The Walking Game
by Linfred Longenecker
(South Bend, Indiana)
Based on a true story.
Connie Jo was mad. Her bedroom was shrinking smaller and smaller. Her six brothers and sisters were growing huger and noisier. They were all squeezed into the one upstairs bedroom in their tiny farmhouse.
Connie Jo's little brother, Claude, sitting closest to her, was humming.
"Stop!" yelled Connie Jo. "Be quiet!"
Claude kept on humming.
"I HATE humming!" yelled Connie Jo.
And now the others were getting mad, too.
"Connie Jo, HUSH UP!" yelled big brother, Bernie, who had been reading.
Big sister Lizzie stopped brushing her long blond hair.
"I am so mad I could scream!" she yelled. And everyone knew she meant it.
"EEEEEEE-AAAAAAAA-EEEEEEEE!" Lizzie screamed. Connie Jo clapped her hands over her ears.
Lizzie kept on screaming.
Ker-splash! Tall, thin brother Donald reached out a long skinny arm and splashed a cup of water in Lizzie's face, spraying Connie Jo and Claude, too.
Ker-thud! From up high in the bunkbed, twin sisters Ruth and Rita began throwing their shoes down at everyone.
Creak! Connie Jo heard her mom's footsteps on the stairs as all the children yelled at the tops of their lungs.
The bedroom door opened.
"Everyone OUTSIDE!" said Mom, pointing downstairs.
Connie Jo led the way.
"Get in a circle," said Mom. "It's time to play the Walking Game. When I say "three," go for a walk by yourself, any direction you want. There is just one rule you need to remember: you can't come back to the house until you're ready to quit arguing."
"Okay," said Mom. "One - two - three."
Connie Jo walked, and no one followed her. No one hummed. No one screamed. No one splashed water. No one threw shoes. It was peaceful outside, and she felt free. There was so much room to spread out in, so much space in the open air.
At the garden, Connie Jo stopped to look for green beans. Right away, she found a handful, then another and another. She kept slipping her hands up into the leaves and pulling off more of the long, thin beans. As she picked, she smiled and forgot how mad she had been.
When her basket was full, she picked it up and took it back to the house. She didn't want to argue any more that day.
Connie Jo's big brother Bernie had walked in the opposite direction. He went over a hill to the family's huge potato patch. He decided to dig some potatoes. By jumping on a shovel and pushing it deep in the dirt, he slowly let out his anger until it was all gone. After awhile, his basket was full, too. He scooped it up and took it back to the house.
Connie Jo's sister, Lizzie, walked the farthest. She went way up to the woods and found wild blackberry bushes. Her extra-long walk helped her to rest her voice and calm her nerves. She filled a big leaf with berries and carried it back to the house.
Little Claude walked down to the meadow where wild flowers grew. When he came back to the house, he had a beautiful bouquet.
The twins, Ruth and Rita, and tall brother Donald were the last to come home. Ruth was hauling a watermelon. Donald was holding a thin fish he had caught down at the creek. And Rita had roots she had dug from a sassafras tree, perfect for making iced tea.
When Mom saw all the wonderful and delicious things that the children brought home, she helped them cook up a home-made supper. And that made Connie Jo and her brothers and sisters feel even better.
The Walking Game is based on a true event that happened to a family by the name of O'Connor. In a small farmhouse in southern Indiana, seven children shared the only bedroom upstairs and the parents had the only other bedroom, which was downstairs. When the children sometimes got angry at each other and got too loud, Mrs. O'Connor would send them outside to play the Walking Game.
Usually, when they played the game, the children would walk away in different directions and come back to the house carrying things like a shiny rock or a butterfly they had found for their collections, or maybe some worms they had dug for fishing. But one day, in the middle of the summer, all of the children came back carrying food they had found, and they combined it to make a wonderful family supper. It was a truly amazing day!