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Spat them Out

Clapping and kissing and guessing game.

At first they played Drop-the-handkerchief and, when they were all breathless from laughing and chasing each other around the ring, they played Spat-’em-out, while they rested. – Little Town on the Prairie manuscript

Not part of the published Little Town on the Prairie, but appearing in Pioneer Girl and handwritten Little Town manuscript is a story about “a quiet evening at home” on the the Ingallses’ homestead, which Laura expected to be spent studying, but ends up being a country party after young neighbors and their friends descend upon the Ingalls family for an evening of food and games.

Among the games played is “Spat them Out,” which Laura explains in the Little Town on the Prairie manuscript (page 168):

All the boys went into the kitchen and the door between the rooms was closed, with a girl on guard. Then the girls seated themselves, each with a vacant chair beside her. One of the girls gave a boy’s name to the girl at the door. She opened the door and called that boy. When he came, he must sit in the chair beside the girl he thought had called him. If he guessed right, he was allowed to stay and another boy was called. If he sat down beside the wrong girl, all the girls clapped their hands, laughing at him, while he went back into the kitchen until he was called again. When all the boys were sitting beside the right girls, the game was finished.

What Laura doesn’t mention is that the game usually also involved kissing. When playing by the rules Laura outlined, if “a boy guessed correctly, he was allowed to stay,” but she didn’t report that the girl also gave the boy a kiss. In Pioneer Girl, Laura wrote that she “didn’t like the kissing games and always managed to let the kiss land on [her] ear,” a sentiment not expressed in the Little Town on the Prairie manuscript.

The following is the rules of “Spat Them Out” as published in 1887:

SPAT THEM OUT. All the girls in the party arrange themselves behind chairs, sofas, ottomans, etc., all the boys being sent out of the room; one girl stands as door-keeper. Some girl then calls out the name of a boy whom she wishes to take the seat in front of her, or two or three can send at once; the door-keeper opens the door and calls out the name(s). The boy called enters, and the door is shut. He looks all around, wondering who has chosen him, and finally takes a seat. If he happens to sit down in front of the girl who called his name, she kisses him, and he keeps his seat; but if not, as is most likely to be the case, they all clap him out, and away he goes. Another is then chosen, and the same thing is gone through. Sometimes a favorite boy will be called in a number of times before he guesses correctly. When all the girls have taken their turn in calling, they leave ther oom, and the boys take their stand behind the seats and the girls are called in.

We were present at a children’s party where this game was played. When it became the boys’ turn to call, one little fellow cried out, “Say, boys, let’s we kiss the girls, right or not; then, if they are wrong, we can clap them out afterwards, and not lose our chance.” We were amused to see how eagerly the prettiest girls were urged by all to take their seats; if she was a modest child, she would be perfectly bewildered. Some pretended to be angry at the stolen kiss, but we noticed that if called again, only one timid little girl refused the call. — Alvin Wood Chase, Dr. Chase’s Recipes, or Information for Everybody (Ann Arbor, Michigan: R.A. Beal, 1887): 631.


Spat them Out, parlor game (PG)