A Small Town Lifeline: Let’s Play Cards!
What it was, was 'Rook'.
Growing up I was convinced that 'Rook' was the most popular card game in the world. I mean, everyone I knew played 'Rook'!
Well, that conviction of a young boy was pretty well exploded when I did some growing up and found myself in other area's beside that little rural area in southwest Minnesota. I would have to say that the large majority of people I've run into through the years either:
1) Have never heard of 'Rook' or 2) Saw it once in a store and din't know what it was.
Well, here's what it was when I was just a little nipper.
It was (in the cold and snowy months) a weekly event for my mom and dad and uncle's and aunt's. It was on my dad's side of the family, and every week (or was it every two weeks? Doesn't matter, in my memory it was every week), we would go to Uncle Art and Aunt Millie's, or Uncle Pete and Aunt Johanna's, or Uncle Henry and Aunt Martha's, or...well, dad was one of nine kids in his family so there were lot's of uncle's and aunt's.
They would set up card tables, four to a table, and play...Rook. They'd keep score, play til, what seemed to me a late hour (probably pretty close to 10!), hand out some small prizes the host had purchased, then coffee and cookies or cake. All the while, they visited, these adults, these husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, all born between about 1900 and 1925 or so, all having known each other virtually their entire lives.
Me? I'd busy myself with whatever toys or games were around (I gotta tell ya, that Viewfinder at Uncle Art and Aunt Millie was maybe the coolest!).
And then the next week, we'd do it again.
Fast forward a couple decades or three and I'm grown (although 'grown-up' remains debatable) and moved away. 'Rook' was for certain gone forever.
Except it wasn't gone at all. Only the names had changed.
The Leota Minnesota Cafe was what I would call 'Rook Central'. When I would drive back home from Winner or Aberdeen, Brookings or Rapid City or Sioux Falls, mornings were spent at the Leota Cafe. My dad and my friends dad's were, well, a bit older now. For the most part retired (some might just say tired), they gathered for coffee each morning at the Cafe and....
'Say, anybody want to play a game of Rook'?
And so they'd shuffle off to a table towards the back, and the game would turn into games. The names might be Marvin, Tony, Rich, Jake, Arlan or any of a dozen more names. When I was there, and if they happened to be one player short, well....I was the sacrificial lamb. When I'd play with these old 'Rook' veterans, I thought my name was 'What are ya doin''??
What I was doin' was making another great memory on top of my earlier great 'Rook' memory.
Those uncle's and aunt's and dad and mom are all gone now. Most of those 'good old boys' from the cafe have left, too. I don't get back to that Cafe hardly at all anymore, but I hope there's folks there playin' a game of 'Rook', drinkin' some fine small town coffee and making some memories for the next generation or two.