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One player is chosen to be bear, and sits in the center on a stool. The bear chooses a second player to be his keeper. The keeper stands by the bear, each of them holding an end of a short rope about two feet in length and knotted at either end to give a firm hold. The rest of the players stand around in a circle inclosing these two. The object of the players is to tag (baste or buffet) the bear, without themselves being tagged by the bear or his keeper. The players may only attack the bear when the keeper calls “My bear is free!” Should a player strike at the bear before the keeper says this, they change places, the striker becomes bear, the former bear becomes the keeper, and the keeper returns to the ring. The keeper does his best to protect his bear by dodging around him on all sides to prevent the attacks of the players who dodge in from the circle to hit him. Should the keeper or bear tag any player, the same exchange is made; that is, the player tagged becomes bear, the former bear the keeper, and the keeper returns to the ring.
Should a rope not be conveniently at hand, the game may be played in any of the three following ways: (1) by the bear and his keeper clasping hands; (2) a circle may be drawn around the bear beyond which the keeper may not go; (3) the keeper may be subjected to the general rule of not going more than two steps away from the bear in any direction.
Where there are more than thirty players, two or more rings should be formed, each having its own bear and keeper.
This is an old game, popular in many countries. It contains excellent sport, with opportunity for daring, narrow escapes, and much laughter.
Games for the Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium by Jessie Hubbell Bancroft