Lonn Taylor is a column writer for The Big Bend Sentinel newspaper in Marfa, Texas. We had exchanged messages on hand-me-down stories about the game of 42, and he included a section about his 42 experiences in one of his weekly articles. The following are extracts from the 28 September 2006 publication of his column, Rambling Boy. -PP
The Merits of RC Cola, Cold Plums and Playing Forty-Two
. . . (Remainder of non-42 comments omitted. Click here for full article) . . .
I also learned how to play a domino game called Forty-Two, and that is the real subject of this reminiscence. Every day at lunch we would take a square of plywood out of the station wagon, set it on top of a wooden crate that was also kept in there, and hunker down on our heels around it for 30 minutes of Forty-Two. Forty-Two was known as the national game of the Texas Highway Department, and there was something comforting in knowing that as we were shuffling the dominos survey parties and maintenance crews all over the state were doing exactly the same thing, much in the same way that all schoolchildren in France are learning the same lesson at the same time each day.
Forty-Two, for you new Texans, is a four-handed domino game that involves bidding, trumps, and taking tricks, a sort of simplified form of bridge. It seems to have originated in Texas in the 1880s, and while there are a variety of creation myths concerning it they all seem to agree that its beginnings have to do with the sinfulness of playing cards Ė the Devilís picture book, as the hardshell Baptists called them Ė or the illegality of playing card games in public places. My mother told me that Forty-Two was invented because it was against the law to play cards on trains in Texas, and so certain wily Texans figured out a way to gamble on dominos.
Paul Proft, a San Antonio Forty-Two enthusiast who has a website about the game ..., told me about a 1985 story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that pinpoints its origin in Garner, Texas in 1887, when two boys were caught playing cards in the barn by their Baptist parents and, smarting from their punishment, invented Forty-Two. On the other hand Halletsville, Texas, about 250 miles southeast of Garner, claims to be the cradle of Forty-Two. It doesnít really matter where it was born; it grew to be a robust adult and itís a great way to pass a lunch hour or a cold winter evening.
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