Cattle Rustling




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By Dan Beard

Cowboys, or Cattle Rustling

This game descends to us through our Highlander and Lowlander ancestry, and originally represented the struggle between these ancient people over the possession of cattle which had been stolen and restolen so many times that no court could have decided who had a just right to them. Indeed, no court was necessary, for the old-fashioned, bare-legged cattle thieves decided the question in a manner that was always satisfactory to themselves when they won, and more cannot be said of a modern court decision.

It is a slander on the American cowboy to call this game after him, for the cowboy is not a cattle thief, though he may sometimes work for one. On the whole, cattle rustling is a perfectly proper name, and the one that should be adopted hereafter in place of cowboy.

Choose up for sides in the usual manner, and after the sides are on are up let each player provide himself with a cow; not a real live cow, but some object to represent one, such as a stick or a stone.

If the game is played in the street, as it usually is, the sidewalks will represent the ranches of the opposing factions, the street will be the battle-ground, and the curbstones the boundaries. Each side must place its cattle in a line in its own ranch.

The object of each player is to guard the cattle on his side from the rustlers across the street, and to watch his opportunity to "rustle," or capture, a cow from the boys on the other side. Any boy found in your ranch or on the street may be made prisoner by slapping him on the back three times or holding him long enough to repeat "one, two, three." 

Every prisoner captured takes sides with his captors, and tries to rob his late friends across the street of the very cows he was so carefully guarding before he was captured. The game lasts until all the cows, or all the cowboys, or both of one side, are captured by the other.

As a rule, this game is played in the twilight, and there are great opportunities far slyly creeping into the enemy's ranch, when they are all busy defending a united attack from your side, or when they are all busy in a raid on your cattle and leave their own unguarded. Your ranch is home for your own side, and no one can capture a rustler on his own ranch, or on his own side of a line drawn in the middle of the street.

There is plenty of racing, dodging, shouting, and laughing; and, in spite of the low state of morals it depicts in our ancestors, as a game Cattle Rustling is thoroughly moral and enjoyable sport.







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Black Man ] Bloody Tom ] Brown Ear Wolf ] Bull Ring ] [ Cattle Rustling ] Cross ] Dixie's Land ] Fox & Geese ] Iron Tag ] King's X ] Last Tag ] Monkey Tag ] Over the Hill ] Prisoner's Base ] Red Ogre ] Tommy Tiddler ] Wild Beasts ] Wolf & Sheep ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.