Alabama Folkways Articles

July, 1994


by Joe Hayles

Before TV and VCR's and video games, entertainment was something a person had to improvise for himself, either alone or with someone else. For entertainment on long Sunday afternoons in the summer, years ago, my dad and others would engage in a game called "washers." I remember, when I was still climbing trees with alacrity, lying on a limb in an old sycamore tree, watching the game as the wind gently swayed me back and forth. Later, when I was older, I played the game also.

This is how the game is played:

About twenty feet apart, dig two holes about six inches deep. The holes should be in an area with no grass, if possible. Folks kept the grass hoed out of the yard, and swept the yards with gallberry brush brooms in the days when this game was common. The holes should be about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter. If the dirt is soft, a soup can may be put into the hole so it won't cave in.

The game must be played with four players, two to a team. One member of each team is at either hole. This means that there are two people at each hole competing against each other. Opposing team members at one end of the yard have five washers each. The washers are just slightly smaller than the holes, about 2 inches in diameter.

Usually the more talented or practiced team starts first. This gives the less practiced team the last chance to score. The game starts when the first player "throws," "pitches" or "shoots" his first washer from his position by one of the holes toward the other hole. The object is to land the washer in the hole. If the player is successful he scores five points.

The opposing team member from the same hole then attempts to throw one of his washers into the hole. If he is successful, he scores five points plus he takes the five points scored by the previous player. In other words, the last player to put his washer in the hole gets all the points. The play continues until both players use their five washers each.

The next phase of the game is the same, except the other team members at the opposite hole take their turns. The game continues until a predetermined score is reached. That team wins. Have fun "pitching," "throwing" or "shooting" washers!