Indian Ball Games

by Alice C. Fletcher

III. Double-Ball Game

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.—Some stories credit the Moon as the giver of this game to the women, by whom it is exclusively played throughout the United States except among the tribes in Northern California, where the men use the game. There are indications that the Double-ball Game was known upon this continent in the remote past.

The peculiar ball employed for this game is composed of two small stuffed pouches connected by a band, or two billets of wood about five inches long, made like thick pegs with heads and ornamented on all sides with carvings; a leather thong five to eight inches long is attached at each end to the neck of each of the two billets. Dr. Culin reports an ingenious specimen made by the Maricopa Indians of Arizona; that double-ball is made from narrow strips of leather braided to form a band, each end of which is enlarged by braiding so as to make a ball, the finished article being about eight inches in length. (Ibid., p.665, Fig. 882.)

Properties.—One double-ball; as many sticks as players; red and yellow head-bands, equal in number, for the two sides of players.

Directions.—The double-ball should be made in camp in the following manner: A strip of leather or of strong, closely woven brown cloth from fifteen to twenty inches long. For six inches from both ends the strip should be about seven inches wide; the portion of the strip between these wide ends should be about three inches wide. The wide ends are to form the pouches, and the narrower middle section the band to connect the two pouches. The two edges of the strip should be lapped and strongly sewed the entire length of the strip, except a small opening about an inch long left on the side of each of the pouches. Through this opening the pouches are filled with dry sand, then the edges are securely sewed together so that no sand can escape. These pouches are the "balls." The sides of the pouches should be decorated with designs painted in bright colors and a little tuft or tassel of red yarn fastened at the middle of the bottom of the pouch. The sticks should be about thirty-two inches long, not too heavy and somewhat pointed at one end that is slightly curved. Each stick should be marked by an individual device so that it can be claimed by its owner.

Two wickets, made by crotched poles about five and a half to six feet high, having a bar fastened across the top, are placed in line with each other, one at the East, the other at the West, and as far apart as the limits of the camp grounds will permit. A red streamer to be tied to the eastern wicket and a yellow streamer to the western wicket.

The players are divided into two parties of equal numbers and lots should be drawn to decide which side shall have the eastern goal, and all of that side must wear red head-bands; the other side must wear yellow head-bands to show that theirs is the western goal.

An Umpire must be chosen, to whom belongs the duty of tossing the ball when necessary; to keep the score, and to settle any disputes.

To make a point the ball must be tossed so as to hang on the crossbar of the wicket. An agreement must be made as to how many points shall constitute the game.

The Game

The players stand in two rows about fifteen to twenty feet apart, one color on one side, the other color opposite. The Umpire takes a place between the two lines and as near as possible to the middle of the rows. When all are in readiness the double-ball is tossed by the Umpire straight up into the air, and all those whose places are near the middle of the rows watch the descent of the "ball" and try to catch on their sticks the connecting cord of the double-ball. If one succeeds, she tries to send it down the line toward the goal of her side; those of the opposite side try to prevent success to this movement and to send the "ball" in the other direction. The "ball" should not be allowed to touch the ground from the time it is tossed until it is lodged on the wicket. The side that lets the "ball" fall to the ground loses a count, and the side that keeps the "ball" up until it reaches the goal scores two points, equal to four counts.

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