No monsters needed for Monster Croquet
I don’t know which year it was that we first played croquet at the barbecue, but I have photos of matches going back at least to 1996. That first time we were using an old set that had belonged to Auntie’s family on a yard that wasn’t flat. Like a typical Seattle-area lawn in the summer (when almost no one waters their lawn in the summer), there were odd patches of brown grass, and so forth. So most of the challenge of the game was the uneven ground and turf causes the balls to bounce, and take weird turns, or just go rolling down a hill.
Someone said it wasn’t a croquet match, but a monster croquet match. And the name stuck.
Over the years we’ve evolved a set of odd rules. David constructed a set of wooden wickets with large, easily-read numbers. We got in the habit of multiple people bringing croquet sets so there are enough mallets and balls for however many want to play.
Each year the course is different, and we take pains to make parts of the course treacherous. The uneven terrain and such proves to be a great leveler, so one’s skill level is often less important than luck. Which adds to the fun.
Sometimes the course if very different. When Julie (also known as “Julie with an e”) and Mike (also known as “Julie’s Mike”) hosted it at their new home a few years ago we knew it would be a challenge. Julie & Mike’s yard consists of an ornamental pebble stream bed, several decks, a couple of curved wooden bridges, various ornamental plants, and no grass. So we got a Nerf Croquet set and made the course go over the bridges and around the decks.
When Keith and Juli (also known as “Juli sans e”) first bought their house some years earlier, the backyard was devoid of any vegetation and was all slope. We thought that was perfect for treacherousness! But after many, many hours of grueling play, when no one had made it even halfway through the course, and the sun was setting, we realized it was too treacherous. We were debating calling the game because of darkness, when my godson (who was, I think, six at the time) finally went through the pair of wickets at the turn-around point. When he hit the turn-around stick, we unanimously declared him the winner, grateful that we could finally stop. We have often referred to that year’s match as the Death March Croquet Game.The rules have always been somewhat ad hoc, based on an aggragate of the collective memory of childhood croquet games, with an evolving set of modifications. Some years ago someone requested a rules reference, so Auntie and I created a rules booklet.
On the front page it says that the rules aren’t binding and can be modified midgame by consensus. Please note that consensus doesn’t mean majority vote, it means everyone has to agree. Usually the rules changes that hapen midgame are for weird situations that never come up again. Though the Notorious Incident of Wicket 12 on the Glacial Till is where we made the rule that if you miss a single wicket 12 times, you can then move on to the next as if you made it. Which we’ve since kept.
This last weekend was hosted at Juli-sans-e and Keith’s (I think this is the third time there), and having learned our lesson, we stuck to the front lawn. The wickets did a lot of criss-crossing and were not in order. And we had a pair the were several numbers apart, but physically next to each other at not quite right angles. We were starting to worry that we might have to call the game because of darkness, but everyone had made it to the turnaround and was more than halfway through, so it was nowhere near as bad as the Death March.
Then Chuck got back to the starting stake, becoming poison, and the race was on. I had been in last place for most of the game (I forgot to count, because no one expects trouble at the first wicket. But it took me a very long time to get through the first one), so I was the least threatening target. While Chuck was busy killing off everyone else, I did manage to get through three or four wickets. But I still got knocked out at the end.
It was a great way to spent a Saturday.