Going Alone

Being from Michigan, I am very familiar with Euchre.  Since it’s possible you are not, let me tell you a little about this card game…..

Euchre has been around since the early 19th century, possibly originating from German and English immigrants in the U.S.  Even the earliest written teaching of the game in the U.S. is around 1850 in Philadelphia, so we’re talking about a card game that has even been in this country for a very long time.  It has apparently waned in its popularity, but it is still going strong in some of the midwest states like Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

I’m not about to go into telling you how it’s played because it isn’t an easy game to learn (especially just reading about it).  But suffice it to say that once learned, it is a very addicting game and loads of fun with the right people!  (By the way, one of the best ways to learn this game is to have only one person instructing you–instead of everyone giving you their input and opinions–and just start playing, but with all of the cards visible to everyone.  Do that enough and you really start to get a handle on the game and how it’s played.)

I grew up with my parents being a part of a Euchre Club in the area, which was really just a group of good friends who played who knew other friends who played who knew other friends….so needless to say, from what I remember of my parents’ involvement, there was rarely a shortage of members or subs.

As I recall, Euchre Club for my parents was usually a Saturday night, which meant that my brother and I had a babysitter while they took a crockpot of food and split for the evening.  Any time that they were away before we were in bed, they would always come in and say goodnight–even if we were asleep.  My brother and I always knew that they were home and in our room because inevitably the cigarette smell on them would be so strong that it would wake us up out of a dead sleep (there were a few smokers in that bunch–interesting the memories that stick with you).

I remember that they had an old desk bell that once belonged to my great-grandparents on my Dad’s side.  My parents used it at the head table of Euchre Club to signal the beginning and ending of each game.  (Euchre Club consists of ten games in a night’s play [the number of tables corresponding to the number of players with one table being lowest and the highest being the head table], each game being scored and points tallied up at the end of the night for prizes of various kinds.)  And interestingly enough, that very same bell has been passed down to me by my parents, because we have had two different Euchre Clubs that we have been a part of and that bell has been used at every one of those games (even as currently as last night!).

In our Euchre Club, we also play with some additional “rules” (taken from the official Hoyle card rule book), which makes things more interesting and also allows for the maximum amount of points since we are playing for prizes at the end of the night.  One of those fun rules is called the “Jamboree”.  Here’s the set-up without going into too much detail:  Each player is dealt 5 cards.  You determine if you have enough cards in your hand to not only determine which suit (diamonds, hearts, spades or clubs) becomes the highest suit for that hand, but also if you (with the help of your partner across the table) can get at least three of the five “tricks” that comprise each hand of the game.  If you feel you can get all five tricks on your own, you can “Go Alone” (and, like in our Euchre Club, you can slide a card you don’t want from your own hand across the table to your partner and take your partner’s best to do so).  Well, it is quite a rush when you realize that, in your hand, you hold the five highest possible cards.  It’s unbeatable!  Especially when you get an additional 16 points for yourself!  Thus the name “Jamboree”, because you do yourself a little dance around your table as you write down your extra points on your score sheet, eyes dialated and beads of sweat showing on your forehead as adrenaline courses through your veins….

So why am I telling you all this?  Because each Euchre Club we’ve been to has truly been a great time with some really great people!  We have come away from both Euchre Clubs (the first one being ’06-’09 and the second one January ’15-present) with some really great memories and growing friendships that really mean something.  And in the Big Picture of things, that’s what really matters when it comes down to it.

So do things with people.  Get to know them.  Make yourself available to be liked by others.  I’ll bet you’re more fun to be with than you realize….

That’s been my experience.

A Fair To Remember

Where we currently live in Ohio is dubbed the showcase for the largest county fair in the world.  (My wife is from this area and remembers hearing that back in the day.)  Whether it still is or not may be up for debate, but it certainly is large, bringing in over 250,000 people from all over the U.S. to our county every August.

My wife and I on the ferris wheel at The Great Darke County Fair
My wife and I on the ferris wheel at The Great Darke County Fair

As great as “The Great Darke County Fair” is, though, I have noticed that the county fairs around here lack something that I always saw at the fairs I attended while growing up in Michigan:  Double Ferris Wheels!

You may even be asking, “What in tarnation is a double ferris wheel?  Somethin’ whats gots a wheel next ta the otherun and everone slaps hands with the people in the other wheel as they pass by?”

Nope.  A double ferris wheel was usually two decent-sized ferris wheels stacked vertically–one on top of the other one–each one spinning independently of the other one (maybe even in opposite directions) and both joined together by a main support that also spun at the center.  So, while the ferris wheels are spinning on their own, the whole contraption is also spinning–all at a decent pace, which made for a very pleasant time.

image

 

As you can see from the picture above, you’ve got quite a view from the top!  Half the fun of riding a double ferris wheel is being in the top wheel while the bottom one is being unloaded and loaded again.  Then, when the whole ride is going, usually at some point your cart is passing the very bottom of the turn of your wheel at the same time that the whole ride has you at the very bottom of the ride.  Within a matter of seconds your wheel turns you to the top of the wheel while the whole ride is also bringing your wheel to the top of the ride.  If it lasts long enough, the same thing happens from the top of the ride to the bottom of it.  Check this out:

As you can imagine, any video of a fair ride doesn’t do it justice, but this gives you a slight idea of what it was like.  (The ferris wheel that this video was taken in was made in 1960, which might explain why they aren’t seen much anymore.)  That ride from the bottom-to-top or top-to-bottom I was describing would make your stomach do some gymnastics for sure!

Yessir, double ferris wheels made my time at the county fair something to remember…

The M65-28 Formula Trash Bag

Juniors in high school.  English class.  Project assigned to pairs of students (naturally, my best friend–Rick–and I paired up).  What’s the project?  To write a commercial that incorporates six things:  Humor, symbols, ecologically safe, statistics, happy family appeal and a special offer.

Now before I get into this, you need to know some things about my best friend from high school and myself.  We buddied up in 6th grade and almost instantly “clicked”.  Jesus was important to both of us, even at that age (that,I’m sure, was a big part of the instant bond we both felt).  Besides that, though, we were like Abbott and Costello–one of us the serious one (me) and the other the goofy one (Rick).  Put us together and it was quite the mix–me usually making a sarcastic remark with my dry sense of humor to Rick’s hilarious antics.  Not to mention his laugh!  He was known throughout our whole class for his laugh.  And not the weird kind that makes you do a double-take to the question in your mind of “Who just made that sound?”  Nope, just a great unique laugh that would always make you start laughing just hearing it.  Ever known someone like that?  When you do, you never forget it.  We lost contact for a few years, but around 13 years ago, my Mom got his contact information and we reconnected.  We’ve been in contact ever since–and nothing has changed.  We’re still that way, much to our wives’ and kids’…..um…..enjoyment.

So the stage is now set for our commercial for English class.  I have always been one to have difficulty coming up with an idea, but once one is given, I can run with it and add to it.  Leave it to Rick to come up with this one.  So here, from my high school archives and for your reading pleasure, is the actual script, word-for-word, of our commercial for the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag (Rick was the man holding the torn trash bag and I was the Salesman):

(Scene:  A man is standing with a torn trash bag in his hands, trash scattered all around his feet.)

Man:  (In a dopy voice) “I thought dogs is supposed to be man’s best friend….”

(Salesman walks up to man with trash bag.)

Salesman:  (In a 30-second commercial “but-wait-that’s-not-all” announcer’s voice and holding the sign below)

image

“Don’t blame your dog; the fault is of the bag!  You should be using the M65-28 Forumula Trash Bag.”  (Man’s face first shows immense interest and then repulsion at the smell in the air; at the same time, salesman puts on a white face mask and continues talking.)  “This bag is not an everyday trash bag.  It has a unique smell that would not only keep your dog away, but also rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents that would make your trash all…..messy.”

Man:  (Holding his nose) “But does it work??”

Salesman:  “Shut up, you’re interrupting me.  Studies have shown that eleven out of ten regular human beings, just like you, have tried the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag and found it successful in keeping trash in and dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents out.”

Man:  (Still holding nose and now wiping away tears from his eyes) “Will the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag hinder the environment around me?”

Salesman: (With slight, vacant look on his face) “Uh….no, no, not at all, my dear friend!”  (Pats man on back.)  “The birds will still be around–but who cares!  Our objective is to keep the dogs away.  Don’t worry about the environment; it’ll be fine without….it’ll be fine!  And with this trash bag, your whole family can take out the trash to the road together without the fear of dogs, rats, cats, bats, maggots and other rodents hindering you.”

“But that’s not all!  With the purchase of the handy M65-28 Formula Trash Bag, you can receive a nuclear waste dump in your own back yard!!” (Man has look of utter shock and disbelief, which the Salesman sees as a look of someone getting the “deal of the century”.  This just spurs the Salesman on….)  “Yes, we’ll give you everything you need to start your nuclear waste dump–which is not harmful to the environment–from your M65-28 Formula Trash Bag to your official M65-28 Formula Trash Bag Gas Mask!” (Hands man his own gas mask.  Man can barely see well enough to grab it out of the Salesman’s hand and put it on, taking huge gulps of air once he does.)  “And, if you respond within 2 days, we’ll send you ten barrels of nuclear waste free!  Just send the M65-28 Formula Trash Bag coupon which is enclosed in the trash bag box, along with $19.95  and $50.00 shipping and handling to:

image

Visa or MasterCard accepted.  Send for your dump today!!

Rain (Or Lack Thereof)

Hey, friend!

This may be on the brief side, but it is well worth noting.

Not too long ago, my family and I were going to be driving back from Michigan to Ohio with a trailer and a truck full of furniture and things that we were bringing back from my Mom’s house.  (I’m sure you’re familiar with this type of situation–you don’t really have the room for it, but if you want it you need to get it.)

My best friend from high school hooked up with me and helped load everything, tarping and strapping it all down and generally using every bungie cord and strap on-hand to make sure nothing was going anywhere it shouldn’t for the trip back.  As we were doing this, we found out from my wife that rain was no only expected at different times on the way back, but the closer we got to home, the more rain was supposed to come (“locally heavy at times” was the way it read).  It’s important to know that we were only up there from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and the repeated checks on the weather showed us no rain at all for either location.  Now it’s changed to this??  Great….

So we repacked some things and tried as best we could to prepare for any and all possible wetness.  And when it was all done, we prayed together.  Nothing fancy….just declaring the Word of God over our situation and asking Him to make any rain go around us as we travelled back so that nothing would get wet (we’re talking antique furniture and collectibles that really shouldn’t see water at all).

So what happened?  God is faithful, that’s what happened!  We didn’t encounter any type of threatening weather until the last half of our trip.  And when we did, we found that we were either driving ahead of the threatening skies, or driving through areas that had recently had rain but it wasn’t raining now, or driving through little pockets of rainfall that didn’t last long and dried up quickly.  It was literally going around us as we were making our way home!  And when we finally got there, not a thing was even wet!

Think what you will, but I know God answers the prayers of His people.  A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with a theory…..

Bagpipes

Since it’s summer and I have been on the topic here and there about Paradise Lake, here’s another story from my childhood up there:

Let’s talk about bagpipes for a minute.  Now, I realize that some people turn up their nose at even the thought of them, let alone listening to even the sound of them.  If you’re one of those types of people, you have probably already envisioned some red-faced guy with chipmunk cheeks blowing fiercely into a hollow tube for all he’s worth who’s wearing a dress and making an ear-splitting racket with that contraption he’s hugging so closely to his person.

While most of us probably picture Great Highland bagpipes from the country of Scotland when we hear them, there is a close cousin to the Great Highland bagpipes and it’s found in Ireland.  Called the Uilleann pipe, it is a “softer” version of the bagpipes we so easily attribute to Scotland, meaning that it has a more mellow tone to it and can tend to not sound so shrill (the beauty of that sound being in the ear of the beholder).

I, myself, have always enjoyed the sound of bagpipes being played.  One summer, upon arriving at the family cabin on Paradise Lake, I was very pleased to discover that someone a few cabins down from our beachfront had a set of bagpipes–and actually knew how to play them!  Now remember, this is a lake in northern Michigan where the early morning hours can be spent just sitting by the lake and listening to nature:  the gentle sound of water lapping against the beach; the distant cry of a seagull as it floats across the lake’s surface;  the hauntingly beautiful call of loons out on the lake somewhere; and even the possibility of seeing a bald eagle soar overhead!

So this individual apparently liked to play the bagpipes in the morning hours, which was much to my appeal.  I can remember getting up early enough to get down to the boathouse to get the oars to the rowboat and a life vest.  There was no rowing quietly with these oars.  They were metal ones, so every time they were moved in the eyelets of the rowboat, they would squeak…badly.  So picture the above-described scene laid out in front of you and suddenly hearing  the slow but determined sound of “screeee……..screeee………screeee……..screeee” as a guy in a rowboat slowly makes his way out onto the lake.  So, nonetheless, I made it out about a hundred yards and dropped anchor, waiting for the bagpipe player to show up.

I’m telling you….to be out there on the waters of Paradise Lake early enough to watch the sun peak over the treetops and listen to those sounds of nature that were all around me was an amazing experience!  But then, to have the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a set of Highlander bagpipes floating across the surface of the water was just….just breathtaking.  I didn’t want it to stop.  And I would even say that if you are one who doesn’t like the sound of bagpipes, even you would have tolerated what I heard that morning and thought it actually sounded pleasant.

I believe the day will come when the waters of Paradise Lake will once again echo with the sounds of a bagpipe.  But this time, since I’m Irish and love the sound of Uilleann Pipes….