Old game to a new world
Czech immigrants brought the ancient game of Tarok to Central Texas in the 1800s. It's still played in Temple and at tournaments across the state.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2021
“When I wasn’t doing my chores or hunting squirrels, I was playing the game. We didn’t have television back then — we made our own entertainment.”
A group of Tarok players study their hands during a friendly game at the Czech Heritage Museum and Genealogy Center on Tuesday night.
Tarok keeps Czech heritage alive
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple exclusive
A card game that originated in 14th century Italy is still alive in the Central Texas Czech community. But, players worry that interest in the ancient game of Tarok is fading.
The trick-taking game similar to spades or hearts is still played for fun and at the tournament level, but organizers of a twice-a-month Temple game say young people are not learning how to play.
Tarok is part of life for a group that meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at Temple’s Czech Heritage Museum and Genealogy Center, 119 W. French.
“It’s very much a thinking game,” said Carolyn Coufal, one of the group’s organizers. “It’s very challenging, and it’s good for your mind.”
Carolyn and her husband, Jimmy, not only play the game, they also teach newcomers skills needed to compete.
“We regularly had 16 players until COVID,” she said. “Four people play at a table, and we always had four tables going. Now we usually have about 12 players.”
Carolyn learned the game years ago after meeting Jimmy, and he has played Tarok most of his life.
“I was 8 or 9 when I learned,” he said Tuesday night. “I remember it was a cold, snowy day, and we had to stay inside. My older brother sat us down and taught us to play.”
From that day, the Coufal family has played a lot of Tarok.
“When I wasn’t doing my chores or hunting squirrels, I was playing the game,” said Jimmy, who grew up in the Oscar area. “We didn’t have television — we made our own entertainment.”
Over the years, Tarok has become more than just entertainment. Jimmy frequently competes in “seriously competitive” tournaments around the state. And, he has had a great deal of success.
“I’ve placed in the top four 40 times, and I’m the second-winningest player in the state,” he said. Finishing in the top four guarantees a trophy and sometimes a cash prize. It’s serious business.
His next tournament is at West Fest in early September.
“The game will eventually fade,” Jimmy said. “It’s a shame. Fifteen years ago, every SPJST hall had a Tarok tournament. We would have 110 or more players at the Seaton tournament. It was very popular. Unfortunately, very few young people are getting involved. That’s sad because it is part of our heritage.”
While Jimmy and Carolyn are long-time players, some of the Tuesday night gang are relatively new to the game.
“I started about 3 years ago,” said Dan Stepan of Temple. “I wanted to learn a new game, and I had heard about Tarok so I decided to give it a try. I had been a domino player.”
Stepan is now a regular member of the group.
Kenny Lange, an employee of the Czech Heritage Museum and Genealogy Center, said the museum has been hosting the gatherings for about five years. To expand the game’s popularity, Carolyn and Jimmy were brought in to share their Tarok skills.
While the game originated in Italy, versions spread across Europe to Austria, Germany, France and other regions. When Czech immigrants came to Texas in the 1800s, Tarok tagged along and became part of Lone Star heritage.
Described as the “Game of Kings,” Tarok requires immense concentration and with 22 trumps available, it is good for training the brain.
A typical deck contains 54 cards, including face-card suits of spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs. But there are also Roman numeral cards from 1 to 21, and a card called a Skyz. And, the face cards are a bit different from a deck of poker-style playing cards.
There’s a King and Queen, and they are worth five and four points respectively, Jimmy said. There are two other face cards — a Knight and a Page.
“The Knight is worth three points and the Page only two,” he explained. “The Knight has a horse, so he is worth more.”
Thanks for the clarification, Jimmy!
One of the many confusing aspects of the game involves partners. Apparently, Taroks is a partner game but you don’t always have the same partner.
“There’s a Roman numeral 19 card,” Jimmy said. “Whoever draws the 19 selects their partner, but the other players don’t always know who it is.”
Well, there it is — clear as mud. Wanna know more about Tarok?
Contact Kenny at the museum and make arrangements to join the fun.
Jimmy Coufal stands next to a Tarok card display at Temple’s Czech Heritage Museum and Genealogy Center, 119 W. French. Jimmy and his wife, Carolyn, teach and play the game on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
“This is our third year to hold the tournament, and proceeds go to graduating seniors. The first year, we gave four $1,000 cash awards, and the second year we presented seven. This year, our goal is 10.”
Memorial bass tourney honors Academy teen
Our Town Temple
The third annual Anglers for Aiden Memorial Bass Tournament will help 10 seniors in Bell County plan for their future.
The tournament is held in honor of Aiden Martin, a 14-year-old whose life was cut short Sept. 18, 2018, following a four-wheeler accident near Academy.
According to event organizer J.P. Brazeal, a friend of Aiden’s family, the bass tournament will be Saturday, August 28, at Lake Belton’s Cedar Ridge Sunset Pavilion.
Entry is $125 per team, and there will be a guaranteed $1,000 pay day for first place. The biggest bass will pay $500 and the largest smallmouth will be worth $300.
“There will be a free fish fry and adult drinks to registered participants,” Brazeal said.
Pre-registration will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, August 27, at Sunset Pavilion. Registration on tourney day will be at 5 a.m. All contestants must check in at tournament headquarters Saturday morning, Brazeal said.
“This is our third year to hold the tournament, and proceeds go to graduating seniors,” he said. “The first year, we gave four $1,000 cash awards, and the second year we presented seven. This year, our goal is 10.”
Brazeal said all Bell County seniors are eligible for the cash awards. The money can be used for college, vocational school or for whatever the student desires, Brazeal said.
“Schools give us recommendations, and a committee makes the decisions,” he said. “We are looking for kids with similar interests to Aiden. We are not necessarily looking for the best scholars or athletes, but kids who give 110 percent.”
“Aiden was always helpful to the elderly and those who needed a hand,” Brazeal said. “With this tournament, he is still helping others.”
For additional information, call Brazeal at (254) 760-9028.
What’s happening, Temple?
August 20, Friday - Family Night at Summer Fun Water Park. 7 p.m.
August 20, Friday - Coffee with a Cop, Bella Blue Cafe, 7-10 a.m.
August 20, Friday - Clint Walker Blues Band, O’Briens Irish Pub. 9 p.m.
August 20, Friday - Bell County Kennel Club, Bell County Expo
August 21, Saturday - 35 South, Bo’s Barn Dance Hall, 9 p.m.
August 21, Saturday - Lone Star Gun Show, Bell County Expo Assembly Hall, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
August 21, Saturday - Bell County Kennel Club, Bell County Expo.
August 21, Saturday - PetVet at Tractor Supply Co., Community clinics provide affordable, convenient walk-in veterinary services. 9:30 a.m.
August 21, Saturday - Bob Schneider, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
August 21, Saturday - Ethan Smith & Dirt Road Rebellion, O’Briens Irish Pub, 9 p.m.
August 21, Saturday - Temple Park & Recreation’s Touch a Truck. Climb on a fire truck or big rig at Reuben D. Talasek Bend of the River. 9 a.m.
August 22, Sunday - Lone Star Gun Show, Bell County Expo Assembly Hall, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
August 25, Wednesday - Open Mic Comedy, Corkey’s, 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - 13th Chamber Golf Classic Powered by Amos Electric. Wildflower Country Club. 11:30 registration and lunch, 1 p.m. shotgun start.
August 27, Friday - Craig Howell with Somewhere in Texas. Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Megan Brucker & Charles Edward Ott, O’Briens Irish Pub. 9 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - People’s Choice, Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 9 p.m.
September 2, Thursday - Central Texas State Fair, Bell County Expo Center. Wade Bowen. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 3, Friday - Central Texas State Fair, Pat Green. Twisted Metal Mayhem Derby. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 4, Saturday - Central Texas State Fair, Flatland Calvary, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 5, Sunday - Central Texas State Fair, Aaron Watson, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 11, Saturday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Pink Fishing’s Reeling in the Cure, 6th annual bass tournament. Proceeds benefit breast cancer patients and cancer research. Cedar Ridge Park. 6 a.m. Call (254) 681-0102 for details.
September 11, Saturday - 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb & Ceremony. Wildcat Stadium. 7-11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 12, Sunday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 12, Sunday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - Harvest Celebration. Bring your family and friends to enjoy grape stomping, food trucks, music, and wine. This is a ticketed event. 3 Texans Winery. 6 p.m.
September 18, Saturday - Dale Watson, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - TLC’s Celebration of Crazy, Sexy Cool with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Bell County Expo Center. 7:30 p.m.
October 8, Friday - Painting with a Twist, 3 Texans Winery. 6:30 p.m.
October 9, Saturday - Shinyribs, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 6, Saturday - Chris Hillman, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 13, Saturday - Market in the Vines. Take a walk through the vines and shop with over 50 vendors! Free to the public. 3 Texans Winery. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have an event you would like to promote? Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com with “What’s Happening” in the subject line. Keep it short and sweet — what, when and where. You may include a short description. You must include a phone number for verification purposes. The phone number will not be published unless requested by submitter.
Our Town Classifieds
REMODELING KITCHEN AND MUST SELL KItchenAid Dishwasher. It is in great shape. $100. (254) 913-8309.
HAVING A GARAGE SALE? Let your friends know with an Our Town classified.
HEY, REAL ESTATE AGENTS — Here’s a perfect place for your newest listing!
SELLING YOUR CAR? Post it right here!
BIG MEDICINE BALL — 40-pound soft-sided Rage Fitness medicine ball. Great for Atlas drills. Like new. $40. (254) 624-4010
MAKE GREAT SMOOTHIES — Vitamin. Great condition. Comes with two pitchers. Also great for salsas. $200. (254) 624-4010
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING? HAVE SOMETHING TO SELL? List it here!
PLYO BOX: Soft-sided, 20x24x30 plyometric box. Great condition. $40. (254) 624-4010
Subscribers get FREE classifieds up to 25 words. Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com
Our Town Deals
FREE COFFEE WITH PURCHASE OF ANY BREAKFAST ITEM — Easy As Pie, 1217 S 1st St A, Temple.
To list your business in Our Town Deals, call (254) 624-4010