Jail Games for Kids – PRISONER’S BASE OR PRISON BARS GAME. This is a most delightful game, and is a very great favorite among boys of all classes. It is commenced by choosmg Captains, which is either done by lot or by the “sweet voices” of the jouths.
If by lot, a number of straws of different lengths are put in a bunch, and those who draw from one end, the other being hidden, the two longest straws, are the two “Captains;” each of which has the privilege of choosing his men: the drawer of the longest of the two straws has the first choice. When this has been arranged each Captain selects, alternately, a boy till the whole are drawn out.
This method is, however, often attended with considerable inconvenience, as it is not impossible that the lots may fall on the two worst players. It is very much better to let the boys choose the two Captains, as the two best players will then assuredly be elected, and most of the success of the game depends on the Captains.
The leaders being thus chosen, the next point is to mark out the homes and prisons. First, two semicircles are drawn, large enough to hold the two parties, the distance between the semicircles being about twenty paces. These are the “homes,” or “bounds.” Twenty paces in front of these, two other semicircles, of a rather larger size, are marked out. These are the prisons; the prison of each party being in a line with the enemy’s home.
These preliminaries being settled, the sides draw lots; the side drawing the longest straw having to commence the game. The Captain of side A orders out one of his own side, usually a poor player, who is bound to run at least beyond the prisons before he returns. Directly he has started, the Captain of side B sends out one of his men to pursue, and, if possible, to touch him before he can regain his own home. If this is accomplished, the successful runner is permitted to return home scathless, while the vanquished party must go to the prison belonging to his side; from which he cannot stir, until some one from his own side releases him, by touching him in spite of the enemy.
This is not an easy task; as, in order to reach the prison, the player must cross the enemy’s home. It is allowable for the prisoner to stretch his hand as far towards his rescuer as possible, but he must keep some part of his body within the bounds; and if several prisoners are taken, it is sufficient for one to remain within the prison, while the rest, by joining hands, make a chain towards the boy who is trying to release them. When this is accomplished, both the prisoner and his rescuer return home, no one being able to touch them until they have reached their home and again started off. But the game is not only restricted to the two originally sent out.
Directly Captain A sees his man pressed by his opponent, he sends out a third, who is in his turn pursued by another from side B; each being able to touch any who have preceded, but none who have left their home after him. The game soon becomes spirited; prisoners are made and released, the two Captains watching the game, and rarely exposing themselves, except in cases of emergency, but directing the whole proceedings. The game is considered won, when one party has succeeded in imprisoning the whole of the other side. Much depends upon the Captains, who sometimes, by a bold dash, rescue the most important of their prisoners, and thereby turn the fate of the battle; or, when the attention of the opposite side is occupied by some hardly-contested struggle, send some insignificant player to the rescue; who walks quietly up to the prison, and unsuspectedly lets out the prisoners one by one.
No player is permitted to touch more than one person until he has returned to his home; when he can sally out again armed with fresh strength, like Antæus of old, who could not be conquered at wrestling, because whenever he touched the ground his strength was renewed by his mother Earth.
Excerpt from the book: EVERY BOY’S BOOK: A COMPLETE ENCYCLOPÆDIA OF SPORTS AND AMUSEMENTS. / EDITED BY EDMUND ROUTLEDGE. / With more than Six Hundred Illustrations / FROM ORIGINAL DESIGNS. LONDON: GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS, THE BROADWAY, LUDGATE. NEW YORK: 416, BROOME STREET. 1869.