Corn Hole: The Game


I took about 300 pictures last week on my trip to Chicago and northeastern Ohio. I have a fantasy of editing that down to a couple dozen for a little travelogue. I have the same idea for piles of pictures taken last August and for various trips and events going back three or four years.

While waiting for the dream to become reality, here’s just one from Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. It’s a little resort town on Lake Erie, about 50 miles east of Cleveland (and just west of Ashtabula). The place is a mix. There is the faintest undercurrent of something sort of upscale trying to happen there–some fancier housing, some motels cleaning up their act, even a half-decent coffee shop with free WiFi. But the bread-and-butter going back to the 1920s, judging from the dates on some of the businesses, including one (vintage 1924) that claims to be the oldest continuously operating miniature golf course in the world, is catering to middle class and working class families escaping Cleveland and Pittsburgh and other old industrial towns. One form that focus takes today is the welcome extended to bikers, by which I mean Harley-riding hordes. My brother and his family were in town the Saturday night before last, and they said the town was absolutely packed with bikers and folks cruising up and down the main drag. And yes, there were lots of families with kids at the sidewalk burger and barbecue stands and arcades, too.

We got into town on the Sunday after the crowd descended. The town was already winding down for what everyone told me was the typical quiet period between weekends. John had pointed out the coffee shop, Gail’s Coffee Cafe, and early Monday I strolled up the deserted strip from the cottage my sister Ann rented to get caffeine for the two of us. Then I encountered the sign above.

“Play Corn Hole Game Here.”

OK, wait a minute. Where I come from, cornhole has a distinctively pejorative connotation to it. And it’s not just me: Here’s what the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary has to say about it:

cornhole: to perform anal intercourse with : BUGGER — usually considered vulgar.

That, however, is not how bean bag tossers in northeaster Ohio (and elsewhere: check out the search results for “cornhole” on Google. There’s even an American Cornhole Organization, “the governing body for the sport of cornhole.” The ACO site includes a link to a Wall Street Journal story from last summer (“More People Give This Game a Toss, Corny as It May Be“) which both mentions the delicate matter of the name and notes that the game is spreading (like a mysterious rash?) across the nation’s midsection. (Oh, yes: Chicago’s on the cornhole map, too).

So I’m late to the cornhole game. That doesn’t mean I’m above learning about it, though. Later Monday, someone had set up a cornhole game–which consists of two boards, each with one 8-inch hole, placed at the ends of a roughly 25-foot long court; the object is to pitch your four corn-filled bags and get them in the hole–in the driveway at our cottage. Ann, my niece Ingrid and I tried it out. We were so good at it that soon we found it more amusing to throw the bags at each other (Ann and Ingrid were actually pretty good; me–too much force and impatience). Later, I saw the family staying in the next cottage over playing the game. Mom, dad, and a son (maybe 14) and daughter (10). It was a cut-throat game, and it turned out the mom was the ace of the group. As my sister said, they were probably appalled at the way we cheapened their game.


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