recent rumination brought cribbage to mind. What a curious word. I mentioned cribbage here back in 2006 and since then, while I have not found anyone to play with, I have played cribbage against “The Computer” many times. It is one of the games on my iPad. Well let metell you, playing cribbage with a computer violates the whole intent of the game in the first place.
I understand cribbage is the official pastime of American submariners. One mustplay with another person. Growing up during summers on Cape Cod I thought thatto be a Cape Codder you had to know how to play cribbage. I had never seen or heard of the game in anyof my travels. The only cribbage boards I had seen were at my grandmother’s house.
But what I remember about cribbage was that it was a reason to go visit someone. The table would be set up, usually on the side porch. The board, pegs and cards would be retrieved from storage, and the game would be afoot. As you become an expert at cribbage you don’t have to think too much about which cards to keep in your hand and which to “throw”in the dealer’s “crib.” The throw comes naturally. The crib is a second hand of four cards that is created for the dealer and is unlike a process in any other card game I know.
So now we know about “crib” and of course -age is a suffix typically forming abstract nouns from various parts of speech such as spoilage,parsonage, marriage. So we have a curious game with a set of quirky rules that’s been around since 1630.
After the throw, the deck is cut and the top card is turned up. If it’s a Jack you peg one point, His Knibs. The players use the four remaining cards in their hand to alternately play short sets adding up to 31 with face cards counting for 10. Different points are won during “the play” for pairs, runs, 15s (cards that add up to 15), last card played, getting close to 31, etc. Points are scored a few at a time so the pegging board is handy to keep score and easily see who is ahead. There are 121 points in a game and Winning by 30 points, is a skunk. Win by 60 points and you have a double skunk. I’ve seen both of those but never a triple skunk. Has anyone out there seen one? You automatically win the set.
The last phase of each hand is “the show.” Very dramatic, no? A recounting of the points in your hand using the card that was turned up earlier. The dealer counts last but also gets to count the points in his crib. In the same way as pegging, the counting after the play scores more points on the board. The show involves a patter from the player sounding like, “15-2, 15-4, a pair is six and a run is 9.” A way of adding up the points in your hand and explaining the reason for each point. We usually play Muggins. If a player fails to notice scoring points during the play or the show, the opponent can mug him and steal his points. Our cut-throat rules also said if the dealer offers the deck to the opponent to be cut, then the deal is lost.
Of course during all this pegging and playing,lots of chatter goes on. “When do you suppose the next spring tide is happening so we can go clamming?” “Well it’s on the full moon of course, and always at 5:30 in the morning.” “Have you found that spot right off the Sesuit jetty where the flounder hang out?” “I like sea-worms for bait but wow can they bite when you are trying to thread them on the hook.” “Have you caught a striper this year?” “The quahogs over at Bass River right by the High Bank Road bridge are really thick. I haven’t been able to find any steamers though.” “Be careful, that Yarmouth shellfish warden will write you a ticket if you cross the town line.” “There’s going to be a south wind tomorrow, the water in the salt flats at Cold Storage beach should be really warm.” “Did you know I learned how to swim at that beach? They usedto have regular swimming lessons there. What a treat to float in that salt water, toes sticking up completely out of the sea.” “What did you think of Peter Marshall’s sermon last Sunday?”
Two of our main cribbage partners were Reverend John Wingett and his wife Carolyn. I imagine my grandpa knew him from the Masons as they were both members. John and Carolyn’s daughter, Joy, was about my parent’s age. No trip to East Dennis was complete until we had played cribbage with the Wingetts. I can think of no fonder thoughts than a game of cribbage on a warm summer afternoon. Quick,who’s got the board?