While the modern version of Stones is in its infancy, it is believed that variations of the game were most likely played thousands of years ago. While other games in the boules family are played on level, manicured surfaces, Stones is much more wild and less controlled, suggesting that games like it predate the likes of bocce or lawn bowling. The myths below seem to fall in line with this idea.
The Game of Stones likely originated with early nomadic hunters resting by the fire, tossing small pebbles at a target. The movement of these nomads in search of game was likely how the practice crossed the land bridge into the New World.
The Rooster and the Trickster
The Animals were lolling around one summer day. Father Sun was beaming at them, making them feel hot and lazy. As if in silent agreement, they began throwing stones toward a tree, each trying to land his stone closest to the trunk. Trickster, bored, stood up. Scratching his ample, hairy ass-cheeks with one hand, he called out: “Animals! Stop simply throwing stones. You are wasting an opportunity!” He paused to munch on a tiny louse that had been imbedded in his fur. “I say we place wagers. I bet that I can place my stone closest to the trunk!”
The foolish Animals, forgetting once again that Trickster will always trick, agreed. They set the wager: Whichever Animal should win would take all of the best skills of the others. Frog tossed first, and his stone bounced away into the tall grass. Deer tossed her stone with a delicate hoof, but it ended up behind her and she sighed in frustration. “I’ve lost my ability to run!” she whimpered, then turned to see which Animal would win it. Each in turn made his toss. Some landed close to the tree, like Beaver’s, who had used his flat tail to fling his stone precisely. Others, like poor Snake’s, rolled sadly away from the target. Finally it was Trickster’s turn. With a grin, he picked up his stone, strolled over to the tree trunk, and place it beside the bark. The Animals roared and cried their outrage, but Trickster was unflappable.
“Ah, foolish Friends: you never made any rule about HOW the stone was to near the target! Your loss, and my gain. Now, if you would please hand over your greatest skills.” “Wait.” Rooster had been watching from the tree branch, not so foolish as to place a bet on Trickster’s terms. Now he flew down and strutted before Trickster.
“I have not played yet, Trickster, and since you have made your play now, I suggest we begin our contest again. I give you my ability to make the sun rise in the morning if you win, but if I best you, I demand that you return the gifts of the Animals you fooled.”
Greedy Trickster could not resist winning one more skill, and so he agreed. Rooster set the terms. “Each of us will toss four different stones. The first we will aim for this hillside. The second must land nearest that redbush, while the third must touch the Great Rock. Finally, we will each throw a stone to that lily pad,” he said, indicating a pad floating in the pond. “Whosoever can make his stone land on it, will win.”
Trickster agreed, and the two combatants separated to gather their stones. Trickster, being lazy, grabbed four stones near at hand and held them together in his palm. He laughed as Rooster set to work, picking up stone after stone with his beak and setting only a select few aside. “Come, now Rooster! I want to win before I need to call the sun up tomorrow!” He cried.
Rooster arranged his stones in a row. Calmly, he turned to Trickster and nodded his head. “Challenged first.”
Trickster threw his stone to the hill, where it hit and rolled down to the bottom. Rooster clucked softly and selected his lightest, smallest stone. Tossing it gently, he watched as the stone landed and settled on the hill. The assembled Animals cheered. “First round to Rooster!” They shouted.
The second set of stones were thrown. This time, Trickster’s stone landed at the roots of the redbrush, and he chuckled and scratched himself. Rooster looked carefully, and this time chose a large, heavy stone, which, upon landing, knocked Trickster’s own rock askance. “Second stone to Rooster!”
When the third stone was tossed, Trickster was sweating, and he nearly dropped his rock on his foot. But the stone landed near to the Great Rock, and this time the gods were smiling upon him. For Rooster’s stone, perfectly thrown, hit upon an unseen twig on the ground and bounced away. The Animals moaned, “Third throw to Trickster.”
The final stone was to be thrown, and the Animals were sick with worry. Trickster tossed his stone gently, and made his rock hit the lily pad. The stone slipped off and sunk. “I hit the pad!” he cried.
“So you did,” agreed Rooster, and he tossed his final stone, a flat shard of delicate flint. It landed on the lily pad and…floated there, so flat and light that it made only a small divot on the leaf.
So loud was the celebration in Rooster’s honor that night that the clouds released their rain, thinking the Thunder was calling to them. Pelting Trickster with stones, the Animals drove him away to sulk and make another plan.