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From the Island - Games We Play: Hand And Foot



Hand and foot is a card game, not a disease as some might think. It's a game with lots of cards, lots of points, lots of laughs.

Betty and Leon Shellswick introduced the game when they retired to Washington Island in 2000. Friends had taught them the game earlier when they lived in Racine. In 2012 the Shellswicks still enjoy playing.

"We have a number of people we can call upon when we feel the urge to play," Betty explains with a smile. "We can almost always count on Dick and Sally Clancy to join us in a game."

The whole idea of hand and foot is to make "books" and go out – similar to canasta. The player or team with the highest score after four rounds wins. The game calls for one deck of cards for each player.

"That's 324 cards including jokers piled in the center of the table," exclaims Dick Clancy.

Needless to say, there is a lot of shuffling and a lot of dealing. Each player is dealt two hands of 11 cards – one "the hand," one "the foot." A player must finish the hand before picking up the foot.

"Thank goodness we don't hold all 22 cards at once," observes Sally Clancy. "That would be a handful!"

To make matters worse, at his turn a player must draw two cards and discard only one. That hand of 11 cards increases.

Hand and foot is also a game of points. It is not unusual for scores to be above 20,000 points at the end of the evening.

"We make points by making books, collecting red threes, going out," counts Betty. "This game has lots of points. Scorekeepers need to be good at addition!"

"And it is best to collect books with high point value," adds Leon Shellswick. "Books of jokers and deuces add up."

Betty Shellswick considers the game easier than bridge: "You can learn it in one night."

"But there is strategy," observes Leon. "It is good to be aware of book points and watch what opponents are throwing away."

The game of hand and foot usually involves supper followed by four rounds (of "hands" and "feet"). If six people play, the evening usually ends around 10 p.m. Over the years other players have joined the Shellswicks and Clancys: Joan Blair, the late Chuck Davis, Rich and Melissa Walker, Connie Sena, Jeannine Ronning, Marian Boniface, Jay and Betsy Ward, Dan Brandel and Joanne Jessen.

"Historically the girls' team has the best record," announces Betty with some pride. Husband Leon and Dick Clancy raise their eyebrows.

"It is a great way to spend an evening. Great food! Great fun!" counters Leon, getting in the last word.


Top photo:
Hand and foot players, from left, Sally Clancy, Betty Shellswick, Dick Clancy, Leon Shellswick and Melissa Walker.

Lower photo: Leon Shellswick's favorite card is the joker. Photos by Rich Walker

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