This is not a mathematical equation, though thousands of hours of fun have been enjoyed by many. In this case, “500” refers to two games that share this numerical name which are highlights of family fun from my younger days. Both require minimal equipment; a good thing when there were many bodies to entertain and contain with limited resources. One required a ball bat, some softballs, and gloves. The other only needs a deck of cards.
Picture this: A large backyard containing clotheslines, apple trees, a sizeable garden, a woodshed, even an old outhouse (sometimes used in emergency situations) among other things. The first version of “500” was a ball game. One person hit the ball to whatever number of players were in the outfield. If you caught a ball in the air, it was 100 points. A one-hopper was 75, a two-hopper was 50, and a grounder was 25 points. Whoever got to 500 points next got to be the hitter.
We had hours of fun, a few fights about various details, and a chance to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and become more skilled ball players. I preferred the outfield to the hitting, but both skill sets helped me in my own playing and coaching days. Where else could I have learned how to hit a fly ball, a line drive, and a grounder at will?
We also had close calls with clotheslines, trees, buildings and other such hazards, but mishaps were relatively few. It is always good advice to “Watch where you are going!” It was especially so in our backyard when we played ball.
Now picture this: An oversized table with benches on either side and chairs on each end. We ate here as a family, sometimes even all 15 of us. But when company came over, it was often the site of a rousing game of the card game “500.” The adults played, laughed a lot, and ribbed each other. It looked like a good time to me and I would sometimes sit by one of my parents and watch. We picked up the game rules early on and started to play ourselves when we were old enough. It was one of our rites of passage. A cheap and safe good time, and a thinker’s game if you wanted it to be. It was also a game for all seasons, unlike the ball version of “500.”
Still today, we often have a couple tables of card games going on at our family gatherings. Though some are more competitive than others, I am pretty sure I speak for us all when I say it is really about the many laughs, the coincidences in the way the cards fall, the food nearby, and time together that make it an ongoing family tradition.