The Corner

Cribbage Lit

Having recovered from my amazement that the noble game of cribbage is known

and played beyond my ancestral shores, I now learn, courtesy of a reader,

that the game actually shows up at least once in American literature.

Two of the US Forest Service workers in Norman Maclean’s short story “USFS

1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky

play cribbage, though

one of them very incompetently. (That must surely, by the way, be one of

the klunkiest titles ever given to a short story in any language, with Bruce

Jay Friedman’s “An Ironic Yetta Montana” a close runner-up.) The ranger,

tired of his partner’s cribbage incompetence, tries without success to get

other colleagues to play cards with them, so they could get away from

cribbage and play some three-handed game.

Fair enough: but cribbage can actually be played three-handed, too. I used

to play this way with two friends in England. One of them — a great

collector of curiosities and minor antiques — had a lovely old cribbage

board with, of course, the usual two tracks, but with a third track on an

arm that folded out from the side. Dealer deals five cards to everyone and

one to the box. Then all three playes discard, to give a full box. Play

then proceeds as usual. We never played for money, though, so I don’t know

how you’d handle payouts in a three-handed game.

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