Ball and Racket Game
The game in which the ball is struck with a racket is almost
exclusively played by men, but there are tribes where it is played
by women, and one tribe, where it is played
by men and women together. The form of ball game where the racket
is used was less widely distributed over the country than some
others. It was most frequently found among tribes living near
the Atlantic Coast and in the region of the Great Lakes. It had
a limited range on the Pacific. There are two forms of the Racket
Ball Game, one where a single racket is used and the other where
two rackets are employed to catch the ball. The latter form is
peculiar to the tribes formerly living in the Southern States.
The game here given is presented as it is played among the Chippewa
tribes dwelling in Minnesota.
Properties.—A ball, not too hard and the size usually
employed for cricket. As many rackets as there are players. Red
and yellow head-bands equally divided as to number and enough
for all the players.
Directions.—The field should be as large as the
camp ground will permit. At the extreme East of the field a tall
pole should be set as a goal and a like pole at the West for
the other goal. To the pole at the East a red streamer should
be tied and a yellow streamer to the pole at the West. These
poles should be practically in line and as distant from each
other as it is conveniently possible to set them. The rackets
should be made in camp. A racket can be made from a sapling cut
at such length that when the racket is completed it will be 26
inches long. One end of the sapling is whittled fiat on one side
for a sufficient length to be bent round to the shaft or handle
so as to form the rim of the circular receptacle which is to
receive the ball. Sometimes both sides of this bent portion of
the sapling are made flat. The end of this flat end where it
curls round upon the shaft or handle must be bound firmly to
the shaft with thongs or heavy twine. Holes are sometimes bored
through the rim and the thongs or twine are passed through them
and woven into a loose netting to form a bottom to the coiled
end, making a shallow cup-shaped receptacle in which to catch
or hold the ball. The rackets are not difficult to make. Each
lad should make his own racket and mark the stem with some device
by which he can identify it should he drop it during the play.
Care should be taken when making the racket to have the cup-shaped
receptacle at the end of the shaft of such size as to hold the
ball without its rolling about, in which case it would be easily
dropped when being carried on a run; yet it must be large enough
to catch and hold the ball as it is flying about. The players
should be divided into two parties by casting lots. Those who
belong to the east goal should wear red head-bands; those who
have the west goal should wear yellow head-bands. An Umpire must
be selected. The ball must strike one of the goal posts to make
a point; the number of points that shall constitute the game
should be agreed upon. Two players, one from each side, stand
near each goal. One helps the ball for his side; the other hinders
the ball when near the goal by tossing it back into the field
again so that his side may catch it.
The four players stand at their posts beside the two goals;
all the others gather in the field. The Umpire takes the ball
and goes to a place as near the center of the field as possible.
All being in readiness, he throws the ball with force straight
up in the air. Every player watches the ball and makes ready
to try and catch it in his racket when it descends. If one succeeds
in catching the ball, he runs at full speed toward his goal,
holding his racket so that the ball will not fall out. The other
players rush after him, trying to strike his racket and dislodge
the ball. If he is hard pressed he may try to toss the ball to
a player on his side who has a clearer space; if the ball is
caught by the player to whom it was sent, then all the players
turn upon the new holder of the ball and try to block his progress.
In this game care must be taken never to strike the arm or body
of a player; only the racket should be struck. There is danger
of receiving injuries if this rule is not strictly observed.
Perhaps one of the most difficult feats in this game is when
a player has brought his ball near to the goal to so turn his
racket while it holds the ball as to send the ball with such
force that it will strike the post squarely and not miss the
goal. The difficulty is owing to the horizontal position of the
racket when holding the ball. Of course, the keenest playing
is about the goal, where the guard of the side opposite to the
player does his best to catch the ball on its way to the post
and send it back into the field.
The ball should not be allowed to touch the ground from the
time the Umpire throws it into the air until it falls at the
pole after a point has been made by the ball striking the post.
It is the duty of the Umpire to go to the pole, mark the score,
return with the ball to the center of the field, where he again
sends it up into the air, and the game starts afresh for a second
point to be made.
This game is good sport; it develops and requires skill, agility