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The Cribbage Gang

One of the things that Americans (heck people world-wide) like to do for recreation is playing games, even if there is no money or loot involved, the “bragging rights” are like gold.
In America, there seems to be quite a generational difference when it comes to game playing. The younger generations (which for me is now just about everybody else) like to play games with machines, pitting themselves against every sort of electronic gadget in quest of a higher score. They can be spotted everywhere, noses buried in cell phones or glued onto tablets, from the very young even to the unwary office secretary who can sometimes be caught indulging in a computer-based solitary or free cell duel.
Not my generation – the older retired set. We like to play games with actual people, gaining the opportunity to chortle with glee or really rub it in when we make a spectacular hand or cunning play at cards, mahjong or dominos. Or to minimize it when we don’t. I am blessed to be part of a cutthroat cribbage gang, where no holds are barred for the win. But, just in case some of them with fuzzier memories forget about those sweet victories, we keep a log charting the weekly wins and losses. And of course, the rapid pace of play can always be slowed to indulge in a cup of coffee, tea and the sweet dessert of the week, which the hostess is required to provide. That is a game of sorts in itself, trying to outdo one another with sugary concoctions, where the bragging rights are truly well earned.
During my childhood, (at least a zillion years ago), even the young people played games with other human beings, many of which we invented. Of course, during that ancient time, many of our families did not have TVs or other distractions, maybe just a radio or old record player. Computers hadn’t been invented yet. Truth is, many of my set is still a little confused about how to operate the darn things, sometimes more challenging to us a game of personal wits and skill. It must take several young cyber geniuses to design those quick moving games of skill, so how can one slightly old person with slowing reflexes be expected to compete.
My gang gathers faithfully every Tuesday from 9:30 until noon to conduct cribbage duels, most often at the home of Sister Karen, a retired nun who, so far, while not winning regularly with the cards, is without a doubt the reigning dessert queen. She even practices making new treats the week before, and though she is very good, I keep urging her to “practice, practice, and practice.”
We might look a little funny, masked and all, but it is important “at our age” to take precautions. And of course, discussion about our health, medications and that of other friends is a mainstay for conversation, closely followed by reports about children, grandchildren and other loved ones. I feel like I know all of their families, though they all live far away in other places. All this squeezed in between keeping track of the game. “Whose crib is it? Who dealt that hand? And for our newest recruit, help in counting with clues such as “if you have four or less, play or help with counting. Actually dear, you have fifteen six, not four.”
For the benefit of some younger readers, I point out that many old people still have a delightful sense of humor. At 67, I’m the kid of the gang and have a little quicker mental agility than many of them, but I still make it a point to let others win. Occasionally. It’s kind of hard to swallow because I come from a long line of cribbage cutthroats. There came the day when one asked me “how is it that you are always to lucky?”
“It has to do with the sacrifice to the Cribbage Goddess, conducted at ungawdly hours of the night,” I explained. “It also requires a goat and can be a little messy. Sorry, I can’t reveal all the details.”
That evoked interest, even from Sister Karen who is, I think, is supposed to avoid pagan ritual. But it caught on as our little gang joke. Recently I took a little break from the cribbage duels. When I returned, she reported “I think Roger (the only guy who will put up with us) borrowed your goat. He went on a winning streak like crazy.”
I wondered why the goat looked a little peaked. Mystery solved and now I shall keep out a sharp eye. Hey, a girl needs to use every available tactic to hold on to the elusive cribbage crown. In the meantime, I hope your peggin game goes well this week and by the way – the goat ain’t for sale.

(Clara Caufield can be reached at

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