Home poker games are considered unlawful gambling in West Virginia. The law states that any person, at any place, public or private, is guilty of a misdemeanor for betting or waging anything of value on any game that involves chance. The penalty is a fine between $5 and $300, with a possibility of up to 1 year probation. That being said, I want to make it clear that, although I do occasionally engage in card games that involve chance, the exchange of money during those games is purely a co-incidental and often spontaneous result of numismatic trading between friends with interests in coin collecting. We play a hand, we exchange some coins, sip some sweetened and gently aged blackberry juice, discuss local socio-political issues, munch a few roasted white oak acorns and play another hand. Innocence abounds.
It was during one of these light hearted social gatherings that Ramon informed me of some troubling news circulating the community about my recent wave of blog entries.
“I had to tell my wife I was going over to Edgar’s tonight to change the bearings in his hog oiler because she thinks you have become a threat to our community. She made it very clear I should dissolve any associations I might have with you.”
(Note: Due to the often colorful and sometimes misconstrued colloquialisms used in casual conversations among the men of rural Appalachian heritage, I have, for the most part, paraphrased the actual words used in the discussion. I have also chosen to change the names of the participants with the exception of Edgar, who was, coincidentally, having problems with the bearings in his hog oiler and was not present.)
“A threat?” I asked.
“Yep. She said the tone of your new blogs has changed from the earlier ones and you may be showing signs of mental imbalance.”
Hector added bluntly,” The word is you think your dog can talk; and what’s more you’ve been taking his advice. My sister and her friends believe that it won’t be long before you turn into a regular Son of Sam and start killing folk.”
At first I thought this was what they call in the country ‘funnin’, so I played along. “Gentlemen, what’s wrong with taking the advice of a friend? In Dooley’s defense, aside from that one incident with the meat cleaver and bunny last Easter, Dooley has never displayed or advocated violence of any kind…..” A prolonged silence at the table suggested this was not ‘funnin’. So I followed with the ever popular, “But seriously,….” and went on to explain that perhaps the women did not understand the nuances of a form of writing called the fable where animals often are used, in prose or verse, to illustrate one or more instructive principles, or life lessons. I continued to explain that when I write that I spoke to a goat or a dog it is just a device to externalize my thoughts and is not to be taken literally as actually talking to goats or dogs.
“Are you saying our women are ‘illiteral’ Florida boy?” That came from Randy who had been quiet up to this point. The blackberry juice in my system was encouraging me to laugh out loud at the question, but my natural cowardice and his intimidating tone easily suppressed the urge. “Of course not Randy, I just think maybe they should stick to reading some of the other well-known blogs about simple living that include recipes, sheep shearing and candle making.”
The evening ended, sadly, without pleasantries. If I were to describe the final minutes in fable form I might say the wolf, the lion and the bear descended on the lamb and devoured him.
The evening left me with several regrets. 1 At the time when the poisoned discussion began, I was holding three tens and a pair deuces and the hand was never finished. 2. Randy’s use of the phrase ‘Florida boy” confirmed that no matter how long I live in my secret cabin in the woods of West Virginia I will always be labeled by my past. 3. That I have no doubt lost several of the half dozen people who actually read my blog.
On the upside: 1. Dooley was not around to see this. 2. In exchange for leaving with the same face I had come in with and an invitation to next month's game I agreed to include, in the spirit of compromise, two recipes in my next blog; Ramon’s wife’s recipe for blackberry wine and Randy’s superb roasted white oak acorn snacks. Don’t miss it.
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