The Littleport Button Tree
The Littleport Button Tree project
Field Theatre Group
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In Trinidad when I was eight years of age, marble pitching was my favourite game. There were times, when we had no more marbles, we used buttons instead; not the small shirt buttons, but the larger ones used for jackets and coats. We also prized the fancy and sometimes ornate ones found on women’s clothes; here, I use the word, ‘found’ guardedly.
Hugh Martin was my neighbour and best friend of the same age. I played marbles regularly with him. He was brilliant at this game and was always successful in cleaning me out of my stock of marbles; we pitched for buttons then. He was not as successful, though, when we pitched for buttons; I had some advantage and held my own for a while; but in the end he always won.
When Hugh and I played marble pitching, we looked always for flat, even ground somewhere in our backyard. It was always hot and dusty with the Trinidad sun; but we didn’t mind, we were used to it. We began by drawing a circle on the dusty ground, roughly a foot in diameter; then we drew a line about seven feet away facing the circle. This was our starter line, behind which we stood to pitch our main pitching marble (sometimes called a tor) towards the circle.
In the circle we each placed an equal number of buttons, which was agreed before the beginning of the game. To choose who pitched first, we held our tor at shoulder height over the starter line and dropped it. The tor nearer the line began the game.
The aim of the game was to pitch and claim as many buttons, as our skill allowed, out of the circle. If we missed a button or failed to knock it out of the circle, we had to leave the pitching marble where it landed to wait our next turn, while the other player continued with his turn.
At any point during the game, we could claim the entire number of buttons in the circle if we successfully targeted and struck the tor of the other. The game came to an end when there were no more buttons in the circle. We started a new game if the loser wanted to continue playing.
I always wanted to, in the vain hope of winning back my precious buttons from Hugh. At the end of our playing sessions, we still remained friends.