Sitting down to a game of 500

Published 8:07 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

One of my goals when I started at the Herald in August was to meet with as many residents and public officials as possible in Austin and its surrounding communities.

I wanted to know what the issues are here, who the longtime business owners are, as well as the ones who are new to the area. I wanted to know what the Spam Museum looks like on the inside, what it sounds like at a Packer home football game and what the famed Tendermaid was all about.

So in the past eight weeks, I’ve met with the mayor, the city administrator, several farmers, educators, legislators and too many genuinely nice Mower County residents to name here.

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My efforts continued Friday.

I was invited to the senior center to see what it’s all about and to make sure its weekly column was being sent to the right e-mail address.

I accepted the invitation and figured while I was there, I would use my lunch break to buy some lunch and meet with the regulars.

I had also heard the center was a hotspot to play cards, and in particular 500, which I was excited about.

While the game of poker has grown in popularity over the past several years, when I was a freshman and sophomore at St. Mary’s University in Winona, all we played was 500. We never played for money, but we were competitive and would arrange tournaments on weekends with the some of the other students.

Now I was born in raised in California, so 500 was about as popular where I was as a parka in the desert. They just didn’t play it.

But I learned how to play it and improved from time and time, and over the two years I was at St. Mary’s I grew to love it.

When I transferred to the University of Oregon my junior year, my 500 playing days were over as for some reason the West coast has never seemed to embrace it.

So on Friday, it was great to play again.

The folks at the senior center seem to be serious card players, so I was a little reluctant to sit down with them. From what I remembered, 500 was mostly played with partners, so I didn’t want to make any mistakes and get on anyone’s bad side. But when I learned they only play seriously from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and that it’s practice games from noon to 12:30 p.m., I figured I couldn’t embarrass myself too much sitting in for a half an hour.

Three ladies were gracious enough to let me play in their practice rounds, which I thank them for, and while I’m sure I made some mistakes, my partner and I won a couple of hands.

I know I still have a long way to go, and maybe when I have an afternoon off, I’ll be able to play the whole time.

I’m sure next week will feature more opportunities for me to meet with other residents and officials of Austin. I’m looking forward to it, even if they don’t play 500 at the Mower County Courthouse or at school board meetings.