Look at me go using technical terms.
I actually found it by doing some research to see if it was still a thing. When I was growing up, we just called it “Chestnuts”.
Around this time of year, chestnut trees in my home town would drop their seeds … i.e. chestnuts. I remember some of them actually dropping on sidewalks and paved streets. The seeds were encased in a green prickly shell, but often when they would hit, they would split open to reveal the nut or nuts inside. When they didn’t split open, I supposed we could have peeled them but it was easier just to pick it up and throw it against the sidewalk until they split. Violence was a thing, I guess!
The nut inside was actually very pretty and very shiny when first pulled out. Other than that, they weren’t of much use except to play chestnuts with friends. We’d take a couple home and get a hammer, a nail, and a piece of string. The nail would go into the nut and the string was tied to the nail. You’d grab the other end of the string and have your game piece, or weapon.
We played the game by one person putting their chestnut on the ground and the rest of us would swing our chestnut on a string and try to whip it down on the opponents chestnut. If you broke their chestnut, you were a winner. If not, you’d switch places and the other person would try. If my memory is correct, we ended up losing more often by missing the other chestnut and smacking our own against the sidewalk or pavement.
In other uses, they worked a bit like a bolo where you could swing it and hit someone or tangle it up in their legs or arms. I do recall at the time messages going home to our parents indicating that these things were not allowed in school, not even for play at recess.
Ah, the joys of youth. It was only when I did my research for this post that I found this article and realized that we played the game completely incorrectly. Interestingly, I found that there is a championship and a technique for choosing the best conker. I also wondered why the Ohio State University would have a chestnut as a school mascot. Digging further, I found that a chestnut and buckeye are not the same thing although they are related. My learning for the day!
I searched the app stores to see if someone had made the game into an app but didn’t find it under any of the names that I could think of. There’s an idea for development or to let these Scratch or micro:bit experts have at it to develop one.
For a Sunday, your thoughts…
- did you ever play chestnuts, er conkers, as a child?
- did you ever have chestnuts banned at your school?
- did you ever try to roast chestnuts like in the song?
- would you ever confess to using a chestnut as a weapon like I did? (We were so young…)
- what’s the name of the OSU mascot?
- do you regularly see chestnut trees? They’re not hard to find this time of year – you just have to look on the ground around them. As I write this though, I can’t recall seeing any chestnut trees here in Essex County.
I’d be interested in your nutty comments and thoughts. Please leave them via the comments below.
This is part of a regular Sunday series. You can check them all out here.