One of humankind’s oldest forms of recreation is playing with marbles, and the tradition is still going strong in Monroe County. For generations, a game called Rolley Hole has been a favorite among families in Tompkinsville and the surrounding area. They play almost every day, and many hone their skills to become world-class marble shooters with amazing speed and accuracy. The Marble King Dumas Walker, memorialized in the Kentucky Headhunters’ anthem, was part of this recreational community. Watch this KET video to see marble players in action at the Rolley Hole Super Dome.
They love to play and teach others the game. The marbles they use are works of art. Glass marbles are too fragile for this game, so the community has perfected different ways to make them out of flint.
The marble in the photo on the left was given to me by folklorist Bob Gates, who interviewed and presented Rolley Hole players for years. It is a compact, sturdy symbol of an enduring Kentucky tradition. This touchstone brings back fun memories of grooming a course and “rolling the hole.” I like to pass it around to people and let them try to shoot it.
If you want to get one from Timmy in person, meet me at the Gallery on the Square in Franklin, Kentucky on Sat., Jan. 16, 2016 at 11 a.m. Central, where we will have an event for the arts council’s exhibit, The Makings of a Master: Kentucky Folk Art Apprenticeships. Timmy will be there talking about Rolley Hole and his marble making process. We will also present Hong Shao, a Kentucky master musician who plays the Chinese pipa.
Remember, take time to have fun in the new year!
Folk and Traditional Arts Director