Checkers and Golf
Checkers and golf may seem a strange combination, but tools required for both games were originally
made from wood. Language for play uses similiar terms, such as shot and stroke, and both involve rules,
intense competition and strategies, while maintaining a degree of sociability. These similarities have
kept them popular even in an age of complex video games and colorful board games.
When my father was a boy, he made a golf club out of a special piece of a hickory limb. In his day, (1920’s) all
golf clubs were made with hickory wood shafts. His club was a solid piece of wood with the head
resembling that of today’s hybrid clubs. Sometime in the 1950’s, I found Dad’s old club and started
hitting apples, walnuts or any other object that fit the purpose. Having never seen a golf course or a golf ball at that time in my life...I was just having fun trying
to see how far I could hit something. I would have little competitions with myself, trying for accuracy
or distance, and not realizing that this little competition would follow me the rest of my life. Other than
this, the only competition I was familiar with was Checkers.
Checkers was the game of choice among the locals that loafed around Smith’s General Store. You
don’t see it being played nowadays, except when you visit Cracker Barrel Country Stores. Checkers it is
a very competitive game and the folks that play, take the game very seriously.
It was not unusual for a game of checkers to last several hours, even days. There were times when
one of the players would have to go home before the game was finished, so the board was “frozen”,
meaning the board and all the checkers remained in place until the game could be resumed. The board
was carefully placed on top of a display case, just beside the Pot Belly Stove, for safe keeping and where
it would not be disturbed. Other folks who wanted to play, knew the board was “frozen” and did not
touch if for fear of moving the checkers. So, Dad had several sets of checkers for them to use.
I recall one evening there was an intense game being played between Red Brady and Charlie Riffle.
They had been playing and bickering with each other for a couple of hours. It was Red’s move and as
he was slowly contemplating his strategy, Charlie got up from his seat to get a soda pop from the ice
box. While his back was turned, Red saw an opportunity to shuffle the checkers and miraculously, he
found his move.
Checkers Can Drive You to Drink
When Charlie returned with his
orange soda pop, he immediately noticed the board had changed. Now, let me explain something here;
it is considered a breach of the Rules of
to touch a checker, or to move one by any means, if your opponent has left the board for any reason.
Charlie commenced to throw a hissy fit and accused Red of moving the checkers while he was away,
declared the game over and himself as the winner.
They reset the board and started a new game. After a while, Charlie realized he was about to get
doubled jumped, which would give Red a King. He announced that he was going to put a couple of lumps
of coal on the fire and ordered Red to keep his hands off the board.
Although Charlie swore it was by pure accident when he stood up, his leg just happened to brush against
the board, causing it to slip. This allowed one side of the board to fold under and all the checkers went
rolling on the floor. Red jumped up and called Charlie a low-down scoundrel and a cheat. Charlie told
Red to settle down; he remembered where the checkers were sitting on the board and he would put
them back just as they were. So Red agreed, and the checkers were rearranged. But wouldn’t you know
it, Red no longer had a double jump into the king’s row, and that caused yet another argument.
My mind was in a ponder as I sat there watching all of this. How enjoyable was this challenging
competition when only one of the participants could win? And how much fun was winning, when you
had to argue and trick your friend to do it? I was much too young to realize there was a lesson here.
Later in life I learned that lesson when I began to play golf. The game of golf is all about honor,
trust, obeying the rules; or at least it is supposed to be. I once read that if we amateurs played strictly
by the USGA Rules of Golf, as the pros do, none of us would have a handicap under 20.
A lesson can only be learned when it is put into practice. So whenever you are out playing your
Saturday round with your pals, remember the rules, and follow them. Don’t be like Red and Charlie
and take advantage of your pals while they are at the beverage cart buying their Nehi orange
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