Hello, James here.
While Becca was giving a quick glance of the front page listings on Etsy, she clicked on a picture of a box of pencils. Pretty fancy vintage pencils, at 9 dollars a box. It certainly set me to remembering all the pencils from my own childhood–and how much money we could be making from them these days–if not for Pencil Break.
While waiting for the school bus or bell, boys wasting an entire box of perfectly good pencils just like the ones in the ad in a matter of seconds was nothing. They were “playin’ pencil break”. Now, I don’t know if there are any official rules to play or how long this game dates back. However, the shards of pencil wood litter the ground in an array of colors ranging from the standard #2 yellows, those enormous first grader big-red pencils to assorted aged drift-woody grays. A young one could dream the competition reaches as far back as the Roman Coliseum.
The object: break your opponent’s pencil before he or she breaks yours. (Again I don’t know official rules, but I am pretty sure there was an exclusive girls’ only league that girls went through before entering the fierce ranks of the young mens ring.)
THREE “licks” or clear attempts at striking your opposer’s trusty pencil while the pencil is held up in the air using the index finger and thumb of each hand. Now, Becca interrupted my telling her about this game that was foreign to her upbringing or forgotten past with the question- “Doesn’t it matter how you hold the pencil?” Why yes, as our bright Becca guessed, there was a rule as I now recall called the “No Bracing” rule. Well, usually a skilled pencil breaker could whack through a pencil in one to two good whacks or licks as long as he did not bend back with too much stress casing a fracture and ultimate loss of bragging rights. Of course pencils that suffered battle wounds were retired early to lesser works. So, only the best pencils made it. As soon as a pencil broke, that’s it. No substitutions were admitted once the battle began; the fight is to the death of the pencil. While looking back, I’m not sure if my hands are now cramping from my days work or from writing with all those stubby pencils in elementary school.