Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Store

If you're ever in Iowa City, look for Prairie Lights book store, you will not be disappointed. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop the first creative writing degree program in the United States. Authors come from all over the world to "hone in" their writing skills. Many have left their mark, and their book, here at Prairie Lights.
Knowing that, you will understand my excitement when Prairie Lights placed my novel on their shelf. Now, Under the Heavens and Catbird Singing are both available at this wonderful book store.
Check out this dog under the table.

If you do stop by, tell them Thomas Nye (the local mailman who did not go to the Writer's Workshop) sent you. By the way, they also have an amazing in-house coffee shop, tempting you to buy a good book and start reading right there!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Old Amish Games

Dutch Blitz
This card game is in every Amish and Mennonite home. 

I passed by an Amish school a few days ago and saw a big crowd of children out in a nearby field. You can see in the picture above, the school is on one side of the road and the children are playing in a field on the other side. They were playing a game of Red Rover, at least that is what we called it when I was a little boy. The children up on the hill were all holding hands in a line. They would call a name of one of those below and that child would run up the hill and try to break through the chain. If they break through, they get to stay up on the hill and those whose hands didn't hold the chain, had to go to the bottom.

This is another Amish school only a couple miles from the top picture. You can see a few "scholars" (that is what Amish call school children) out behind the school. I don't take pictures close up because I know they don't like it. When I passed by both groups, the children looked at me and waived. I didn't want them to see me snapping pictures, some of them know who I am and recognize my pickup truck. A group of young girls were standing right behind this school house. They were in a clump visiting (couldn't help wondering what they were talking about) , and a few boys were chasing each other in circles. I believe they were playing an old game named, "Fox and Geese"  In this game a pattern is stomped out in the snow, like a plus sign with a circle around it. The Fox (the one who is "it") has to try to tag the Geese. They can only move about on the tromped out paths in the snow making it more complicated and fun than "tag."
When I married my Mennonite wife 34 years ago, I found out that Dutch Blitz would be a permanent part of my new life. Amish (as far as I know) won't use "Face Cards" that the English use, but they love this game! Each of 4 players pick one stack of cards, (Plow, Bucket, Pump, or Buggy) I always choose the "Buggy" stack. Then, you lay out 3 single cards in front of you, face up, and a pile of ten with only the top card's face showing. That is your Blitz pile. The rest of your stack is held in your hand. At the signal "Go!" everyone is free to lay any #1 card that is face up in front of them, and then proceed to going through your stack by 3's searching for a #1 card to lay out or a #2 of a matching color to lay on a #1 already laid out, and so forth until you use up your Blitz pile. The first person to empty their Blitz pile and yell "Blitz!" wins.

My wife is a master at this game and I've only beat her at it a handful of times. A couple of my daughters take right after her, with quick hands and a sharp eye. We have played this game with many of our Amish friends and my wife has some real competition when we do! Our Amish friends have large families so we sometimes play in teams of two. That way eight people can play at once. It is a fast game and everyone is laughing before it is all over.
This game (Dutch Blitz) appears in my first novel,
This is a game board for "marbles" my wife's grandpa made, it is
played like the "store bought game" Aggravation.
Of course, the best game of all, for Amish children, is riding ponies out in the pasture!
A couple of makeshift jumps and let the games begin!