Jack Stones




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By Dan Beard

ohb302.gif (1716 bytes)
Fig. 302.

Jack Stones is another game that was old when Greek civilization was young. "Chuckie Stanes," "Chuck Stones," "Five Stones," and "Knuckle-Bones," are some of the names by which the game has been known.

ohb296.gif (3414 bytes)
Fig. 296.

Knuckle-Bones were in favor for use in this game two thousand years ago and are still used. White, water-washed pebbles; crockery stilts, which are little three-legged bits of earthenware upon which china and earthenware are placed when firing; iron stilts, made in imitation of the crockery ones; "lucky stones," which are bones from the inside of the head of the fresh-water fish called sheepsheads; and marbles, are all used in this country for jacks. But perhaps the best are the earthenware stilts with an agate (marble) for the jack.  

ohb297.gif (3112 bytes)
Fig. 297

Jack is the name given to the stone which is thrown up while the different feats are performed.

First Jack:

ohb298.gif (2124 bytes)
Fig. 298.

The game opens with one player taking the five stones in his hand. Holding the hand, palm up (Fig. 296), he tosses them into the air (Fig. 297). Before the stones have time to descend the player turns his hand over and catches as many as he can on the back of the hand (Fig. 298).

ohb299.gif (3262 bytes)
Fig. 299

These, he again tosses up (Fig. 299), and before they descend he picks up those jacks that he failed to catch on the back of his hand (Fig. 300). Quickly turning the hand he catches the descending jacks, and now holds all five in his fist (Fig. 301).

ohb300.gif (3579 bytes)
Fig. 300.

Whenever a player fails the next in turn takes the jacks. After successfully catching the jacks on the back of the hand, or picking up all that fell off, the player does the second feat, called "Ones". 

ohb301.gif (2447 bytes)
Fig. 301.


First rolling the stones from his hand on to the ground, he throws his Jack up, and before it falls, picks up a stone. Again tossing up Jack he picks up another, continuing until all are successfully picked up from the ground. The next play is called 


Again rolling the stones on the earth and tossing Jack aloft, the player picks up two stones at a time, and, sending Jack up again he picks up the remaining two. This same process is repeated in 


but in this play one is picked up first and three at the next toss, or three first and one afterward.


All four stones must be picked up while Jack is in the air.

Drive the Horses in their Stalls:

Roll the stones from the hand on to the ground, and place the left hand with fingers spread apart on the ground near the jack stones. Toss Jack aloft, and before he comes down, drive one of the stones between the outspread first and second fingers. This is called putting the horse in the stable or stall. Do the same with all the other stones. Then in succession

Drive the Horses Out of their Stalls:  

all the others, then bunch them together and pick up all four, and catch Jack as he descends. 

Jumping the Hurdles:

Place the four horses (jack stones) in a line. Then toss Jack up, and before he comes down, pick up the first and third stones together and catch Jack as he comes down. The second and fourth are next caught up together and Jack is caught as he falls.


Four of the Jacks are placed to represent the four bases on the base-ball field. Jack is sent aloft and the jack stone at home base is picked up and deposited at first base and Jack is caught as he falls. Jack is again tossed up, and the second base is run in the same manner, and then the third, and then the home base. Now the first-base man is picked up and set down at the second, then the first and second are picked up together and set down at third, then the first, second, and third are all taken up at one time and set down at home base. Then as Jack is again tossed up all four are taken up at the same time and Jack is caught before he reaches the ground.

Cats in the Well:

The Jacks are rolled from the hand on to the ground; these are the cats. Then the left hand of the player is placed near them with the fist lightly closed, the thumb and first finger forming the opening to the well. Jack is now thrown up, and while he is in the air, one of the four cats on the ground is picked up and put in the well. The same operation is repeated with the second, third, and fourth cat, until all have been drowned in the well. The left hand is now taken away and the dead cats are left in a bunch. Jack is tossed up and all four of the cats are picked up before Jack comes down.

Sending the People to Church:

Again the stones are spilled upon the ground. This time they have changed from dead cats to well-dressed people, but people who need urging before they will go to church. The left hand is placed with fingers crooked and spread apart. The ends of the fingers resting on the ground form the bases to the arched doorways of the church, while the hollowed palm forms the ceiling and the back of the hand the roof. 

Jack is now sent up and one of the Sunday idlers is driven through one of the five doorways into the church. One at a time, all four are sent to church. Then all four are gathered up while Jack is above, and Jack joins them when be is caught as he returns to earth. 

When girls play Jack-stones they use a pretty marble for Jack, select a stone step to play upon, and allow Jack to strike the step and catch him on the rebound. They also have a number of feats generally ignored by the boys. These feats, such as "peas in a pod," "setting the table," "doves in a cot," " spinning the plate," "knock at the door," "pick up a pin," "light a match," "washing the clothes," will be left for web pages written for girls. 







Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Costume Race ] Duck on a Rock ] Hopscotch ] Hunkety ] I Spy ] Jack Candles ] [ Jack Stones ] Jack's Alive! ] Kick the Wicket ] Leap-Frog Race ] Mumbly Peg ] Renegade ] Simon Kenton ] Skittles ] Spirit Tortoise ] Tip-Cat ] The Wheelbarrow Race ] Woodsmen's Tests ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.