One Labor Day several years ago, Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman -- now the mayor of Oak Creek -- had a yard sale.
She was selling a couch, among other items, said Oak Creek resident Mary Deppe.
Rodeman, Deppe and several other friends sat on that couch and played the "May I" card game until the couch was bought, then told the buyer to wait until the hours-long game ended.
"It is kind of addictive," Deppe said.
Before and since that Labor Day, a core group of half a dozen or so friends have kept the "May I" tradition going. Though many have moved away to other cities and states, whenever the friends can get back together again, they play.
In early November, they met in Denver for a reunion game, bringing the "Championship Cup," a tradition they started in 2000. Whoever wins the game gets his or her name inscribed on the cup, which is really a vase that the friends found at Rodeman's house, and then the other players can challenge the holder of the cup.
Rodeman has her name once on the cup, as does another player, Peggy. Deppe, the current owner of the cup, has her name on there twice. Claudia Marlowe is the current front-runner, with her name on the cup three times.
The cup holds card decks and pens for playing.
"It's kind of like the Stanley Cup with hockey," Deppe said. "(The group) wanted to change it to the 'May I vase,' and I said, 'No, that doesn't work because it's the cup.'"
The friends started playing in the late 1980s.
They would get together, usually bringing their kids along to watch or to join in. They would devote at least two hours to the game.
In the late 1990s, the games switched to the night hours, and sometimes the friends played several games, staying up until 3 a.m. to finish.
The game is similar to a progressive rummy. Several decks are used and at least three people are needed to play. Every hand changes and each is harder. Jokers are wild.
Whoever gets rid of their cards first is the winner. The fewer points, the better.
There are multiple rules, so when someone is learning to play, the person invariably thinks rules are being made up, when instead, additional rules are being introduced through the game, Deppe said.
The "May I" part comes in when someone throws down a card that a player down the line wants. When that happens, the player who wants the card says "May I."
Getting the card also means getting two penalties, not a hefty price for a card that can win the game. But the trick is that every player ahead in line has to allow the taking.
"It gets more serious toward the end because it gets tougher," Deppe said.
She remembers a game when she had 0 points, the best score possible, when she went into the last hand.
"So then it was 'get Mary,' and so I lost," Deppe said. "We do that to each other. It's part of the game."
Marlowe has since moved to Texas and doesn't get to play "May I" often. She doesn't want to without her friends.
"Oak Creek holds a very special place in (our) hearts, so that's something that would be very hard to re-create with anyone else," Marlowe said.
In Oak Creek, there's talk of other residents organizing monthly games.
The core "May I" group has no plans to quit their games, Deppe said. The next stop might be Marlowe's home in Texas, or at least the next Labor Day in Oak Creek.
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