From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Old Children's Game: Anty Over

A nearly-lost playground game


In one-room country schools, all the students played games together at recess. The rules and rituals of the games were taught to the young by the playground elders, who had been taught in that same way when they started school.

The passing-down of traditional games from older to younger children ended when the little country schools were closed. A few games have survived, but so many have been forgotten.

For example, "Anty Over" was a game that my schoolmates and I enjoyed playing when we attended a one-room school in Nebraska, fifty years ago. I doubt if my own children have ever heard of this ritualized ball game.

[H]e rose and strolled back again past the little schoolhouse, and it was recess. Long before he reached it he heard the voices of the children shouting, "Anty, anty over, anty, anty over." They were divided into two bands, one on either side of the small building, over which they tossed the ball and shouted as they tossed it, "Anty, anty over"; and the band on the other side, warned by the cry, caught the ball on the rebound if they could, and tore around the corner of the building, trying to hit with it any luckless wight on the other side, and so claim him for their own, and thus changing sides, the merry romp went on.

Source: The Eye of Dread by Payne Erskin. Published 1913, by Little, Brown & Company, Boston.

We played the game very much like it is described above, with one minor addition. If the attempt to throw the ball over the schoolhouse was unsuccessful, we yelled, "Pig's tail!" Then, when the next throw was attempted, we yelled "Anty anty over!" again. Or sometimes, "Anty eye over!" which was our way of saying it fancy.

After the ball went over the schoolhouse, a few moments of high suspense followed. We didn't know if the other team had caught the ball or not. If they hadn't caught it, they would call "Anty over!" pretty soon and throw the ball back. But if they had caught the ball, they were going to run around the schoolhouse and try to tag us.

When the other team came around, they usually split up and came from both sides of the schoolhouse at the same time. Because we didn't know who had the ball, we didn't know which way to dodge! The only escape was to run wildly around the schoolhouse to the side the other team had just vacated.

Our teachers always warned us to be careful of the schoolhouse windows, and I don't remember that we ever broke any of them, though we certainly rattled the window screens a few times with our badly thrown balls.

In Dialect Notes, published by the American Dialect Society in 1895, alternate names listed for Anty Over included Anty-anty-over, Antny-over, Anthony-over, Baily-over, Colly-over and Colly-up.

4 comments:

Limey said...

It sounds like great fun! If you can get up a team I wouldn't mind having a game or two when I next come over.

Genevieve said...

It does sound like fun! Do you think we're ready for all that excitement? :D

Brenda said...

Your post certainly brought back memories! Not necessarily because of the recess activity, but it reminded me of my own experience in what had to be one of the last TWO-room school houses in the heartland. K-2 shared a teacher on one half of our small Iowa schoolhouse and Grades 3-6 were taught by a second teacher on the other side of the building. I literally watched man land on the moon via TV a two-room schoolhouse! And recess? As a third grade girl, I wasn't too crazy about getting plowed over by the rough and tumble sixth grade boys during our games of Capture The Flag ... but somehow I survived no worse for wear!

Genevieve said...

Hi, Brenda. Thanks for visiting! I think you surely were in one of Iowa's last two-room schools. I wouldn't have guessed any were left by 1969. However, I am happy to report that there are still rural one-and-two-room schools in the Nebraska Sandhills and Montana. I promise that wherever little rural schools still exist, the kids are still passing down the old playground games.

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