Sunday Gulch Trail, the Black Hills, South Dakota, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sunday Gulch Trail, the Black Hills, South Dakota, Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Sunday Gulch Trail, the Black Hills, South Dakota, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cards, Crosswords and Concentration -- Wed., April 3

War, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Rummy, Concentration, Solitaire: how I learned to play cards starting at a very young age.

As I got older, my grandma taught us how to play "Help Your Neighbor" for a penny ante. I was ten and I loved it. Plus when we won, we won the whole ante! Spending money...a great reward for a child.

"Help Your Neighbor" is played by any number of people, preferably in groups of four. What you need: a deck of standard playing cards (with the aces and kings removed) and a pair of dice. One suit is dealt to each person, either all spades, all diamonds, all hearts or all clubs. Each person puts their cards face up in front of them in order from two to queen. The jack is 11 and the queen is 12.

To start turns, each person rolls the dice. The person with the highest number goes first.

First person rolls the dice. Whatever number comes up, 7 for instance, that person turns #7 upside down in front of them. They continue their turn, rolling the dice and turning over cards until they roll a number for a card that is already upside down in front of them. If you roll 7 again and the card is already upside down, you can "Help Your Neighbor" to the left. If 7 is right side up in front of them, you turn it over for them. The first person continues with their turn until they can't turn over a new number in front of themselves or the neighbor to their left. At that point, the turn passes to the player on their left. Same rules apply. The first person to turn over all their cards is the winner.

Through the years, I have enjoyed learning and playing new card games: different variations of solitaire, Mille Bornes, Hearts, Spades, Pinochle, Slapjack, Uno, Pit, 21, 31, poker and even tried cribbage (but never caught on to the scoring, probably because I didn't play much).

[NOTE: It is 11:30 p.m. in San Antonio and the predicted severe thunderstorm is raging: booming thunder, lightning, pouring rain, wind and two distressed cats. There might be some hail mixed in but I'm not stepping foot outside the door to find out. Our RV park has quite a bit of standing water. I am seeing frequent lightning flashes--the whole sky is lighting up--and the thunder is cracking louder. This storm is right on top of us. Exciting!]

Anyway, I love playing cards. In college it was Hearts, Spades and yes, even Crazy Eights.

I remember one camping trip with my boyfriend and his friends. We camped in our sleeping bags under the stars at Rainbow Falls near Devil's Postpile in the Sierra Nevada of California. Elevation was 7,545 ft. We decided to play cards and someone dug out a deck. Crazy Eights was a game we all knew. As we played, we noticed no eights came into play. Being a bit inebriated after drinking Jack Daniels at that altitude, we started accusing each other of hiding eights up our sleeves. But then, no cards under nine were played at all. Hmm...let's check the card package. Pinochle cards? We tried to play Crazy Eights with a deck of cards that has no card under nine. Crazy us! At that point we had a competition to see who could flick cards into the fire from the farthest distance. Bye-bye pinochle deck. It was all super humorous the next morning.

My family loved playing pinochle, so much so that we started a pinochle group in Portland, Oregon. For over 30 years we had pinochle parties, usually starting out with a potluck dinner. Our group varied over the years, but we usually had three tables of four people and we changed partners at the end of four rounds. The two winning hands moved up to the next table and the losers at Table 1 moved down to Table 3. The group is still playing to this day but not as often. (Shout outs to Mom, Jan, Frank, Gina, Jo, Gail, Margaret and Larry. We miss you!)

We taught our blogger friends Jim and Peri of Tales from the Camping House how to play pinochle. They picked it up very quickly and we had fun playing pinochle with them. Now they are on a seven-month trip to the West Coast. Have fun you two!

Playing cards using strategies, rules and logistics has kept our minds sharp. 

In addition to cards, I have enjoyed working crossword puzzles since I was in elementary school. My first introduction to crossword puzzles was Highlights magazine. I graduated to Dell crosswords and puzzles and have enjoyed their easy, medium, hard, expert and challenger puzzles. The Dell crossword magazines have been my favorites throughout the years as I have found them to be the most accurate. Crossword puzzles have helped to improve my vocabulary.

In the March 13, 2013 issue of Time magazine, there is an article titled, "The Answer Men." The article is about world puzzle championships and why people compete. Truly a fascinating article. It answers the question about "why ordinary people solve puzzles, and always have, and probably always will." Here's where my third "C" word "concentration" comes in. Quoting the article by Lev Grossman:
"Puzzles demand concentration and intellectual effort, to the point where they resemble work more closely than they do play--the main difference being that at least with work you tend to get paid for your trouble. So why bother?
"Because puzzles are actually neither work nor play; they're something else. 'We're faced with problems every day in life, and we almost never get clarity,' says Will Shortz, the crossword editor of both the New York Times and NPR. 'We jump into the middle of a problem, we carry it through to whatever extentwe can to find an answer, then we just get on with things and find the next thing. Whereas with a human-made puzzle, you have the satisfaction of being completely in control: you start the challenge from the beginning, and you move all the way to the end. That's a satisfaction you don't get much in real life. You feel in control, and that's a great feeling.
"'And as with any human activity," Shortz goes on to say, 'you want to know how good you are compared with other people.'"
To me, cards fit into the category with puzzles using the above logic that you start a card game from the beginning and move all the way to the end.

Cards, crosswords and concentration: my "C" words for today.

Game on. Travel Bug out.


  1. I've never tried help your neighbor. Sounds like fun. Thanks for the lesson!

    Jenny at Choice City Native

  2. This post brought back so many memories of my childhood, where I LOVED playing cards, especially with my grandparents! We never went on a family holiday without a pack of cards packed in our bags!

    Great to come across someone else passionate about travel, look forward to your next A to Z post.
    A to Z Participant

    1. Kellie,
      Thank you for stopping by. I'll be checking out your blog as well.

      Welcome and c'mon back. We have travel in common for sure and who knows what else.


  3. I'm not much of a card player but I used to like to play hearts and canasta. But I love crosswords and other paper and pencil word games.

    1. Thanks for the comment. There's a lot to be said for doing crosswords and other paper and pencil puzzles.

  4. I learned to play cards as a kid too.
    My mam and her sisters would play together every Saturday night for years.
    They would go to each house in turn but while we were small the kids had to go too, so lots of fun with cousins.
    They played The Queen, Stop the Bus, Chase the Ace and 25s

    You've brought back some lovely memories to me today - thanks x

    1. You brought back memories to me, too.

      Many times my parents went to play cards at friends' homes and took me along. I was too young to join in so I would bring a book (I remember "Heidi" in particular) to read. Usually I ended up falling asleep on the couch reading.

  5. Had many a great times as a child playing games as a family ... thanks for the remembrances.

    1. You're welcome. I hope you're doing well. I'm way behind on reading blogs, but I'll catch up.

  6. Oh such memories of game playing and how I love playing cards! My mom and I would play Skippo for hours. HELP your Neighbor.....making note in "games" folder :O)

    1. I seem to remember Skipbo. I played it a few times.


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