The Legend of Euchre

cardsThis summer, I wrote about the card game of euchre at The Awl.

Follow this link to read “The People’s Card Game.” Here’s an excerpt:

“These days, most Americans don’t even recognize the word “euchre,” but it has been kept alive by loyal bands of Midwestern card players who live in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, a geographical body dubbed the ‘Euchre Belt.’”

When writing my essay, I spoke with lots of players around the country. Among them was novelist and comic book writer Alex Irvine, who grew up in Michigan, playing euchre since he was seven or eight.

He can still remember a beautiful hand that swept all the tricks when he was eight, “one of the great moments” in his grade school life. “Everyone in my family plays,” he explained. “I have no idea how far back it goes in the family, but I can only assume that my ancestors played it the minute they came across the state line from Canada or Tennessee or any of the other places they came from.”

In 2003, he published “Pictures from an Expedition” in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, a story about an ill-fated mission to Mars. As the story unfolds, a team of astronauts go mad during a long space journey to Mars, egged on by a sensation-hungry reality television audience back on Earth.

At the moment when the crew unravels, one astronaut describes the problem, but they could have been describing the lost souls on the ice floe: “We’re on another planet, halfway through a three-year mission. It’s lethal and ugly outside, and we’re all sick of looking at each other, so inside isn’t much better.”

One of the astronauts–a Michigan boy, just like me and Alex– eases the tension by teaching his crew members how to play euchre. I asked Alex why he had those Martian astronauts playing an obscure card game from the Midwest. He explained over email:

“I think about it I was probably being wishful about being able to play euchre far from home myself. It’s a great way to pass the time because maybe 80% of the time, it’s obvious which card you should play or whether you should pass or name trump, so you can play the game and hold a conversation at the same time. If I ever go to Mars, I’m guessing I will play euchre the whole way out and back.”

From German farmers to shipwrecked sailors to Martian invasion refugees to lonely astronauts, euchre has helped generations of immigrants cope with an alien environment. The game feels cozy and familiar no matter where you play it; a game best played in an unfamiliar place.

Read more at The Awl…