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On a sunny November afternoon, women began arriving at a Vine Grove residence, exchanging warm hugs and wide smiles, much the way some of them have done for the past 40 years.
The 12 women gather the third Friday each month at each other’s homes to play bunco, but the gatherings mean so much more to the women, giving them a chance to catch up with each others’ lives.
The bunco group was formed sometime after Audrey Durbin of Radcliff and a cousin experienced the loss of their husbands within six days of each other.
“We decided we needed something to do to pass the time,” she said.
Since October 1972, Durbin has met with 11 other women once a month to play the dice game. Durbin’s cousin, Kathryn Pierce White, has since passed away, like other members of the group, leaving Durbin, Elizabeth Ann Whelan and Jane Hikok the only original members.
Whelan enjoys the social aspect of the gathering and the friendships she has made, among other things.
“It gets me out of the house,” she said.
Through the years, others have joined the group when members have been lost. When a member cannot attend a monthly game — such as was the case for Hikok for November’s gathering — substitutes are called in.
“I substituted for a while, and then another lady passed away, and I took her place,” Rita Vessels said.
Vessels is one of the newer members of the group, having only played with them for about a year.
“It’s a good get out with the ladies,” said Betty Jones, a substitute player. “Whether you win or lose, you still have fun.”
Each member of the group drew a month to host and is responsible for hosting the gathering the same month each year.
For November, Martha Baughman hosted the game in her Vine Grove home. She has been part of the group for about five years.
“I always anticipate it from month to month,” Baughman said.
As the host, Baughman prepared three tables for the three groups of four to play and refreshments for afterward. Players contribute $2 each to help pay for prizes.
The object of bunco is to accumulate the most wins or buncos after a certain number of games.
A bunco is the roll of three dice that results in three of the same number, which changes with each round. For example, the game starts out with players trying to roll ones.
Luck is a huge factor in the game, and players acknowledged that aspect is unpredictable.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” Pauline Brangers said of her luck during the game. “Back and forth, back and forth.”
“There’s times I win two or three months, and there’s times I’ll lose for five months,” Whelan said.
The players roll the dice using a variety of techniques. Some roll with a sweeping underhand while others use a two-palm rub and drop.
At the November gathering, the round began when someone at the head table rang a hand bell.
Shortly afterward Evelyn Russell shouted “bunco.” She follows that with another bunco the next round.
“For me, it’s very unusual,” Russell said of the feat.
The players moved from table to table, depending on whether they won or lost. They kept track of their wins, losses and the number of buncos they made because prizes were awarded after all games were finished, including prizes for most losses.
But the gathering, as Whelan observed, isn’t so much about prizes or the game itself, though all admit they enjoy those aspects.
It’s the “getting together” that appeals to members like Linda Johnson.
“We always have fun,” she said.
“I love bunco,” said Nan Filburn, a substitute player. “It’s fun, and it’s not a lot of concentration, and you can still enjoy camaraderie.”
“It’s a no-brainer,” substitute player Carolyn Canaday said of game play.
The play can get intense at times, Pat Billings and others said. But it doesn’t get hostile by any means.
“We don’t always laugh,” Billings said.
“But we’ve never gotten mad at each other,” Whelan interjected.
“We come back next month,” Trudy Caines concluded.
Caines credited the gatherings with more than just fun and socializing.
“If you keep in close contact with your friends, you live longer,” she said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.