Main piece: Pooh’s Sticks is something we always do, and my dad did it as a kid too, where you find a pond with a bridge over it, or a river – something that has moving water. Everybody finds a stick that they think is going to be the winning stick, you drop it off one side, run to the other, and whoever’s stick comes out first is the winner.
I don’t know why we call it that. I think it comes from Winnie the Pooh, they do that.
Background: O is twenty years old, but has been playing Pooh’s Sticks since early childhood. While she grew up in Richardson, Texas, she was taught this game by her father, who grew up in Malmesbury, a town in Wiltshire, England. She and her brother, who is sixteen, continue to play Pooh’s Sticks with her parents. The game is not specific to a particular location; she says that they’ll play the game whenever “we come across a good bridge and river”.
Context: I initially approached O to discuss folklore in the visual arts, as she is an illustrator. While we were discussing it, she asked if she could tell me about folklore from her childhood. I enthusiastically said yes, and she told me about Pooh’s Sticks. She finds the game quaint and charming, and got really excited when telling me about the races she’ll have with her parents and brother. It’s a game she still enjoys playing to this day.
Analysis: This folk game appeals as it costs nothing to play, can be played with any indeterminate number of players, and requires no skill set nor set age. Pooh’s Sticks was initially taught to O as a small child by her father, showing that it is a way to keep a kid entertained when there are no toys or other means of entertainment around. It also gives little kids equal opportunity to win the game, which is a rare occurrence for young children, and something O cited as a particularly exciting part of playing – that she could beat her mom or dad at something. M, O’s father, grew up in the rural village of Malmesbury, and O recalls him telling her about many games from his childhood, all stemming from the nature around them – he and his friends would play frisbee with a frozen cow patty, or throw sticky burs at people to tease them. It seems as if Pooh’s Sticks was another game that arose from this setting, although O (living in Texas) has played this game with her parents in multiple locations.