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Shooter's Cry Linked to Texas Servicemen

14 April 2006

I thought you might enjoy a break from evaluating percentages of expected return, cash back, promotions and other casino rewards, so I decided to add to my list of favorite slang overheard at the craps tables.

Toward the end of last year, a reader sent me the link to an article written by Leon Hale of The Houston Chronicle. Having grown up in Houston, I remembered Mr. Hale as a reporter who had written for the old original Houston Press before The Houston Chronicle bought it in the late 1950s. He often told stories that imparted the cultural flavor of the deep piney woods of East Texas, much as Kat Bergeron does for Mississippi in her Sense of Place column for the Biloxi Sun Herald.

The particular Hale article that I have in front of me tells how he remembered, as a young soldier in World War II, watching craps games in Italy. When shooters were trying to make a point number of 10, those trying to help him would coax the dice by yelling out "Tennyhaw, Timpson, Bobo and Blair."

Tenaha (often pronounced "Tennyhaw"), Timpson, Bobo and Blair are small local towns along the old Houston, East and West Texas Railway. Regular passengers on that line are used to hearing those stops called out in that order, but Hale recalls that these players were from Pennsylvania and New York and likely had never been to Texas. Yet it was one of the most common crapshooter cries that Hale heard during World War II, and he often wondered about its origin.

Years later, while traveling in Shelby County deep in East Texas, Hale talked to R.R. Morrison, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and heard the only version he's ever heard of how the "Tennyhaw, Timpson, Bobo and Blair" crapshooter cry came to be.

Morrison had been commanding officer of Company B, 3rd Texas Infantry of the National Guard. The boys in the outfit were shipped together from Shelby County to France during World War I, but just before being shipped out, some of the soldiers got into a craps game. One was trying to make his 10 point and yelled "Tennyhaw!"

Another soldier from the unit, betting on the shooter, yelled "Timpson!" Others, used to hearing these names, called "Bobo" and "Blair."

Hale wrote, "Morrison told me that the Tennyhaw cry went overseas with his company and fell on fertile ground. It spread, big time, among dice players who'd never been to Texas."

Hale bets that Texas is home to another popular craps term. When a shooter is trying to make the point of 8, he'll call, "Eighter from Decatur." Decatur is the county seat of Wise County, north of Forth Worth.

Rhyme and alliteration; that's what both these examples of dice lingo share. As Hale wrote, dice shooters seem to love the pleasing way certain phrases roll off the tongue.

One reader put it another way. "My favorite expression was a very simple one, when I took the dice at Circus Circus in Reno a few years ago and bet $1 on Don't Pass. The stickman had a great chatter/patter going. Said 'Shooter on the Dark Side, says he won't!' I was pretty new with losing money at dice then and thought it was very rhythmic!

"I think the cadence is the important part, kind of a poetic beat to what he says. Doesn't really matter what it is, just so the sound of it is lulling to the senses."

Rhythm and cadence. I wish I had thought of those words.

Until next week, dice be nice.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com