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A long, narrow strip of ground is needed for this game, divided into three spaces measuring from ten to fifty feet square. The central one of these three spaces is called the barley field. In each of the three stands a couple of players (or more, as hereinafter described). The couple in the center is obliged to link arms; therefore the center place is the most difficult and considered disadvantageous. The couples in the other spaces advance, singly or together, into the barley field, trampling the barley by dancing around the field as much as they can without being caught. These couples need not link arms. When one of these is caught, he must remain inactive in the barley field until his partner is also caught. The couple owning the barley field may not step beyond its limits, nor may the couple being sought take refuge in the field opposite to their own. When the two are caught, they become warders of the barley field, changing places with the previous couple, and any others who have been caught return to their own fields. The game is made interesting by not confining the effort to catching two members of the same couple in succession. Both couples in the adjoining fields should venture far into the barley, taunting the couple who have linked arms by calling “Barley break!” These, in turn, will assist their object by making feints at catching one player and turning suddenly in the opposite direction for another.
The number of players may be increased by putting three couples in the center (barley field) and two or three couples at each end.
This game is centuries old and used to be played at harvest time around the stacks in the cornfields.
Games for the Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium by Jessie Hubbell Bancroft