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Darrell Berkheimer: International friends via checkers

My spouse, Mary, is a checkers junkie. Yes, a checkers junkie.

She’s addicted to playing internet checkers with other checkers junkies — and not just from around the United States, but from around the world.

She gets online not long after she gets up in the morning — after perusing the morning newspaper.



First, she’ll check her email for what’s new. Then it’s off to the checkers website for the next hour or more. And she’s not to be disturbed from her position in the recliner where her laptop sits on the padded support cradled across her thighs.

If there’s a ring at the front door, or if her little cockapoo Annie is prancing and needs to go out, I’m the one expected to take care of those matters.



She has online friends that she plays with frequently — one daily and a couple weekly. Others she may not see online for months — such as Kevin, the dog-walker in Chicago, and a lady in South Africa who uses the name MagicWandy.

Occasionally she’ll send an email to Kevin, telling him when to meet her online.

Her favorite opponent is Phil in Alberta, Canada, who raises young chickens. He receives shipments of them as peeps and sends them off as broilers about 39 to 40 days later. She and Phil compete daily, and sometimes two and three times in one day.

Frequently her morning opponents keep her occupied so much so that her breakfast is delayed until nearly noon. Sometimes the only interruptions allowed are potty breaks.

Mary’s also an avid reader of books and magazines. She goes through a couple books every week. So much of her day is spent switching to and from checkers and reading.

Checkers competitors whom she catches only occasionally are located in Algeria, Italy, Malaysia, Australia and Scotland. She noted the one in Malaysia sent photos of his daughter. And she added she doesn’t like playing the one in Scotland too often “because he’s a much better player.”

Her other, more frequent opponents include Donnie on Prince Edward Island; Nancy in Lompoc, California; and “Carver Bob Hershey” in Lititz, Pennsylvania — an award-winning master caricature carver.

Mary reported her checkers playing began the summer when she was 13 years old. She said it became a daily competition with her dad when he got up from his afternoon nap. The naps provided him with the rest he needed as a result of beginning his predawn milk delivery route.

(I remember those days quite well — when refillable glass bottles of milk were delivered to the rear porch of my family’s Pennsylvania home. They were placed in a small, insulated box near the back door, from which the delivery man retrieved the empty bottles.)

After playing checkers with her dad every day that summer, Mary said she began thinking she was getting pretty good at it when she got to where she could beat her dad about one out of every three games.

Fast forward to 2010, when Mary retired from the U.S. Forest Service. Mary said it was shortly before then when she learned she could play internet checkers. And after retiring, she had time to do it during the day, not just in the evening.

It was also about that time when she first met Bob Hershey online — when he was beginning to win national awards for his caricature carvings.

After seeing some examples of his work, she commissioned him to do a Santa carving with her cockapoo Annie to give to her daughter, Caryl, as a Christmas gift.

Numerous photos of his award-winning pieces can be seen by anyone who does a search on “Master Carver Bob Hershey.” He teaches carving, and many clubs invite him to be a featured carver and judge at their annual competitions.

Checkers also led Mary to meet Donnie, a retired certified financial planner on Prince Edward Island, who bought a copy of my camping and travel book. And now she has Donnie and Phil playing with Carver Bob, too.

Recently Donnie and I have been exchanging emails, and Mary and I began planning a spring visit to Maine and Canada’s maritime provinces. After visiting Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine, we will drive through parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island.

I’m particularly interested in photographing an area of the Bay of Fundy, where the tide within a six-hour period can vary from low tide to as much as 50 feet or more higher at high tide.

At Burntcoat Head Park on the Nova Scotia (south) side of the bay, tide differences of 47 to 53 feet have been recorded. I hope to take photos somewhere near there — at low tide, and then again six hours later at high tide.

And if I can talk Mary into it, maybe she will agree to driving down to Pennsylvania to meet Carver Bob, too.

All this from Mary’s online checkers.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has eight books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com



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