News and Tribune


March 3, 2012

DODD: The game of lives

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — As the ladies switched their seats for the next game, one of them explained the ruckus in the living room. Someone had been accused of not playing fair.

It was Terry, of course. For any of us in the house that was no surprise. Earlier in the evening, I had asked the group who was the most competitive. Two names were mentioned, Donna and Terry. Terry volunteered, “I am accused of cheating every month!” Her friend Theresa quickly interjected, “It’s never been proven.”

If she does cheat she must be very good at it since it hasn’t been proven in over 36 years.

The club with no name held its first Bunco night on the fourth Monday in January 1976. Eight of the current 12 are original members. Many have been friends since elementary school. Dendra is the relative rookie and the youngest that at 40 years of age has only been with the group for about eight years.

I will only use first names this week to protect the identities and the reputations of spouses, children and other innocent family members. Donna tells me they have probably only missed three or four monthly Bunco nights in over 36 years, one of them due to a bad snowstorm. Once each year they hold Bunco club on a Sunday when they have to meet at Sylvia’s house in Paoli. After all, that’s a longer drive for some members.

Cindy tells me why they no longer give out gift prizes.

“There are only so many dish towels you can use.”

For years now, the $5 monthly fee has been paid out in cash awards with the monthly top prize being $20. I was told $60 goes into the pot and $60 is paid out in varying amounts. One of the girls told me they had their best year on the Bunco circuit in 2011, garnering total annual prize winnings of $72.

After her monthly fees were deducted, that’s a whopping profit of $12. On the other end of the spectrum, according to statistician Cindy, one unnamed member only won one game all year.

Bunco can be a cruel and fickle game.

As the only male in the room last Monday evening, I enjoyed my eavesdropping on their evening’s discussions. Topics included old rivalries dating back to elementary school.

The nuclei of the club are alumni of Maple Elementary. A couple of Ewing Lane girls still sport their school loyalties. Ten of the even dozen are old classmates of mine from Jeffersonville High School class of 1973. Susan is from the JHS class of 1972. That whippersnapper Dendra was from some foreign school called Silver Creek.

Over the course of the evening, various stories were shared. There was the night Teresa had baked a lasagna dish and chocolate pie. She cut her finger badly right before they arrived to play. What most of them remembered about that night were how great her lasagna tasted and that delicious pie dessert.

The Bunco competition was fierce and nobody caught Terry cheating. Theresa mostly remembers spending the evening in the emergency room at Clark Memorial Hospital. Did you really expect them to cancel because of a little thing like eight stitches to a finger?

Then there was the night when a carload of the girls attended a class reunion a few years back. I was given permission to tell as long as I didn’t use names. It seems on the way home one of the girls couldn’t quite handle the excess of liquor partaken that evening. Unaware were the friends in the back seat as she held her head out the window and let the vomit fly. Being a warm evening, the rear windows were down. A couple of seconds later, someone from the back seat inquired if it was raining.

The first half hour each month is spent eating and conversing. Donna pointed out originally it was chips and drinks. Now, it’s more like a meal with desserts and all night snacking. Every year, the club poses for a group Christmas photo. Last year’s was commemorated with a magnet calendar clinging to the front of the refrigerator in Diane’s house.

Some kid about divorces and exes while Cindy is still a relative newlywed who married for the first time at age 48 because she jokingly says she fell in love with a great older man who couldn’t have kids. She explains that she didn’t desire to have children after being a pediatric nurse for 37 years.

One of them quipped about how many different homes the club has met in over the 3 1/2 decades of the club’s existence. Other oddities include Diane, who is now married to David, whom she never knew in high school, even though he also graduated with her in the JHS class of ’73.

It’s all a Ya-Ya sisterhood act that keeps playing once every month. It has been a constant for the ladies through six divorces (possibly a seventh in the process), 30 kids from age 38 to ... years of age, and 32 grandkids ranging from age 20 down to three that are currently in various stages of gestation.

Kathy explains without Bunco, “I would have lost touch with all of these girls. I have a bond with them.”

There are few things in life that are certain; death, taxes and Terry doing anything possible she can get away with to win, while Vickie, Suzanne, Ann and the others keep trying to catch her in the act. It’s an overwhelming and beautiful thing to be in a room full of so much love and estrogen.

It’s not what men do. One of the girls told me some of the husbands once tried to have a Bunco club of their own. The purity and beauty of the game seemed lost on them. Each time a guy called out “Bunco” everyone had to take a shot. They called it “Drunko.” And I am willing to bet not a one of them could make decent lasagna either.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who lives in Otisco and can be reached at

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