You Know You've been Doing Scarborough Faire Too Long When...
Someone mentions cabbage, and the first thing to come to your mind is brawling in the mud, not the vegetable.

Cabbage was a game played on occasional rainy days at Scarborough Faire Rennaissance Festival in Waxahachie, Texas during the 1980s and 90s. I would imagine people still play it, but not in an official capacity. Officially, this game doesn't exist and you didn't hear about it from me. Perhaps if the lawyers for the people who actually ran Scarborough Faire had known this was happening, they'd have tarred and feathered the lot of us. That would have just added a splinter to a woodpile though, cuz on the best of days we gave one another quite a beating, and if you didn't walk away from Cabbage bruised, and perhaps slightly concerned that a bone might be broken, you were doing something wrong. For the record, I wasn't any good at it myself, coming out relatively unscathed because I'm just not a reckless enough individual. I was better at watching, preferably from a safe distance, with a cold brew of something alcoholic in my mug (or non-alcoholic back when I was still a member of the performing company).

The central goal of Cabbage was to have a good time, and although I recall people keeping score, I don't recall the final score amounting to much. Cabbage wasn't so much an event as a happening. It just sorta evolved. First, the environment has to be just right. A good morning rain would have ensured appropriate mud on the potential field. Mud was important because it helped to cushion the blow when people fell on top of one another, which was a usual occurrence during Cabbage. On rain days at Scarborough, they didn't immediately cancel the Faire and tell all the patrons to go home. However there would come a point where it was pretty obvious the illusion that this was a misty spring day in 16th century England had been destroyed, making way to the reality that this was a swampy wet Texas spring, and we're a bunch of people dressed in silly costumes. When that point became pretty obvious, it was time for Cabbage. Maybe.

Come to think of it, Cabbage was a bit more complex than that, but these complexities evolved from natural necessity, not arbitrary game design. An early sign that today might be A Day For Cabbage involved the concept of Rain Costumes. If one was interested in learning whether or not today was A Day For Cabbage, it was important to watch the participants of the King and Queen's royal court. These were performers who had to dress in very elaborate renaissance costumes that were made of things that rain tended to ruin. If a person's costume had to be dry cleaned or cost more than a few hundred dollars to make, and said person was either absent and under shelter, or had gotten others to untie and remove his/her other elaborate restraints, and said person was now running about in their chamise and pantaloons, chances are this was a rain day. In fact, it was practically a requirement that all participants in Cabbage wear their Rain Costumes, whether they be of royal court, the gentry, or a lowly peasant. Fortunately for most peasants, their every day costume was the same as their Rainy day costume.

The design of the game was kept relatively simple. People would move a couple big barrell trash cans into place to represent goal markers. The actual distance between these trash cans depended on how large the chosen field area was, and, well, people's mood at the time I suppose. An attempt was made perhaps to measure out approximately two thirds the size of a football field, but this was measured by the eyes and not by any actual measuring equipment, so the actual size of the playing area varied from one day of Cabbage to the next. Teams would be appointed by some arbitrary system. Something like, "hey! You wanna play on this side? That side is short a couple people why don't you two go over there?" and so forth. I also recall occasional shouts of "We need more people!" when there were already enough. On occasion it would be the Scottsmen versus everyone else. If you were wearing a kilt you'd go on one side, and if you weren't you'd be on the other team. This is not unlike shirts and skins but below the waist. Other times people didn't know who was on who's team, which made gameplay that much more interesting later on. I should also add at this point that women were not excluded from play. It was an entirely optional choice and if a member of the fairer gender wished to risk it, she was more than welcome. However, this didn't happen particularly often, as their inclusion didn't seem to alter the level of brutality much at all.

Once teams were selected, or perhaps a bit before that I can't recall, came the unveiling of The Cabbage. Now, The Cabbage was kept in a secret, undisclosed location, and only a couple few people knew where it was on those days when it wasn't fit to play Cabbage. Where it was kept from the world, I do not know, because I was not among that secret society of Cabbage Keepers. I recall Mayhem MacGregor being one of those special people who knew. There were others, but their names are now shrouded in obscure mystery as opposed to exposed in this vague history I'm laying down here before you now, before senility and alcohol abuse takes away all my recollection of this singularly sensational phenomenon that might have swept the world by now had someone thought to tell people about it before now, but I digress. Where was I? Oh yes.

The unveiling of The Cabbage. It was an important moment. Why? Well, up until this point people had been talking about whether or not today was A Day For Cabbage but no one ever actually believed it, until you actually see the Cabbage brought forth among the populous, there was no certainty that this would be The Day. Once The Cabbage was brought forth to meet the assemblage, it meant that truly today was A Day For Cabbage, and not just some silly day with hearsay talk about it. The Cabbage itself was not a football. It was not a soccer ball. It was not a ball. Indeed, it was not truly a cabbage, as in the vegetable variety. It was in fact the head of a long-since-discarded mannequin which had seen better days. It was barely recognizeable as a humanoid head. At one time someone had used some sort of coloring on it as I recall, perhaps to make it look like the head of a bloody pirate or something. However, that experiment had failed in some Cabbage Day before, because five minutes of roughhousing in the mud would ruin any decapitated head's makeup.

Once the Cabbage had been Unveiled, and the assemblage had been appointed to two (or on rare occasion more) teams, each team would take a side, the Keeper of the Cabbage would stand in between the two teams, and he would call out something to the effect of, "ready, set, GO!" ...Or perhaps it was something else. It was something like that. I don't think it really mattered what the Keeper of the Cabbage actually said anyway, because the teams weren't listening for a signal, they were waiting for the Cabbage to fall from the Keeper's outstretched hand and to the ground. Once it had touched the ground it was fair game. Both sides' job was to get their hands on The Cabbage and somehow get it through the other team's defenses and to the other side of the field, where those large upturned trash barrells had been placed for goal markers. If a team was successful, they scored a point, or made a goal, or whatever they called it. It depended on whom you asked as to whether it was a point, a goal, or something else. Then if that momentous point/goal/whatever was accomplished, the Keeper would be given the Cabbage once again, and the above description would be repeated.

I do not recall any specifics in regards to HOW one was to get the Cabbage from one side of the field to another. If one had to run all over the rest of the Faire site to accomplish this goal, then that's what would be done. However, usually the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so it rarely came to that. More often it came to a dogpile of twenty or so grown adults, writhing and flailing about in the mud, trying to get their hands on that slippery Cabbage. Although punching and kicking one another was frowned upon, I don't recall it technically being against the rules. It was just bad form and such violent participants were often forcibly removed from the game, if the majority of those playing disliked his tactics. For the most part it amounted to a lot of pushing and shoving and tripping and falling and throwing and dodging and shouting and gnashing of teeth and occasional wailing in pain. Swearing was more than acceptable. In fact I believe it was practically mandatory. Abuse of the King's english was tolerated, seeing as by now most of the paying guests had already gone home by now anyway.

This would go on for as long as there were people fit to play, or until the Keeper had to leave at which point he'd take The Cabbage with him. I recall no listing or descriptions of periods or quarters or halves. There were no buzzer sounds or clocks running out. I do recall the shouting of "time out" periodically, on average about once every ten minutes or so. Despite this lack of rules to break, anyone playing could call a time out and then turn to the Keeper of the Cabbage for an impartial judicial ruling on someone's actions or whether or not a point was actually a point. I also recall repeated shouts of "what's the score?" followed by several different interpretations of what the score was and who was winning. Again, the Keeper's word was almost always final, and I remember no one ever accusing him of being unfair.

People could join or leave the game as it was in process, depending on schedules and availability. There could be as few as three or as many as fifteen men to a team at any time. Attempts were made during play to keep the sides even, with occasional individuals defecting from one side to another. A simple "time out" would allow the changing of any personel, and gameplay would quickly resume. So the question of who won the game never seemed to be much of a certainty. By the time the score was finalized, usually there were so few left to tell the tale. The following weekend some might ask about the score if they remembered, and someone would fill them in on any details they recalled.

It wasn't about who won.