Old world games


After the post on the “five stones” Tamás Braun sent to us the address of this documental blog post, which evokes in a charming way how the game was played a half century ago on the Kálvária square in Budapest’s eighth, workers’ district – not with pebbles and not with knucklebones, the by-products of traditional farming, but with the refuse of the big city’s animal-keeping: horseshoe nails. Our illustrations are the photos shot by Endre Friedmann in the same years in Budapest.


I can still remember as we set out in the asphalt jungle of Józsefváros, looking for horseshoe nails. We knew that they are sometimes lost by the industrious horses of Pest off their legs covered with gamashes of hair. The heavy muraközi sorts pulling all day long lorries loaded with milk cans and beer barrels, the somewhat slimmer mail coach horses, or those dragging ice carts, the silent slaves of the era.


We need the worn and lost horseshoe nails for bikázás, the bull game. These square-headed metric screws are perfect when the angular part is worn off by about the half, so its balance will be ideal and it fits well to the fingers picking it during the game.


We often keep watch in front of the dairy in Szigetvári street, looking for the milk carts arriving in the morning, we often prowl around the beer depot in Dugonics street. The tougher boys even go as far as the cart garage of the post office in Verseny street. When the supply is successful, then the benches of Kálvária square and of the Papgödör will be occupied as well as the smooth surfaces of the asphalt street where teams of two or more participants are formed, and the game starts.


One needs six bulls, which the player lays out at the beginning, he picks up one, tosses it up, in the meantime picks up another one. Now he has two, he tosses up one of them, and while it is in the air, he picks up another one. And twice more, until all the bulls are in one hand.


Then the bulls are laid out again, and he continues by picking up two nails twice. And then three plus two.


Together with the flying bull, he has six ones in the hand. Now he tosses up one and lays out five, and then vice versa, while tossing up one, he grabs the five others at once and waits for the sixth one to fall.


The final moment is the “drive in”. We lay down the nails, and then we form a gate on the game space with the thumb and index finger.


While we toss up one bull, with the other hand we drive the rest one by one over the gate. Then we drive them two by two plus one.


Finally, all the five has to be driven at once in the corral.


Several ratings are possible. It can be measured by time or can go until the first mistake. One can count the faultless games.


After the fault, one could always begin it again…