out a field thousands of yards long, and had a great many players on a side. The game was fierce and wild, and many were knocked down and sometimes badly hurt. This was a savage style of fun that we have no need to initiate. Lacrosse should be played by young gentlemen, and not by roughs. It should be played with dash and vigor, but without rudeness or unfairness. Games are to teach manliness and bravery, and to give strength to limbs and lungs and heart. Lacrosse is so simple, so easily learned, and is withal so lively, that every big boy should join some club or party and go afield, and learn what it is to run and jump and have a good time in the free and open air. Should you care to learn the rules of the game, ask at the bookstore for a book on Lacrosse, published by Rose, Belford and Co., Toronto, Canada. This is said to be the best thing on the subject, and gives the rules of the game as played in the Canadian style.