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This is an amusement very inferior to the above; almost the whole fun lies in the construction of the giant. Once made, there is very little to be done with him but to shy at him and knock him to pieces again, a process that has always a certain attraction, but can hardly compare with the invigorating dash of the attack on a snow fort. The perfect passiveness and helplessness of the giant takes away more than half the pleasure of attacking him; the snow fort would be nothing without its defenders.
The first process in this, as in all large constructions in snow, is to roll up large snowballs; two large ones are wanted for the body,' and one of lesser dimensions for the head. The site, if the giant be intended to be at all permanent, should be on rising ground, not in a hollow, or it will be in a pool of water when the thaw comes, and will disappear twice as rapidly as it otherwise would. Having selected a suitable site, one of the great snowballs must be rolled thither, and firmly set in its place by mounding up and ramming the snow all round it, and the top flattened off to receive No. 2. Now comes the difficulty how to lift No. 2 into its place. A hand-barrow, shutter, or hurdle are the best things, but if none of these be available, a very effectual substitute may be extemporized out of a few stout sticks lashed crosswise. Snowball No. 2 must, of course, be flattened at one side to fit No. 1, and the cohesion of the two will be greatly promoted by sprinkling a little water over the surfaces before bringing them into contact.
No. 2 thoroughly and rightly settled into its place, No. 3 must be set up in (ike manner, and the block now stands ready for the sculptor. The elaboration of detail must, of course, depend upon the genius of the carver; but the nature of the material will entirely baffle any attempt at boldness of execution, and the best that can be done is a massive indication of the features and limbs—a style of sculpture, in fact, closely resembling the gigantic Egyptian figures in the Crystal Palace.
The most satisfactory tool to work with is a pointed mason's trowel: with this the whole of the carving, however elaborate, may be done. If a trowel be not obtainable, a very good substitute may be made with a piece of thin board. Cut it into the shape required, leaving a good strong handle, sharpen off the edges, and there is as good a tool as any one could desire for the work. By the way, it is quite useless to attempt to stick limbs or features on—they must all be cut out of the solid mass.
Your snow giant complete, the more eccentric the accessories with which you can provide him the better, such as a shocking bad hat, a long pipe, a besom for a sceptre, or, best of all, a good big dilapidated umbrella; and having got him you may do what you like with him; but decidedly the very worst use you can put him to is to knock him to pieces.
TOBOGGANING, COASTING OR SLEDGING.
This is a grand sport, and may be played on almost any hill-side after a good fall of snow. In England it has as yet attained to no higher rank than one more among our many boys' games; but abroad, where the winter is both more prolonged and more severe than with us, this game is, under various names, one of the most popular recreations for all classes and all ages.
Coasting is simply sledging without horses. The sledges are taken to the top of a hill, and allowed to slide down, the force of gravitation doing the work that horses are required to do on the level.
For all the purposes of the game the sledges may be of the most simple description: a plain piece of board, so it be large enough to accommodate its rider, will serve its turn at a pinch, if nothing better be procurable. With us in England it is seldom worth while in any given winter to provide an elaborate sledge, and this, perhaps, has militated against the more extended introduction of the game amongst us, but a very serviceable one may be made for a few pence from the lid of an old packing-case.
Get the blacksmith to make you a couple of good strong angle-irons, with an angle of about 450, and the limbs about four and eight inches in length respectively, with a suitable allowance of screw-holes. Screw the longer limbs of these firmly to one end of your board, about four inches from cither side, leaving the shorter limbs projecting in front. To these projecting limbs screw a piece of two-inch board—elm is perhaps the best—in length equal to the width of your sledge, and in breadth about five inches; the lower and inner edge, where it meets the floor of the sledge, must be bevelled off to fit it accurately, or at least fairly so; and the outer edge, which will now project some way below the level of the floor, must be rounded off in a gradual curve; and the sledge is complete, ready for service. The object of this raised footboard is to lift the sledge over obstacles into which, if not thus defended, it would cut its way, and so be brought up standing.
If the expense can be undertaken, it is well to defend the forefoot of the sledge where it begins to curve up with a piece of thin iron securely fastened along, and bent to the requisite curve; or in default of this, a few pieces of hoop-iron, nailed lengthwise at short distances, will add much to the life of the construction: in extreme cases they might be carried the whole length of the floor, an expedient which would not only materially increase the strength and endurance of the sledge, but also considerably improve its speed.
"No definite code of rules or instructions can be laid down for the game. A party of boys, each provided with a sledge, with a good hill-side and plenty of snow, will soon work out plenty of amusement in sliding down.
The most ordinary way is to go down sitting, feet first, the feet resting on the footboard, the steering being effected by means of a stout stick; and the novice at the sport should acquire some experience in this way before he attempts any of the higher flights.
The more experienced players not only race their sledges one against another, but also contend who shall eclipse the other in devising eccentric methods of making the course—head foremost, on the back, kneeling, and the like. Some of the bolder and more adventurous spirits will now and then attempt some such feat as making the course standing, or even go so far as to try to make it on their heads; but in either case the result is pretty sure to be the same: after a few yards the sledge gathers velocity, and shoots hopelessly from under the would-be acrobat.
Sometimes the sledges are made large enough to accommodate two or more, but perhaps most fun is to be got out of the single ones, though for racing purposes the long sledges beat the short ones hollow.
If there be plenty of snow, very little danger is to be apprehended from falls and similar mischances. In case of an upset, the chief source of danger lies in the too rapid succession of sledges, unless under experienced guidance: the mere upset is scarcely likely to be anything but a cause of laughter even to the victim himself; but another sledge coming thundering down upon him while he lies sprawling in the track might chance to prove exceedingly disagreeable. There is, however, little chance of this with the exercise of even ordinary care, and under any circumstances the casualties of a whole week's coasting arc scarcely likely to approach, either in number or severity, the average of an ordinary football match.
A hill-side with a good number of coasters in full swing is a very animated sight: the rapid succession of sledges with their excited occupants dashing down the hill, and the long line of "returns" toiling up with their sledges behind them, together form a picture which for interest might compare with even our most popular pastimes.
Racing.—A great deal may be done with Hoops: the mere trundling of a hoop is good fun in itself, but a great deal more fun and amusement may be got out of a hoop than that. A well-contested hoop race is very exciting. The hoop, when driven at full speed, requires a good deal of management, and the race does not always fall to the swiftest runner. The hoops in a race should be nearly the same size; a large hoop has an immense advantage over a smaller one, so if there be any material difference, the smaller hoops should have so many yards' start according to their comparative size.
Tournament.—The tournament is managed by driving two or more hoops against each other at full speed, the hoop that does not fall being the conqueror. When there are a dozen or more hoops engaged, the tournament gets very exciting, the hoops flying off in all directions, with their masters after them like dismounted cavaliers after their horses.
Turnpik.es.—A very good game; as is also the following, when hoops are less plentiful than players. Supposing ten players with only five or six hoops: lots are drawn for the hoops, and those who fail to get them become Tollkeepers. A large circle, thirty or forty yards across, is marked out as the road, and at equal distances on this each toll-keeper places a couple of big s\ones three or four inches apart, according to previous agreement; this is his tollgate or turnpike, and the Trundlers are bound to drive the hoop through every turnpike on the road. If the hoop shirk a turnpike, or touch the stone on either side in its passage through, the trundler changes places with the tollkeeper, who takes his turn with the hoop. It is surprising how much skill is required to keep a hoop up in this way for any length of time.
Posting.—Suppose the same conditions as in the above; stations are marked out on the course by stones set at regular distances. At each of these stations a player stands armed with a stick and ready for action. The hoops are now started, and the game proceeds thus: when the trundler arrives at the first station or posting-house, he gives the hoop a slight additional impetus, and hands it over to the player stationed there, meanwhile taking his place in readiness for the next hoop ; the next trundler does the same, the players constantly interchanging the hoops, so that each player has his fair share of the game. The hoops must never be allowed to fall, the player who commits this fault being required to stand out one whole round. The stations should be some distance apart, or the hoops will circulate too rapidly.
Steeplechase.—This is great fun. A course is marked oft across country, trees or any other landmarks serving for the boundaries; a fair start is made, and the player who reaches the goal first with his hoop is declared winner. The race must be won by fair trundling, no carrying being allowed, unless over hedges and the like. A large and heavy hoop is the best for this game.
Feats With Hoops, &c—There are many other ways of getting amusement out of hoops. Some boys will drive their hoops at full speed, and suddenly pass through it from side to side as it runs, without checking its course; this requires a large hoop, and is a really difficult feat, requiring much dexterity, quickness, and decision. A small hoop may be driven through a large one in similar manner. In some parts of England, where smooth hillsides are available, it is a favourite pastime to start large and strong hoops down the slope, racing one against the other. After the first start the hoop soon acquires such an impetus that it clears the ground like a race-horse, rushing and bounding down the slope like a veritable live thing, and leaving its master toiling a long way behind. The sight of the hoops in their impetuous course is exciting enough, but still more so is the headlong rush of the anxious owners, careering at full speed, each intent only upon his own hoop. A few hoop chases like this make all other games seem singularly flat and void of excitement.
Much more could be said on the subject of hoops, but further details must be left to the inventive ingenuity of the young reader himself.
Not very many years ago the young artist in Kites seldom ventured beyond a very few simple forms, indeed, was mostly confined to one as the only one recognized as de rigueur; but now-a-days he has a greatly enlarged choice, and may find in the toy-shops an endless variety of forms more or less eccentric in their design from which to select. Or if he be of an inventive turn of mind, and cannot otherwise please himself, he may construct a kite on a pattern of his own.
The old theory used to be that a very slight deviation from accurate proportions in a kite must certainly prove fatal to its powers of flight; but of late years, amongst other results of opening our communications with China, we have discovered that so long as certain rules of symmetry are observed, that is, so long as one side fairly balances the other, there is almost no conceivable shape that may not be made to mount up as a kite into the sky.
Here in Europe kite-flying is only an amusement for the young, but in China it is the popular recreation of all ages; not below the dignity even of grey hairs. On a suitable evening in some parts of China the whole sky will be populated with kites of strange and wondrous aspect—mandarins, men and women, singly and in pairs, wild beasts, birds, serpents, dragons, fish, in endless variety and profusion. To the Chinaman bent on constructing a kite, nothing animate or inanimate comes amiss; let the shape be as eccentric as you please, he will not only make a kite of it, but will make one that will fly.
At the end of this notice the young kite constructor will find a few designs for kites, which may serve at least as hints for his guidance.
How To MaKE a Kite.—To make a kite of the ordinary pattern, the following requisites must be prepared: a long straight lath, a cane, and a plentiful supply of string, paper, and paste. The lath is for the upright (as b, d, in Fig. 1.) The cane, which should be about three-fourths the length of the lath, must be securely fastened by its exact middle to the upper end of the lath, as at e, and brought down to a bow by the cord at c. This cord should be passed with a double turn round the upright at/ to keep it from slipping, and care must be taken to balance the two sides of the kite most accurately; a very slight preponderance of weight on one side over the other will make the kite lop-sided, and will greatly interfere with its flight.
Now carry a string, as in the figure, from e to c, thence to g, to <7, and back to c, fastening it securely at each point. Your skeleton is now complete.
Next for the paper: paste sheets of paper together until you have one large enough to cover the whole framework, with a margin of at least two inches to lap over. Lay your skeleton upon this, cut away the superfluous paper all round, and then lap the margin over the edges, and paste it firmly down. Having firmly secured this, cut some slips of paper about three inches wide, and paste them along and over the cross string so as to secure them firmly to the main sheet, and treat the upright in the same manner, though, of course, with a wider strip. The body of your kite is now complete.
For the wings or tassels take two strips of paper, of a length and width proportioned to the size of the tassel required, snip these across like a comb, roll them up, and bind the uncut ends tightly with string. The tassel for the end of the tail may be constructed in a similar manner.
The ordinary method of constructing the tail is by fastening slips of paper at six inches' or so interval along a piece of string. These pieces of paper, though intended for ornament, hardly fulfil their office, but remind one rather of curl-papers than of anything else, and are continually becoming inextricably entangled with each other. A good long piece of string with a tassel at the end answers all the purposes, and is far more graceful. If this bethought insufficient, a little coloured tissue paper rolled up fine, and twined spirally along the string of the tail, will set it off wonderfully. The tail should be from fifteen to twenty times the length of the kite.
In selecting the string for the kite, the two main points to take into consideration are lightness and strength. If the string be too heavy, the kite will not be able to soar very high, on account of the dead weight of the string; if it be too light, the pull of the kite and its own weight together will be too much for it, it will assuredly give way, and the kite will most probably be lost, and will certainly be damaged.
The string, by the way, is not fastened directly to the framework of the kite, but to a piece of string technically termed the belly-band, which is a piece of string fastened to the upright by both ends, and hanging down in a loop about a foot or eighteen inches in depth.
The points of attachment of this belly-band should be one a little below Jhe middle of the upright, and the other about two-thirds up of the remaining length. Or, to be more precise, in a four-foot kite the lower point would be about twenty inches from the bottom, and the other about ten inches from the top. The string is firmly attached to the belly-band: as the exact point of