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12 The Play-Party in Indiana.
some of these we recognize as Scotch, many as Irish, others German, but most of them as English. Old people, whose memories reach back to the earliest days of these settlements, tell us that the play-party has always been the country amusement. We have reason to suspect that its origin was not in America, and from the nationalities of the people, we get a suggestion as to the probable sources.
But for the history of these play-party games, religion was almost as important as nationality. These people were Quakers, Disciples, Methodists, Baptists or Presbyterians as to creed, but they were one in opposing the dance as a wicked sport. Most of these scrupulous consciences did not, however, detect anything wrong in the traditional "playing games" of the young people. If these were follies they were time-honored. Parents and grandparents had enjoyed them, and with this for recommendation they were usually free from the suspicion of evil.
Yet there was another reason for the importance of the play-party and the absence of the dance. Musical instruments,—even the famous old "fiddle"—were usually lacking. Parlor organs were almost unknown and were highly discredited, "because", in the words of my grandfather, "a music-box1 would spile the gals, and a stuck-up sissy wud make no man a good hep-mate." Fortunately for the play-party, it had no need of instrumental music.
The importance of these social gatherings can scarcely be overrated, because the occasions for the coming together of the people were so few. There was "meeting" at the country church, and here a girl might very properly go, every second Sunday night, with a neighbor boy, provided always that her brother rode on horseback behind them. There were, of course, the husking-bees, the apple-cuttings, the carpet-tackings, in their seasons, and the county fair for two days every August; but the play-party was the one rural merry-making which did not have a financial side to recommend it.
The old-time play-party began at sun-down. From ten miles around the people would come,—whole families bumping along in the big jolt-wagon, young men on horseback, several of them having their fair partners for the game seated securely behind them; and finally came the near neighbors picking their ways through the cornfields.