greatest difference between our play and that of present day
children was that we had almost no toys except those which we
made for ourselves. The greatest treasure of the average Cross
Timbers boy of the 1880's was his pocket knife. It was usually
a Barlow knife with one blade. [My brother] George and I each
had one, which we whetted to a razor sharp edge on the sandstone
that was abundant on our farm. To lose one's knife was a tragedy.
Most little girls had only a doll and sometimes a set of little
Almost every boy also had a few marbles of various types ....
addition to marbles and a pocket knife, I once received the
gift of a small toy pistol and one box of caps. These were about
the only "store bought" toys I ever owned. My sister
Fannie, in Nebraska, sent us a Christmas box one year containing
a bag of beautiful glass marbles for me and a harmonica, which
we called a "French harp," for George. He was delighted
with this and soon learned to play it very well ....
A good ball could be made from yarn obtained by unraveling an
old hand knitted woolen sock.When the yarn had been rolled up
as tightly as possible into a ball, somewhat smaller than a
baseball, it had to be thoroughly sewed with a needle and thread
or it would unravel. Rubber balls could be bought at a store
for from ten to twenty five cents, but neither George nor I
ever felt that we could afford to buy one, even if we had that
much money, which was not often.
Edward Everett Dale, The Cross Timbers, 81-82.