RATTLER              page 70

“Rattlesnakes of various kinds were so widely distributed throughout the Americas that it was only natural that Indian children devised games based on outwitting the various species in their tribal habitat.

The players must stand just outside a circle 40 feet in diameter marked on smooth flat ground. Two players stand in the middle of the circle. The chief blindfolds one of them, leaving his ears uncovered. He is the Hunter. The second player is also blindfolded and given a small tin box with a very small pebble in it. For safety’s sake, it is important that the box have a tightly fitted cover. The second player, who plays the role of Rattlesnake, is told to rattle his box two or three times, counting quietly to himself up to 10, slowly, between each series of rattles. The hunter tries to catch the rattler, and the snake should be warned to move silently, but not too fast, in order to make it as difficult as possible for the hunter to locate where the sound comes from, before it sounds in another direction. The most important instruction of all is given before each game begins: both contestants must stop instantly when the chief shouts, “Stop!” This precaution is to prevent the players from colliding or running into the circle of spectators.

The chief starts the contest by placing the two players 10 or 12 feet apart and then saying, “Begin!” Action follows the word as the rattler rattles and moves and the hunter listens, trying to place the position of the snake and catch it. When the chief, for some reason, stops the game at any point, he must place the two players near the center of the circle and the correct distance apart before the hunt recommences. When rattler has been caught, one or more times as decided by the chief, it is only fair that the hunter become the rattler for the next game. This move also saves valuable time for additional play, as the contestants are told not to remove the blindfolds until the series is finished.”

Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society