The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Cornhole

(Please note: the following blog post was originally published in 2008, when I was clearly still on the sauce. Proceed with caution.) 

I love that my 9-year-old son is a Cub Scout… I do. He has a blast and it is always very wholesome, good clean fun, which I suspect is good for growing children. Soap carving, anyone?

But I have two problems with the whole Cub Scout camp-out thing.

1.) They have a very strict rule that no alcoholic beverages are allowed at camp.

2.) The other moms and dads are very nice. I mean VERY nice. Like the nicest people I have ever met.

In other words—I do not fit in there at all.

And being in the balmy, great outdoors around very nice, responsible parents and 30 loud little boys running amok with sharp sticks and pocket knives really makes me want to soothe myself with a cocktail or two.

But I muscled through the pain and managed to really enjoy myself, and there were a few high points that I’d like to share with you.

First, let’s talk about Cornhole.

Cornhole is a bean-bag tossing game that originated in Ohio. The board looks like this:

Seriously. I’m not making this up.

Apparently, people who play this game are very passionate about it. The dimensions of the board are strictly regulated, as are the bean-bags, the distance between the player and the board, the scoring, etc. However, I had never heard of this “game” until Cub Scout Family Camp when one of the dads asked me “if I wanted to play Cornhole” with him and I almost crapped my pants.

“Excuse me?” I stuttered.

At which point he tossed me a bag of dried corn, pointed to the game board on the ground, and taught me how to play. And you know what? It was really, really fun! But I was DYING, y’all. Because I couldn’t control myself and made a snide crack about how I had never heard the term “Cornhole” outside of the prison movies I so enjoy watching and HE TOTALLY DIDN’T GET IT. He cocked his head to the side and made a “Huh?” face and I quickly realized that I should probably not attempt to joke around with Cub Scout Dads about anything remotely related to S-E-X, prison style or otherwise. These dads are very nice. And very straight. And to some of them, Cornhole is no laughing matter.

But thank God for my husband. As soon as I finished my Cornholing session with Mr. Ohio, I ran as fast as my stumps could carry me to tell my man about the game and we giggled until our faces hurt. We don’t do that very often—my husband is actually one of those Nice Cub Scout Dads—but luckily for me, I must have rubbed off on him a bit (wink wink) because he does appreciate a good dirty joke from time to time. Not often enough, I say, but we’re working on it. I’ll keep rubbing.

So one more really funny thing to share, if you don’t mind.

The Scoutmaster organized an “Iron Chef” competition between the campers. The kids were divided up into three teams, given access to a pantry of processed foods, and taught various outdoor camp cooking methods, one of which is the Dutch Oven. Honestly, I should force my son to stay in Scouts just for the material.

After the cooking demonstration, the three teams were each assigned a secret ingredient to incorporate into their dishes. My team’s secret ingredient was popcorn. Now, I was just lurking on the edge of the group, having to follow my 19-month-old son, Bucket Head, around and make sure he didn’t wander off and get eaten by a bear, so I wasn’t really helping the kids choose the menu. But watching these other nice nice moms and dads strategize was fascinating.

The main rule of this contest was that the kids had to do all the cooking—the parents could only supervise and control the cooking fuel. But when I learned that my group was stumped about how to use the popcorn in their dish, I just had to butt-in. They had just settled on a simple trail mix of popcorn and nuts when I sidled up to one of the more assertive moms and asked her if we had access to marshmallows and butter. I then planted the seed in her head that if we made popcorn balls out of the popcorn, it would be a real crowd pleaser and something that the kids would have fun making. Wouldn’t you know it? That nice mom hopped on my idea faster than an Ohioan on a stiff ear of corn.

Now, I’m not used to being listened to by anyone other than my team of well-compensated, highly skilled psychiatrists, so suddenly being thrust into the mix of an Iron Chef competition with a team of eager scouts and parents reporting to me was quite the power trip. Suddenly, Bucket Head was fending for himself and I was melting butter and marshmallows in a Dutch Oven, fixin’ to lead my team to victory. You know that phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”? Well, imagine the extra chaos of an outdoor camp style kitchen with propane fueled burners and a very enthusiastic team of very competitive nice nice parents and their 6-year-old sons. It was mayhem. But the popcorn balls were my idea and I was not going to let my team down, dammit!

Well we oiled up the hands of these seven little kids, and I gotta tell you, I don’t think their hands were all that clean. But rules are rules and we had an Iron Chef style ticking clock to beat, so we greased ’em up and let them dig into the pot and grab handfulls of gooey popcorn and mold them into balls. It was messy. It was sticky. It was germy. But it was really cool.

Thank GOD it worked.  Just look at my glistening balls. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Fast forward to the judging. My husband, who has a talent for garnishing, helped the boys plate up the other dishes and deliver them to the judges with those germy popcorn balls decorating each plate like something you’d see in a real restaurant—and I’m talkin’ about a classy joint like Cracker Barrel.

You should have heard the “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” from the judges and other campers. The popcorn balls were a HUGE hit. In fact, the lead judge exclaimed that he hadn’t eaten an old-fashioned popcorn ball since he was a child and the nostalgia of it really touched his heart. Yep, those germy sweet and salty balls o’ mine won our team first place! The nice nice scout leaders even recognized me by name in the award ceremony; it may be one of my proudest moments. (Note to self: never underestimate the power of balls, and also, I really need to get out more.)

© 2008 The Bearded Iris

6 Comments

  1. Will you just look at that picture of the corn on the Corn Hole board… Isn’t it just screaming ‘meat and two veg” with the leaves either side? Of course the corn hole itself is going to be nearby… “just around the corner”.

    As for ‘pick a finger, any finger’… you make me laugh!

  2. Yeah, there’s one of these touring fairs in rural England except it’s called “Sod. Oh My!”

  3. I love cornhole. We have a set! Though not with flagrant corn painted on it. When I needed to look up the specs for making the bags, my friend stressed “don’t search cornhole, you have to type cornhole the game” I forgot once. Now that would make those Scout Dads blush…

  4. Oh you three are killing me!!! Rolling. On. The. Floor. Laughing. “Meat and two veg” with the “hole just around the corner?” Perfect. Such a way with words NDM. “Sod. Oh My!” … oh you dirty dirty man, MM! (Love it!) And “I love cornhole!”…Brigid…oh honey…does your husband know that? So funny about how to search for it on the Internet! Mmmmm, blushing Scout Dads. Now that’s HOT!

  5. I work for a really big Fortune 500 company and on a recent work “team-building” event in Virginia we played Cornhole. Like you, I couldn’t believe it at first, but then I just spent the rest of the time snickering to myself. I had to hold all the jokes in until I called my husband that night. Talk about torture. You haven’t lived until you’ve played Cornhole with a bunch of accountants and engineers from all over the world. The hilarity never ends.

  6. came to OH from NY…I, too, had never heard of Cornhole and “tittered” at the name! Still have trouble saying it to friends back home…

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