Hoops & Wheels




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By Dan Beard

Fig. 66. 

Several years ago an effort was made to make wire or iron hoops popular. They were neatly made, and propelled by an iron hook, which kept the hoop upright and pushed it along in place of being propelled by a succession of blows, as in the old-fashioned primitive barrel hoop. But the very points that the manufacturers thought would recommend these toys to the small boys, eventually caused their downfall and the substitution for them of a wooden hoop much neater than the clumsy barrel hoop, and better adapted to the boy's ideas than the metal one. Like the former, it is propelled by means of a short stick, with which the boy belabors his toy. 

This has retained its popularity for the last 25 years. Various attempts have been made to improve on it by adding bells and metal jinglers of odd shapes, producing what was expected to be pleasant and popular noises; but no boy out of kilts will sacrifice the dignity of his knickerbockers by causing them to chase after such a baby rattle. So these elaborate affairs are relegated to the little girls and kilted boys, while the sturdy legs of the real small boy run tirelessly after the old wooden hoop.

A Reminiscence.

The greatest triumph of my hoop-time days was when my parents bought some sugar hogsheads, which were cut up for kindling wood. I secured the largest of the hoops, which stood some distance above my head, and from one of the staves of the hogshead made myself a beautiful club to hammer my giant with. Then I sallied forth, and when I bore down on a street full of my playmates rolling this giant hoop in front of me, all the metal store-hoops and wooden barrel hoops ceased rolling, while the boys stood respectfully aside to let me pass. 

It was a great triumph, and was talked about long afterward as the lads gathered on the sidewalk to play Jack and the Candles in the dusk of a summer evening. There was one freckled-face boy who tried to mar my triumph by securing a big cart wheel, but be only caused a laugh, because he could not manage his heavy spoked and hubbed hoop, which insisted upon going its own gait and taking its own direction, in spite of the severest clubbing, to the great alarm of passing pedestrians.

But small Wheels

are very popular during hoop-time, and make an interesting toy, requiring more skill to guide than the ordinary hoop. To trundle a wheel the boy uses a long stick, one end of which he places under the hub, and with which he both pushes and guides the wheel in a very interesting and skilful manner, as he runs after it.

Fig. 67. 
Trundling a Wheel

Tin-Can Cover.

Generally it is the top of a big, old-fashioned blacking-box that is used for this purpose. First, the boy finds the center of the box-lid, after a manner known to himself, but not recorded in any work on geometry. Next, he places the lid on a board, and, with an old rusty nail for a puncher, and half of a brick or a cobblestone for a hammer, he drives the nail through the center of the tin. 

Fig. 68. 
Racing with the Tin Wheel

From the mysterious depths of his pocket he produces about a yard of top-cord, and, putting one end of the string in his mouth, he brings the raveled end to a point, which he threads through the hole in the box-cover. At the other end lie makes a big, round hard-knot, and pulls the string through until the knot rests against the cover.

This accomplished, he starts to run, and, by the exercise of his art, he causes the tin to trundle on the side-walk along side of him.

There are no very new things in hoops, and if any man should attempt to bring his scientific experience and knowledge to bear upon the subject, and invent a new toy in that line, he would find it a difficult operation when he attempted to persuade the conservative small boy to adopt his invention. 

What a boy uses, it seems, must be what has been tried for centuries by his predecessors and proved faithful, and any change in form must be the gradual and almost imperceptible growth of natural evolution, caused by the change of surroundings or, as their parents would say, environments.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.