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When I was a teenager with a new driver’s license, cruising Broadway in New Ulm, I was introduced to the game of Padiddle. A padiddle is a car with one headlight burned out. If you saw one, you shouted, “Padiddle!” and slapped the ceiling of the car. It was imperative you do both; just calling it out did not qualify you for the point.

While in high school, it was just a fun thing to keep track of while we cruised back and forth. If you misidentified one (a motorcycle, for example), you lost a point. When I reached Winona for my college education, I found it was not just a New Ulm thing. I was also told that some people played it with their date, earning a kiss for every padiddle called out appropriately. Others said the guy would earn a kiss, while the girl could slug the guy in the arm.

And that led to a game I had never heard of until I reached my post-secondary years: Slug Bugs. Maybe it was because of a dearth of VW Bugs in New Ulm, but it was only when my buddy Big Bad Brad Burright (6’ 5”, 315 pounds) almost knocked me on my can while shouting, “Light blue slug bug, no returns!” that I discovered this game. Needless to say, after my bruise healed, I kept an eye out for those vehicles, especially when I was near my formidable friend.

One of the things that is bemoaned in today’s society, especially with our youth, is how few games they play that have nothing to do with electronics. We have a closet full of card and board games at home, but it’s sometimes like pulling teeth to suggest a rousing game of Sorry or Trouble with the kids.

It’s the 80th anniversary of Monopoly this year, a game I have loved for many years (not all 80, despite my students’ notions of my age). In fact, I used to play the game by myself, representing four different players. (Okay, that might qualify me for questionable looks and worries about a social life.) Some of my roommates and I, while at Winona, would play Speed Monopoly. You had to call out what you were owed before the next person rolled the dice, which meant you had to be on your toes at all times. We had one game last over the course of two days before a winner was declared!

I grew up watching my parents play card games with their Card Club every month. Sheephead, 500, and other games were learned by observation. When I made it to New Richland, I fell in with my teaching friends and learned Hearts and Euchre. We spent many evenings and anticipated late starts due to snow playing cards for hours on end. As I’ve written about previously, I’ve grown to love playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker as well.

In one of my math classes in high school, our teacher taught us how to play Cribbage and Backgammon. I was hooked, especially to Cribbage. When I discovered that Michelle enjoyed it as well, we spent many hours playing each other, good-naturedly ribbing each other about winning and losing. I was also able to introduce her to the card game Hand and Foot, though it’s been too many years since we played, and I’d have to look up the rules again. We also discovered Phase 10 while at my sister’s place and find that a great card game to play.

When Jayna was young, she wanted to learn how to play checkers, so we worked through the rules. She then asked to play chess too. I told her she had to beat me at checkers first (I’m not the type to just let my kids win, shockingly), and she then did so within a few more times. I set up the chess board, figuring it would be some time before she grasped the rules and complexities of the game. She beat me on her first try. Ouch.

I fear these games are fading away. You can find an electronic version of just about any game, and they become addicting. Just try playing Solitaire with real cards after spending some time playing on the computer!

Still, some of the classics still live on and are hard to replicate on a computer. Maybe as winter continues, we can find more time together as families and play some games. At the very least, I’m currently ahead of Michelle in Padiddle by 738…

One more thing this week: By the time you read next week’s column, I’ll have another double-digit midget in the house! Happy birthday to my little buddy, Anton!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is mythomane, which means having a tendency to exaggerate or lie, as in, “The wife questioned the husband’s mythomane statement about the current point totals of the game.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!


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