From Pipi’s Pasture: Imaginary play |

From Pipi’s Pasture: Imaginary play

Diane Prather
Pipi's Pasture

There’s something about these hot summer days that remind me of childhood days when I was growing up on the ranch. I don’t remember if it was ever 98 degrees as it was here at Pipi’s Pasture a few days ago (because the ranch is at a higher elevation), but I do remember that it was HOT back then.

We lived in a small two-story house that was hot and stuffy, both during the day and a good part of the night. The kitchen stove burned all morning long in order to cook the noon meal so that added to the heat in the house. We didn’t have air conditioning so after we girls helped Mom and had some time to play we retreated to the enclosed front porch, to our outside playhouses (really just openings in a grove of trees behind the house), to the corral ditch, or to the shade of the old silver maple tree in the front yard. I’ve been thinking about our playtime.

We didn’t have television until we were older, and there were no electronics, so we girls relied on our imaginations for play, which I’ve come to realize is the best play of all. That’s not to say that we girls didn’t have any “store bought” toys. We received them as gifts for Christmas and birthdays and used them to entertain ourselves, coming up with various scenarios for imaginary play. In the process, we were inspired to become creative.

An example of such play involved paper doll books. Each of us girls got to spend a little money when we went on shopping trips to Craig. We often used the money to purchase paper doll books, but it involved lots of looking before we could decide on just the right book. Each book featured one or more doll characters on its sturdy cover and then lots of clothes inside. Especially popular were the movie star characters such as Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, Doris Day, and even cowboy stars such as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (young people today would likely not recognize the names).

When we returned home we punched out the dolls and carefully cut out all of the clothes. We spent hours inventing scenarios for our characters, all of which involved clothing changes. On top of that, we designed our own clothes for the dolls, using white paper and colored pencils or crayons, and even adding the “tabs” used to hold the clothes in place. It was terrific fun to create beautiful ball gowns. We kept all of our paper dolls and clothes; I still have mine.

Sometimes we spent hot afternoons playing in the ditch that (still today) runs through the corral, mostly the part of it that is partially surrounded by trees. We walked across the ditch via its big rocks and played like we were “fishing” with poles fashioned from sticks. The “fish” were imagined from leaves, and we pretended to “cook” them on a make-believe fire. The neat thing about this play was that we didn’t have to take anything outdoors or worry about getting it back inside.

In those days a bystander might have heard the following conversations: “Pretend that you are going fishing, OK? Pretend that Doris Day is going to the ball, OK?” It was a wonderful, imaginative time.

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