Rollie Pollie Races

Growing up before the age of digital entertainment in the Ozarks, my sister, brothers and I had to be creative in finding fun things to do as kids.

I remember my rollie pollie races. Rollie pollies are little dark bugs with an armor shell and many legs. They are harmless creatures who roll into a ball when scared, hence their name.

I would gather a handfull of rollie pollies and line them up on one end of our concrete porch. With an ivory detergent container filled with water I would line my racetrack, then set the rollie pollies off for the races! Of course, they often didn’t stay within the lines, but many times would as the water formed a barrier. I guess rollie pollies don’t like getting their feet wet! 

My brothers and I found many other creative ways for entertainment. We would make obstacle courses to run through for the fastest time. We had a collection of marbles that we would race on our hot wheels track. The fastest marbles I can remember was Smokey and The Big Red Machine, my personal favorite.

My brother Mike would take old blue jeans worn out from wear and cut them into shreds, sew by hand the pieces together and stuff with more material to make what he called a Jean Ball, which we played with out in the yard. The advantage of a jean ball over a wiffle ball was that you could use a regular baseball bat to hit rather than a wiffle ball bat.

My uncle Dale whom we called Moose gave us some old golf clubs. We didn’t have golf balls, so we used walnuts and banged them around the house. We would dig a small hole for our target. We pitched acorn shells to each other. Acorn shells made great curve balls.

On colder days we invented games in the house. A laundry basket served as our target for basketball games with our nerf ball. Dad would even play, shooting from his position lying on his couch. We played hot potato, where our kitchen timer ticked down the seconds while we tossed rolled up socks to each other. Whoever had the socks in their hands last when the timer went off blew up. My brother Dave and I would have to sit on the floor in the living room between our couches while older brothers Mike and Perry would be in the kitchen or back bedroom. They would make a choo-choo train sound and come running into the living room. We had to get on the couch before they ran over us.

We did many other things to entertain ourselves as youngsters. We would catch crawdads down at Bear Creek, jumped into piles of autumn leaves, made spectacular football catches in those same leaves, blew up army men with firecrackers, tied strings on June bugs’ legs and walked around outside with them, threw grasshoppers in spider webs, and watched the spiders do their work.

I believe all these creative games and activities we created exercised both our bodies and minds. We ran, explored, imagined, and created. They were magical times, now fondly remembered from long ago.

What creative games and activities did you do as a child? What of those activities can you pass on to today’s children to coax them from their video games and phones into the world of imagination and wonder?

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