Cow Rummy Is Just a Given

Beloved and I love to road trip.  We’ve deliberately gotten lost on occassion just so we can drive around and sneer at critique stranger’s lawns.  (This was an especially interesting pastime while in rural West Virginia.)  We also play a lot of Cow Rummy.

My uncle taught me about Cow Rummy while he was in college; he and his friends would play as they drove back and forth between Dallas and Lubbock, where he attended Texas Tech University.  The rules are very simple:  everyone on the passenger side of the car counts the cows they see on the right side of the road and all of the people on the driver’s side of the car count the cows they see on the left side of the road.  The side of the car with the most cows at the end of the trip wins.  There’s a caveat, of course – if you pass a cemetery on your side of the car, you lose all of your cows and have to start over again.

Which is really a tad gruesome, when you think about it.

It may sound like a dumb game, but it’s fun and can actually get pretty competitive, especially if you have a third child in the back seat, situated between two older siblings, who gets to count for whichever side of the car he pleases.  This is simultaneously rewarding and hazardous for the child – he spends the entire trip being bribed on one side with Cheetos and Gummi Bears, and being repeatedly punched in the arm on the other side.  Especially when he doesn’t really count, but shouts out arbitrary numbers like “37!”

“There were only four cows over there, you rotten little puke!” shouts Oldest Son, punching his little brother.

“If he says there were 37 cows, there were 37 cows!” counters Darling Daughter, while she passes him Hershey’s Kisses and the spare change she found in the seat (the kid was born knowing how to schmooze).

Those days are long past, I’m afraid; our youngest are now 16 and 13 respectively and would rather gouge out their own left eyeballs rather than play a dumb game like Cow Rummy, but Beloved and I are basically nothing but overgrown kids.  We love it and play it just about every time we’re in the car together.

In fact, in the absence of cows and cemeteries, we’ve counted other things – once, while driving out of Boston, we played Dunkin’ Donuts Rummy (you lost your Dunkin’ Donuts shops if you passed any other donut shop franchise).  On one trip through Pennsylvania, we found we were passing far more cemeteries than cows, and simply reversed the game.  We’ve even played the game long distance, for I got a phone call from Beloved while he was driving from our home in Podunk, Ohio to Chicago last week.

“Hey, hon – what happens if you pass a cemetery with cows in it?”

“Hmmm…whose side of the car was it on?”


“Oh – well, in that case, it automatically doubles your score.”

Hey, if he’s going to play while I’m not there, I need all the advantage I can get.

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