By Eric Butler, PNT Correspondent
At 9:30 on Saturday morning, sun washed over a city park in Texico. A glorious day, not too warm yet, but nobody at all using the slides or swings.
On this day, however, grown-ups couldn’t chide children for playing inside.
Just across the street, at the Texico Community Activities Center, 56 adults had gathered for the inaugural New Mexico 42 dominoes championships.
The participants were paired off in two-person teams and had just started the second preliminary game. The only one not playing was Mary Stockstill of Clovis, who was collecting scores.
Stockstill’s husband Gerald had been teamed with Sandy Sears of Palestine, Texas, but Mary decided not to compete herself — saying she liked to play the dominoes game of 42 only for fun.
Asked if regular 42 players could get pretty serious, Mary Stockstill mouthed the words, “Oh, yeah.”
The timer bell rings to end play for the second game. The 28 teams are scheduled to have seven preliminary contests and only those with a winning percentage — i.e., victorious in at least four games — will move into the afternoon finals.
Some of the second games are already over, though, and many of the scorecards look like games of hangman.
In order to win a game, a team needs to take seven hands. When a hand is taken, a single line is etched. It so happens that seven strokes of the pen adds up to the word ALL and that’s the word on the winning cards.
The way many of the players explain 42 to the uninitiated is often with the card games of spades or bridge as a starting point. Indeed, the dominoes are placed before the players in “hands” and, when a new game begins, the face-down pieces are “shuffled” by swirling them around on a table.
Meanwhile, Sears and her new partner from Clovis are on a roll, having just won their third game in a row — the only team in the building to do that.
Sandy Sears heard about the inaugural state championships for New Mexico online and decided to make the journey from her home around 100 miles southeast of Dallas. At 61, Sears remembered being introduced to the dominoes game by her ex-husband.
“You had to play 42 to be in the family,” she said.
On Friday night, Sears was introduced to Stockstill by event organizer Jerry Whitney. Told his team is the only unbeaten one so far, Stockstill takes the Yogi Berra approach.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said. “We just haven’t been beat yet.”
After being introduced to the room as players who have traveled the furthest, Texans Trey Newsome of Mt. Vernon and Derrick Hosmer of Mt. Pleasant say the trip from their homes, only about an hour drive from the Arkansas border, is completely worthwhile.
“We want to win the New Mexico state championship,” said Newsome, who was a state title winner in Texas this year and back in 2006.
The oldest contestants were also just introduced, but Hosmer is not one of them.
“There’s a few around here that are young too,” said the 21-year-old. “I feel a little out of place, but it’s fun.”
In fact, other than Hosmer and a 15-year-old as well as a couple of others, most are of the older set.
“They asked who was 20 and younger, and there were a bunch of liars,” said Mary Stockstill back at the scorer’s table. “I think they were closer to 80 than 20.”
Game four of the preliminary round has started and only four minutes remain before the timer goes off.
Portales resident Jolene Hale, 32, who is playing with her mother Cookie McGee, raised her hands to her face as she pores over the seven dominoes she has available to play.
It’s difficult to tell whether Hale is just concentrating or in actual anguish.
“I think I’m disgusted,” Hale said a few minutes later. “I don’t think we’re that serious though. This is the first time we’ve ever played in something like this.
“We’ve always played at home as a family,” she continued. “I saw a flier for this at my husband’s work and I thought my mom might enjoy coming.”
Darci Fisher, a 21-year-old from Austin, would probably be glad to hear about new players to the 42 game. Her fifth game with partner David Roberts, 41, of Fredericksburg, Texas is over early and she heads to the scorer’s table.
Wearing a “Austin 42 club” t-shirt, Roberts is currently a college student back in Texas. In a year, however, she’ll be moving with her husband to Oregon where she’ll enroll at Portland State University.
Raised in what could properly called the cradle of the 42 dominoes game, in central Texas, Roberts is naturally concerned about who she’ll be able to play with on the west coast.
Playing on-line is certainly an option, but Roberts is used to being able to play with in-person partners around three times a week in Austin.
“The first thing we’re gonna do is find two people and teach them how to play,” said Roberts, planning ahead for the move to Oregon. “When they start beating us, we’re gonna find two more.”