The Game

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I held my 3 cards firmly and a little cupped, so the 3 aces were out of view to the other players and the crowd of half-dressed GIs watching the game. It was Saturday evening in mid-October, and a poker game was the best entertainment available to our platoon. We were in the middle of basic training at Fort Ord. 

This was 1965, and we were still under restrictions due to the recent epidemic of spinal meningitis that occurred on the post. We were restricted to our platoon area and no contact with the other 4 platoons in the training company. These 39 other guys were my circle of friends for the duration of the 8 weeks of basic training.

I waited anxiously for my draw of two cards. There were 6 of us in this game. We probably had half the platoon watching, all in various states of dress and undress. Boxers were standard attire in the barracks in the evenings. Boxers and a tee-shirt were almost Sunday-go-to-meeting dress. There were a few guys still in their fatigues. I watched as the other players called for their cards. Only Tangerman, a younger kid, sitting across the makeshift table, a couple of footlockers pushed together, drew 2 cards.

I slowly picked up my 2 cards, one at a time. I turned the first card over and stuck it in my hand, a king.  I took a deep breath and picked up the next card. It was an ace. I am sitting here with 4 aces and a king, the only hand that can beat me is a straight flush. It is highly unlikely that Tangerman would draw 2 cards to a straight flush.

I watch as the bet goes around the table, one guy, to the right of the dealer, bets, then Tangerman raises. The next guy folds, the next guy sees the bet. I am trying to decide if I want to raise now. The rules of this game say we are limited to two raises. All of us playing are in the same boat. We need some money to last until payday. We have tried to construct a game that will be fun but where nobody will be hurt. I go ahead and raise the bet.

The group of guys behind Tangerman is excited, which means he hit his draw. The dealer folds, as does the next guy. So there are 3 of us still in the hand and my guess the other guy will fold. 

Then Tangerman makes a fatal error in judgment. He asks if we can suspend the rules. Could it be that he has a straight flush? I can’t believe that. 

I agree. “Bet away,” I say.

Tangerman raises my bet again. The third guy folds. There are a few guys behind me now, wanting to see my hand. I see Tangerman’s bet, and I raise him back. I relax a little and show my hand to the guys behind me. Both groups of guys are going crazy now. There is enough tension in the platoon that you could cut it with a knife. Virtually the entire platoon is watching the game now. Tangerman’s group has more than 20 guys, more than mine, and much more vocal. 

Tangerman sees my bet and only has a few dollars left in front of him. He fingers his dollars as he considers his final raise.

“We have over a week before payday,” I say, “you might want to hang onto a few dollars.”

Tangerman looks at the pot, there must be close to $30.00 in the pot, a half months pay for us. He looks at his remaining $3.00.

“Okay, I call you,” he says.

With a sigh, I lay my cards on the table. Tangerman’s group erupts in a colossal moan.

“Damn,” Tangerman says as he lays his hand on the table. Four queens and a king.

The game is over after that. Tangerman is tapped out, and there is no way the excitement can be matched. I scrape in the pile of bills.

Everyone is dispersing to their bunk area, and as we are repositioning all the footlockers, I grab Tangerman by his elbow.

“If you run short before payday, you let me know,” I say. “This game wasn’t supposed to leave anybody broke.”

“Thanks,” he says. 

That is the only poker game I played in the Army. After basic training, there was either too much work to do or too much fun to be had elsewhere. 

Much later in life, in Sweet Home, I would play an occasional friendly game with a group of guys. Most games were casual, everybody had more money to lose than the guys had during basic training, but is more of a social gathering than a serious card game.

I had been playing in a weekly group with 5 or 6 guys for a couple of months. I considered myself lucky if I broke even, I think once or twice I came home with an extra $20.00, but never anything more than that. Usually, the host would have some finger food on the table, and there was maybe a beer or two on the table.

I got a call one afternoon to castrate and a group of young bulls. This was a purebred Black Angus herd, and this was a group of 12 young bulls who didn’t make the grade for the bull sale. These bulls were all approaching a year of age, or they were just over a year.

This was a pretty routine call, but the candidates for bedroom guards were a little older than the usual crowd. 

The first bull was waiting in the chute when we pulled up to the corral. I used my standard castration technique. I had Helen put pull the tail up over the back to create a good tail pinch on the spinal nerves. I would grasp the scrotum above the testicles and squeeze the testicles into the bottom of the scrotum. I would make a quick incision down each side of the scrotum and squeeze the testicles out of the scrotum. I would grab each testicle and stretch them down until I could feel the cremaster muscle tear. That done, with a clamp on the cord above the testicle, I would remove the testicle with the emasculator, holding firm pressure on the emasculator to ensure a solid crush on the vessels. In small bulls, I would remove both testicles together. Bulls this size, I removed each testicle individually.

With the first set of testicles in my hand, I looked at Debbie.

“Do you want these,” I asked.

“Are you kidding,” she said.

“I don’t know, they tell me they are pretty good eating,” I said.

“If you want them, you are welcome to them.”

“Helen, grab me a few OB sleeves,” I said. “I happen to have a poker game tomorrow evening. These might make pretty good hors d’oeuvres”.

We worked through the remaining bulls similarly. By the time I was done, both OB sleeves were full of prime testicles. I tied the sleeves at the top, and we packed up our stuff.

“You will find that they will all be singing soprano from now on,” I said. “Thanks for the leftovers.”

I had no recipe to follow in cooking these things. I figured I would just imagine the end product and work backward. These were probably a little larger testicles than what one might see in a bar in Colorado. Mountain Oysters were a fall delicacy in many Rocky Mountain areas. Each testicle was over 3 inches long and approaching 2 inches in diameter.

I removed the loose tunic from each testicle, and then with a sharp knife, I sliced the epididymis from the testicles. I then sliced them into rounds, about the thickness one would slice a potato for frying.

With them all sliced, I dipped them in milk, dredged them through a beaten egg, and then flour. Then, each round was fried to a golden brown. Sandy always says I cook things with too high of a temperature, so I was careful to use medium heat. I little salt and pepper finished the process.

When they came out of the frying pan, I let them cool on paper towels and then carefully stacked them on a platter. When finished, it was a pretty impressive plate of mountain oysters, if I do say so myself. I covered them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator overnight.

I took the platter to the office the next day because I was going to be at the clinic until I left for the poker game. The girls in the office were impressed with the appearance of the platter and wanted to taste one.

Helen took a bite and immediately ran to the bathroom. She was embarrassed when she came back. When she bit into the sample, she had gotten a small tubule stuck between her teeth. Needless to say, that ended the sampling at the office.

I arrived early at the poker game, but there were a couple of guys there already. I sat the platter on the table, a little off-center but where it was within reach of everybody. I removed the wrap and didn’t say anything about it.

The group arrived, and we settled into the game. As the evening wore on, guys started picking away at the platter. It wasn’t long, and the plate was nearly empty.

“What are these things?” Jerry finally asked, holding up one of the rounds. “They are pretty good. Who brought them?”

I never said a word and worked hard to maintain my best poker face.

Finally, Gil chuckled and pointed to me. “Larsen brought them,” he said as he continued to laugh.

Of course, the whole table thought they were poisoned for sure.

I quickly fessed up to the truth, “They are just Mountain Oysters. And they are as fresh as you can get anywhere.”

Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

2 thoughts on “The Game

  1. I enjoyed both stories. Wow, what are the odds of the poker game? The castration scene reminded me of my dad castrating pigs, when we lived in Iowa. We has a Saint Bernard/German Shepard mix dog. Dad would signal it to catch a pig in the lot. Dad would castrate it while the dog hung on. He would then wait for his testicle treat. I still have dad’s castration knife. It looks similar to the Army’s took box pocket knife. It has one regular blade and one hook blade.


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