Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cow Bingo

Having moved from the country to the city I sometimes need to be reminded of my rural roots.  I’ve found no better way to do this than to pack up the family and head to the country for a few days.  I admit that some of our southern traditions and pastimes can be questionable at times.  I usually can embrace most of them when I need to.  On a recent trip I found that even an open-minded fellow like myself sometimes has to question the moment.

I was sitting on the porch with my family, because that’s what you do in the country, content after dinner having consumed another 1500 grams of fat.  There’s no such thing as fat free food in the country.  We put fat in everything.  You want Jell-O?  We’ll find a way to add a little fatback for flavor.  I think it’s the law.  Anyway, I’m sitting there enjoying the breeze, complements of cousin Larry, happy, with my pants unbuttoned and ready to doze off.  It’s about this time my niece says, “Hey, what are sitting around here for?  There’s cow bingo tonight.”   Well, there isn’t much more that will fire up a family in the country on a Saturday evening than to mention an event involving the “B” word, bingo that is.  Before you can say scat, we are piling in the truck.

 I have played my share of bingo but I couldn’t quite remember a game called cow bingo.  I was following my cousin Larry, who’s truck kept backfiring this thick black smoke making it difficult to see, speculating on just how you played cow bingo.  Expecting Larry to turn into the Ruritan Club Community Center I was surprised when instead he turned at the little league complex.  We called it a complex because it had not one but two fields, a small one and a big one.  We were headed to the big field.  I was questioning this in my mind when I noticed a huge turnout of people.  Okay, so it’s more like 100 people but outside of any event that doesn’t involve free food this is huge.  Maybe my niece got confused, this couldn’t possibly have anything to do with bingo I thought.  As cousin Larry would say, “That’s what you get for thinking.”

Admission was free.  For five dollars you drew a number out of a hat to play bingo with.  I followed people up into the stands still not quite sure what any of this had to do with playing bingo.  Folks around me seemed really excited so rather than show my ignorance I watched hoping to figure this out.  The ball field in front of me had been roped off into a large rectangle.  Squares had been marked off and there were numbers painted in the middle of each one.  I guessed that the numbers corresponded to ones we drew out of the hat.  I still didn’t understand when I heard a cow bellowing as it was being led onto the field. 

 “C’mon Bessie, pick my square!” yelled cousin Larry.

Not being able to contain my curiosity any longer I had to ask.

 “Larry, what exactly do you mean… pick my square?  Do they turn the cow loose and after some time limit expires see where she’s standing on the field?”  I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to know.

“Heck no”, Larry replied.  “Aint ya ever played cow bingo before?  Where ya been hiding boy? Under a rock?”

 “Well, I guess I just don’t get out much anymore, with the kids and all.” 

That satisfied Larry so he proceeded to enlighten me on the finer points of cow bingo.  I was somewhat correct… the squares marked off on the field were involved.  I was even right about the cow being involved.  Where I was wrong was there was no time limit.  Cow bingo can last a matter of minutes or as my luck would have it this particular night, almost three hours.  It wasn’t a matter of where Bessie went on the field but rather where she went on the field.  That’s right folks… people paid money to watch this cow meander around the ball field hoping she would christen their square.  Larry was quick to point out that number one didn’t count so there was a couple times people got excited for nothing. 

So this is what I’ve been missing.  Sitting at a ballpark on a Saturday night watching a cow in hopes that she would feel the need while standing on my square.    I didn’t bother to ask Larry what happened if Bessie didn’t clearly hit a square?  What if she went in more than one square?  What if it was on the line?  Did people split the money or was there a line judge that got involved to make a ruling?

It didn’t matter anyway.  Tonight Bessie wasn’t being cooperative.  Can’t say I blame her.  I dare say that if I was turned loose in front of a group of people hooting and hollering mother nature wouldn’t be making any calls my way either.  After nearly three hours it was decided to draw a number to decide the bingo winner.  I didn’t win.  I felt like I had gotten five dollars of entertainment, more from watching the crowd than the cow, so I didn’t complain. 

“Ya’ll come back next week”, the announcer was saying.  “We’ll have a different cow.”

Good for Bessie.  Like myself, she’d probably rather be home.  As she was being led off the field she finally gave everyone what they had been waiting for causing several spectators to scramble. 

I guess it was Bessie’s way of saying she didn’t care much for bingo.   

Until next time...


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