The Free Press, Mankato, MN


November 14, 2005

Call it fun

A game with many names

NORTH MANKATO — Plastic piping, some glue and a faucet would have made sense. Throw in a sink and a sack of candy to chew on during an afternoon of handiwork, and David Mutch still wouldn’t have been confused.

It was the rope that had the owner of North Mankato’s Mutch Northside Hardware asking questions. It was clear, he said, that his customer, Ryan Scholl, wasn’t planning on doing any plumbing.

“I saw the PVC pipe and the nylon rope, but I didn’t see the connection,” Mutch said. “He said, ‘Just wait, I’ll show you.”’

The yard game Scholl came back with a few days later goes by many titles. It’s been called bolo ball, monkey bars, hillbilly golf, snake toss and some other names that wouldn’t pass a political correctness test.

Once you’re aware of the game, you’ll notice the PVC pipe ladders and ropes with golf ball tips being played by senior citizens at RV parks, students around college campuses, kids at playgrounds and groups of all ages at family gatherings. It’s as easy to play as bocce or horseshoes. The golf ball ropes wrap around the ladder rungs when they’re tossed, and points are usually tallied with three points for the top, two for the middle and one for the bottom rungs.

But you won’t find the game in the toy and sporting goods aisles of department stores or on commercials during Saturday morning cartoons. Bolo ball has spread by word of mouth, being made at a minimal cost with beat up golf balls, cheap supplies found at any hardware store and instructions from the Internet.

“We were camping down in Lanesboro and I saw a number of people who were playing this around the campground,” Scholl said. “It looked like fun, so I started going around asking people how the game’s played and how they made it.

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