The game was like a pin ball machine although my version had no lights, flippers or bells. This was not your average Christmas present that gets broken before the New Year before a child becomes board with it. No, this game of Bag-o-tell was built to last and although many years have passed since I last saw it, I suspect it still lives on amongst the hoard of my brother’s shed. The game was handed down to me, I can only imagine how splendid it looked when it was new as it was already well worn and tarnished when I owned it, made from wood, glass marbles and brass nails, what child could have wished for more? The board was fashioned to the shape of an arched window and was painted snooker table green, it had a raised edge made from a thinner strip, a sliding compartment that stored the marbles and a track to the right hand side of the game. At the bottom of this track, beside the marble store was a hole that fitted a peg stained red, it was this sprung plunger that once released started the marble on its journey around the arch until it hit a rubber stop that was on the left hand side, it was the force that the marble hit this little stop that determined it’s path of travel and so it was to some degree a game of skill. Under the game were two wooden legs close to the arch end that inclined the board slightly and thus gave the marble it’s direction of travel once the plungers force had faded, it was these little legs that inclined the marble to roll toward it’s obstacles and it’s goals and it’s rest. Several hundred, maybe even a thousand brass nails made up the rest of the game most of these nailed into the board to form the horse shoe catchments, At the top were two with big openings, they were worth fifty points if I remember rightly. One hundred and two hundred point horse shoes were below those and in between lone nails were randomly placed. So can you imagine the fun a small child could have with such a device? The marble was launched, it travelled around the arch at a speed that your skill had dictated until it hit the rubber stop, then it travelled back along the arch away, if it was a forceful launch or off at an angle in the case of a lesser more tactical launch. Either way at one point or another the marble started it’s downward journey, maybe nearly entering a fifty, halting momentarily before rolling, dink, dink, around the outside of the horse shoe. Onward towards me the ball would roll, dink, it hit a lone nail and the course was changed, dink, it hit the one hundred horse shoe and bounced off in another direction toward the two hundred horse shoe, yes, yes, yes and dink, it touched one of the nails that guarded it’s entrance, glancing off the marble ended up at the bottom, to be launched once more to the top of Bag-o-tell. Every ride was a different one and there were variables to every try, if the board was dusty the marble would be slower and would take a different path, some of the nails were wobbly, some even on occasion fell out as the marble stuck against them and this was particularly annoying when it happened with a horse shoe nail, letting the marble escape.
Who would have guessed, certainly not I at the age of five, that in later life my understanding of life would come into focus when I remembered my toy, Bag-o-tell. Nowadays I am a believer in the power of Good and Evil or good and bad, Yin and Yang, opposites. However, I do not believe in balance, is it true good can not exist without bad? Up does not happen without down but I see nothing wrong with good existing in a more plentiful amounts than it’s counterpart. If good truely suceeded over bad it would be Heaven on Earth. I believe that good and evil are cosmic forces and I also believe that we humans can be affected and effect changes on them. The more people who make their interactions with other humans, animals and nature "Good"; positive, helpful, kind and responsible, the more chance good has of triumphing over evil. The more people who care about this Earth we live in the more chance it has surviving us!
I can imagine you thinking… “What’s this got to do with the game?”.
You see we are all like the marbles finding our way though the maze of life and just as importantly, maybe more so we are all like the little tarnished nails that nudge other marbles onto different paths, different journeys.
I am sure that the Pin Ball Wizard, God himself, enjoys watching over us just as much, if not more, as I enjoyed watching those marbles as a child.
- by John Setchell
A way of Life
- MadMermaids Scuba Ltd.