Christmas games


Every year during the holiday season, the ghosts of Christmas past sneak into our consciousness as we recall special moments with family and friends. One of my favorite holiday memories is from the 1970s. My grandmother decided to invite all of the Adair and McConnell relatives to her house for Christmas. Three generations from both sides filled every room of their two-story farm house. Once all the dishes were washed and the food moved out to the cold porch for snacking, it was time to break out the games.

On one corner of the dining room table, my great uncles set up their game of cut-throat Monopoly. Booming voices shouted in distress as someone landed on the “wrong” piece of property owned by a brother-in-law. As kids, we shied away from this game. The only thing we could have learned by watching were a few new vocabulary words from the back of the barn.  

In the back nook of the kitchen, my mom, aunts and Uncle Dan would whoop it up in celebration as they finessed a missing trump trick in an intense game of Bridge. It was the next generation’s cut-throat game between family members. The hanging light over the kitchen table illuminated the smoky haze created by overfilled ashtrays. (It was the 1970s). Those arriving too late to get in the game huddled around the table as they peered over the players’ shoulders, assessing the cards and potential plays. I would dream of the day I was old enough and good enough to play Bridge at this table.

My generation of youngsters set up our own games. There was Hi-Ho the Cherry-O, Trouble and our own version of cut-throat Go Fish. We may have lacked the booming voices and the hazy lighting, but we could still squeal with delight when we told someone to, “Go fish.”

Many card and board games were originally created as teaching tools for life lessons. A simple deck of cards taught many kids mathematics and memory skills. The 52 cards could also teach biblical lessons according to an old country song. Monopoly was created in the early 1900s to illustrate an economic theory of how rents make the rich richer and keep the poor poorer. I think many games could have first been envisioned by events on the farm. Just think about the number of different games we “play” each day.

As seed salesmen come around to book next year’s orders, we need to make sure to compare Apples to Apples in data so that we can collect a big Pay Day at the end of a growing season. The Word on the Street is that farmers need Wits and Wagers along with a bit of Diplomacy so that the banker doesn’t say Sorry! The future price of milk feels like we’re living on a Chutes and Ladders game board as we navigate the Risk. The Trouble with planning on the perfect conditions is that it can fall like a line of Dominos with just a tap.

Of course, Operation is a game many older farmers play with hips, knees and shoulders. Before cell phones with cameras, there was only Pictionary to illustrate the location of the broken part in the chopper head. Not always the most accurate drawing but enough to get the point across. It may seem like a game of Trivial Pursuit as you try to track down the part off of an old piece of machinery.

The strategies used to discover the Battleship are the same Mark and the boys use when trying to find the pocket gopher tunnels in the hayfields, searching for the perfect spot to trap the gopher and sink his career. 

The Game of Life was never one of my favorites. It was hard to relate to — until they revamped it to Life on the Farm. Now I know exactly what it means or costs when the cows are out or the baler breaks. It speaks my language. Probably my all-time favorite game to play is the classic Candyland … because every day on the farm can be filled with sweet surprises.

May your holiday games bring a smile across your face and give a hug to your heart as we cherish this special time with our family and friends.

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark Schmitt started an adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.


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