Landcare EDH Blog: Day 11 – My Strategic Skills were learnt on Roller-Skates and at the Card Table

With Landcare and in other roles that I have had, strategies for approaching situations or projects are important. It is important to recognise that using strategies is not being manipulative or cunning, it is using a technique or process that will move something forward with the best possible outcome.

Some people have natural skills in this area and some of us had to develop them. Much of my strategic thinking was developed, surprisingly, at the various youth groups that I attended over the years. If you have read my earlier blog, you would know of this involvement….if you haven’t read my earlier blogs….go now….do it!

No fancy dome tents for us…

There were strategies required to put up a tent. Back in those days there were none of these fancy dome constructions that virtually put themselves up, with their fancy flies and you hammer them in. NOOO! We had to think about slopes and angles and pitching the tent so that if the tent touched the fly you had a hope in hell of getting out of there without total saturation.

You had to set out the poles before you even thought about sticking anything anywhere. You had to negotiate with your fellow occupants to establish which pole went where and just when you thought you had it all sorted, you realised that the door was facing the opposite way that you intended and pull it down and start again. The strategies developed through this experience to achieve our aim were priceless.

The next strategy that I developed over several years of disco roller-skating nights at Leeton were those that serve me well in the field and also during rowdy meetings. It was what I like to call the Duck and Weave move.

Bonfires….another source of skill building! Which side of the fire is best for toasting marshmallows…should I toast lightly or just charcoal the whole thing at once.

First you need to picture a massive hall with wooden floorboards, stage….the traditional hall set up. Winter evening, disco lights, the best of the early 80’s hits pumping out on the stereo…most of which I hadn’t heard on the ABC. We had a particularly clever musician and DJ whom I shall call Fast Ed. When Fast Ed got that music pumping and we were gliding around that hall on our roller skates like Olivia (that’s Olivia Newton-John kids….look it up), some of my best duck and weave moves were developed. I was a sight to behold. Pink leg warmers … yeah … you’ve got the picture. Xanadu……Xanadu-ooooo….

Don’t play Pictionary with sisters….they can read each other’s minds….

If you grew up in a town where most of summer was over 35 degrees, water fights were inevitable. I can remember several events at our home involving the youth group again and I wonder what on earth our neighbours must have thought! Wild children running around the yard, buckets and hoses and screaming! See….all strategy building techniques. Do I run for the house? Could I steal a bucket from someone who turned their back when they were filling it, dump the water on someone’s head and then run to the house and refill in the laundry? Should I just find another hose and take the lot of them out? All strategic thinking!

My other line of strategic thinking was developed at the card table. Actually, it was the kitchen table, but when we sat down to play, there was no room for food! Uno may have been played as a warm up game. Knowing when to deliver that strategic Draw Four was the key. If you could sneak a peak at your neighbours colours briefly, you knew what colour to call when they had one card left and you had unfortunately acquired ten. It is where I developed an appreciation of the difference between luck and good management. An important concept to gain as you grow.

Strategic thinking!

As the nights got bigger and noisier, we progressed to a game called Scopa (which we called Scorba) which was a wild way to fill an evening. We did not use traditional Italian cards, just a normal playing deck. I have long since forgotten how to play, but it was a lot of fun. I did just do a quick referral to Google….Scopa is one of the two major national card games in Italy. Cool! The name is an Italian noun meaning ‘broom’ since taking a scopa means ‘to sweep’ all the cards from the table….yeah! Picturing it with me now?

When we moved to Parkes, the game ‘Spoons’ was the go. It was also wild and loud….and you had to have nerves of steel, moves ‘like a tiger’ and if you weren’t the first person to sneak a spoon, you have to have the strength of Mahammad Ali to fight for your spoon. His description of ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’ fits the techniques required for this game perfectly…..all that strategical thinking happening and I didn’t even realise.

Over there years I have been referred to for my skills at the card table as….Cool Hand Marg….I did hear someone refer to me as old Hot Hands….but I don’t like to brag about it…we are all equal when we are at the table…

We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of players to enjoy these wild games with…and I am pleased to still call them friends, even though some of them live a long way away.

All of that….just so that I could think strategically…it was an exhausting and fun way to learn.

Find out more about Landcare NSW. My next blog is here.