My two sisters and I were the oldest grandchildren(me at the top; that I’ll be turning 39 line stopped working long ago). One of our favorite things to do with our grandparents was playing the card game Rook.

Papa was always at his grocery store every morning by seven a. m., so going to bed early was his usual pattern. Except when we were over to play cards. It was usually on a Friday night. We all wanted Papa as our partner as he was the best Rook player I’ve ever seen.

Admittedly, our experience with other players of the game was limited. He was good though. Sometimes I think he took it easy on us. He “Shot The Moon” often and I don’t think I remember him ever missing when he did.

A brief tutorial for anyone who might not know the game. I’ll try to keep the info dump short.

Sometimes called Christian poker, it was a game of four suits with numbered cards(1-14) in four colors(black, red, yellow, green) and a rook bird card. The version we played threw out cards 1-4, leaving forty-one including the Rook. Playing partners, the dealer dealt them out, every fifth card going into a pile in the middle, leaving nine per player. You bid in five point increments(minimum70, maximum 120) and the winning bidder got the five in the pile to make up his nine hand. The Trumps hand was floating, depending on the hand the winning bidder put together. You agreed on a game winning score(300 points and up).

Play commences to the left of the dealer who’d lead out with a card. Everyone must follow the color except for two reasons: void of the played color or if you had the rook(the most powerful trump). You sloughed if you didn’t have a color and, if you had it and didn’t want to play the Rook.

When the bidder says he’s going to shoot the moon, he’s saying he will take all tricks(120 points) and if he didn’t, he went back the 120 points. As I said earlier, I never remember Papa missing.

We always played around a glass topped coffee table, Papa in his favorite chair, my sisters and I on foot stools and bean bags. Grandma rarely played, serving as hostess for us while we were in the game.

That meant popcorn most of the time. Not any of the prepackaged stuff available now, no microwaves to get it done in a few seconds. Grandma manned a big metal bowl with a glass top, measuring cooking oil and loose kernels in and watching as the heating coils started the popping going, stopping just at the right time to keep it from burning.

The smell was wonderful!

Top that off with a cold, eight ounce bottle of Coke. You can’t beat that. Sometimes there was ice cream or cake. But the pop corn was a favorite of us all.

As I said earlier, Papa was at the store by seven a. m. every day it was open(six days a week). But when we played cards, it was hard to get him to stop. He’d keep us going late and we’d go right along(we lived just down the street), laughing and having a wonderful time.

Those were wonderful times when we sit back and think. We didn’t have all the distractions kids have today and I think we had a much better time than most of them do. I’m sure they would disagree and they might be right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. We made our own entertainments as children and spent more time with the old folks than today’s world. Heh, now that I think on it, I’m older than my grandparents were during those times and I don’t consider myself old.

I haven’t played Rook in a good many years, not since Papa passed away in 1977. I don’t even remember all the rules now and I may be wrong on some. But I can never forget those long ago times.