Curling Is A Game
I ADMIRE the Scotch. They are a great and hospitable people, and they invented the game of curling. I do not believe the base calumny that curling was invented by the Dutch or the Lithuanians. No, indeed. Curling was invented by the Scotch. No other people would dream of inventing a game like curling. No other people would have the infernal nerve to dream of curling. I should say not! I know. 1 am a novice curler. I am not Scotch.
Curling, in case you do not know it. is a game. That is what it is, and there is no doubt about it. 1 discovered that curling is a game, and I want to apologize to the Scotch for the slander which I directed against their noble race during the days when I was a beginning novice, or almost an anticurler. In those days, now st, I said that the Scotch were a sly, mysterious race and untrustworthy. That is what I said. I have even been known to Ixick sad-eyed citizens into a corner of the clubhouse for the punióse of explaining that the Scotch were plotting the mental, moral and physical ruin of the people. Indeed, during the more dismal and long night hours of recent weeks I have even started from my sleep, praying aloud that a strong man would arise to purify the land of all Scotsmen whatsoever — and curling.
1 apologize. Curling is a game of skill. It is scientific. It makes for a sound character. It does indeed, and the Scotch are a splendid people. Tonight I put a stone down the rink, and it stopped fair on the button. It stopped just where it should have stopped: and the skip, the master of the novices, who had plainly set himself to deliver another and mightier insult, on my quivering head, gallantly concealed his astonishment. That is what he did, and he rushed down the rink to welcome me into the brotherhood.
‘‘Noo. noo, ma laddie." said this g Scotch skip, ‘‘mebbe wi’ care ye’ll be makin’ a currier.”
As I say. the Scotch are a great and kindly people, and they are gifted with the gift of discernment. I will make a curler. I promise that I will make a curler. I will make a curler if I have to break the heart of all generous curlers who give instruction to the novices. I will make a curler if I have to sleep in that infernal rink and play lead for ever. No dodgasted. stone-throwing,
Scotch solemnity like curling will beat me. Bah!
My doctor is responsible for my invasion of the Scottish national winter sport. He said that curling is a splendid exercise, especially for normal, happy semi-stouts who have been thinking more of the things of the flesh, like com beef and cabbage, than the beauty and health-giving properties of a narrow waistline. He said to take up curling, and he laughed when I replied that curling was neither a game nor an exercise, and couldn’t he think of a good, sound, sweat-creating, man-sized game fit for a red-blooded, fortyyear-old semi-stout who really needed exercise? My doctor raised his eyebrows and he said: brows and he said: “Hoots, ye haena curried.” My doctor was merely stating a fact in the Scotch curling, or insulting manner.
I joined the local curling club. That is the kind of a patient I am. I get my money’s worth out of my doctor. I can recommend our local curling club. The old members regard the new members as men brought to the light and as souls saved from sin. They hope, these old members do, that the Gcxxi Lord in His infinite wisdom and mercy will in the fullness of time cause the new members to realize their blessings and the difference between men who are men, and those unfortunates who are not curlers. The new members are properly grateful. I am grateful. That is, I am grateful now; but for several weeks I regarded the old members with suspicion and my doctor with one of the few' cold, clear hatreds of my life.
Did you ever have a charleyhorse? Not a little pain in the muscle, but a real old-fashioned charleyhorse that bites into your shoulder and back like a red-hot iron? If you have had that kind of a charleyhorse you will realize why I felt that way about our old curlers and my doctor, and why I wanted the Scotch purged from the land. This charleyhorse arrived right after my first visit to our club. I visited the club just to kx it over, and register, and meet the fellow' members and all that sort of thing. I went there socially, if you get what I mean, and not with the intention of throwing sixty-pound iron gadgets, falsely labelled stones, down a 100-foot strip of ice. Curlers are not social. Curlers are a brotherhood, and they believe in curling.
I found this out right inside the clubhouse door. I went through the door, a happy, social semi-stout. I will never be the same man again. Looking back on it, I can see that that happy social semi-stout was a base, unthinking fellow, with no regard for his responsibilities and with absolutely no hope of salvation.
Funny as a Crutch
HAVE been saved. I began to be saved right inside the clubhouse A man handed me a broom, and he said, “Novices on rink number three.” I was a full-fledged member of a class listening to a lecture on the preliminary gestures and incantations concerning the sport of curling. “No mon,” the lecturer was saying, “con appearr on the ice wi’oot a brroom.”
This lecturer revealed that a team consisted of a skip, a number three, a second and a lead, and that a skip was a tried and true man, a person in authority and one to be obeyed. He himself, this lecturer remarked, was a skip. He would, he said, teach us to throw the stones after the best curling, or Scotch, manner.
He threw one to show us how easy it was. That is what he did. He selected a stone and he rubbed the bottom of it gently and reverently on his broom. He dropped the edge of his right foot in a gouge in the ice cut for the purpose, and he balanced his broom on his left knee. Then he bent gently forward, and he made a happy little crooning sound as the stone rumbled cheerfully down the ice.
It was easy. I could see it was easy. No effort at all. My worst suspicions were confirmed. Curling an exercise? Blooey! That is what I said. “Exercise.” I remarked sadly, “is what I need.”
This skip looked at me with a cold, Scotch eye. “Try ane,” said this Scotch skip gently: and with that he had me out and a stone in my right hand, and just there I began to be suspicious all over again. Only it was a different kind of suspicion. I was suspicious of this Scotch skip. I remembered about the time I made fun of the bagpipes. That is what I remembered, and I was suspicious.
This bagpipe incident happened overseas. We had a pipe band in our battalion. \ Our colonel was a Scotsman, so we had
? this band, and one night when I was
trying to eat hot soup out of a tin plate, the whole band remembered it was the colonel’s birthday and commenced playing right outside the mess-hut door. I still contend that a pipe band surprising a man that way does not go well with hot soup out of a tin plate. This hot soup burned right through the old breeches. I made fun of that pipe band.
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“Colonel,” I said, making this fun, “do you know that the Irish presented the pipes to the Scotch for a joke and that the Scotch haven’t seen the joke yet?”
“Ou, aye,” said my colonel. That is all he said. We were in rest billets that week, and we supplied seven successive all-night working parties to the front line. I was in charge of every one of them. “Laddie,” my colonel said the night we fell in to go back to the front line to take over, “do you know any more stories about the Scotch?”
“No, colonel,” I answered quickly. “No, indeed.”
“Mfphm,” said my colonel, muttering to himself and making dour Scotch noises in the dark.
The stone the Scotch skip handed me weighed sixty pounds, and it was made of iron. I mean that it was a solid chunk of iron weighing that much, and I became suspicious. One cannot be too careful when interfering in Scotch amusements. No, indeed.
“Send her down,” my skip ordered. I took a peek down that rink. I never before appreciated the length of a curling rink. It seemed about 200 yards to where my Scotch skip had suddenly taken station for the purpose of bawling at me and waving a broom. I sent her down. I put my back into it. I put my right arm, and my right leg and my back into it. “Eddie,” I said to myself, “put all you have into it, and don’t let this broom-waving Scotsman have a laugh at your expense. Put her down, Eddie.”
I put her down. That is what I did. There is no doubt about it. That stone went down. My Scotch skip saw that stone coming and he jumped right off the ice.
“Gowk,” my Scotch skip yelled. “Gowk,” he yelled, waving his broom. “Nae sae much weight.”
My Scotch skip was protesting. I knew he was protesting because another Scotch person told me that “gowk” means extremely dumb or stupid. This Scotch person told me this one evening after she had given me a lesson in modem dancing and she was hoping that her feet would one day return to normalcy.
My Scotch skip walked slowly down the ice and he was murmuring to himself.
“Laddie,” he said, “the building committee wull be sendin’ ye a bill for that busted plank yonderr. We’ll try anither.”
Getting the Idea
WE several TRIED others. ANOTHER. We were encouraged We tried to keep right on trying. The old members came out from their rummy games in the warm, comfortable clubhouse, and they encouraged us. “Send another down,” these old members kept crying. “You new members will make curlers yet. We want you to feel right at home, and, remember, this is your club.” So we kept trying. We wanted to earn the praise these old members were showering on us. So we kept trying and saying one to the other: “Now watch this one. I’m getting the idea fine.”
We were not getting the idea. No, indeed. It was not an idea we were getting. I found this out the next morning. That is when I found these old members out. I was trying to spring out of bed when the true knowledge of the deceptive character of the old members was suddenly borne in upon me. I did not spring out of bed. I should say not. I just gave a wild screech and fell right back on the mattress. My wife sprang out of bed. She sprang out, and she said: “Great heavens! What is the matter?” “Woman,” I replied in my best Scotch or curling manner, “shut up.” That is how I felt about curling right then. I have apologized since. I have apologized several times, but I am still known as a rude man and one who is liable to be cruel to his
children. “I screeched.” I explained to my wife, “because you sneaked up behind me as I w'as getting peaceably out of bed, and you ran a red hot slice bar down through my right shoulder and hip and into the calf1 of my leg.”
My wife looked at me curiously. Then she laughed. You know how cruel and thoughtless wives can be.
“Eddie, the splendid athlete,” my wife said, and she laughed. She made me an ammonia bath, and she asked: “Does it hurt terribly, dear?” Then she laughed some more.
I do not understand wives. No, indeed ! Wives do not appreciate the pain a novice curling husband can suffer. I appreciated, this pain. I most certainly did. I appre-1 dated this pain for ten days. Curling did not improve this pain. It made it w'orse. There I was, a plain semistout walking agony, and my skip, who is a hardy or Scotch skip, kept right after me. He telephoned me every day. He telephoned and he said: “Eight tonight. You play lead.”
That is where the novices play in our club. A lead puts the first two stones down the ice, and then he sweeps. I mean just that. He sweeps. A lead takes a broom, and when the skip bawds “Sweep,” he runs alongside of the speeding stones and he sweeps imaginary ice dust from a crystalhard surface so that the stones may roll steadily and sweetly and count points for your rink.
Did you ever see a semi-stout novice or gowk curler sweeping? People who know, travel miles to see a gowk sweeping. They do indeed. They travel miles and they spare no effort to be present. An old member can put artistry and purity of motion into his sweeping, and thereby create the spurious impression that he is cutting coupons or making a large loan at a bank. That is what an old member can do. But not me. Not Eddie, the gowk sweeper. I should say not. When I sweep I use energy, if you get what I mean. I put the old shoulders and back into it, and it is exercise. The perspiration rolls down the old forehead, and it is exercise—but it is not purity of motion.
I know it is not purity of motion because the old members come out just to watch me sweep. These old members line up on the runways and they hoot:
“Bring her down, Eddie, before the icemaker catches you,” and “Leave some ice for me, Eddie ”
My Scotch skip does not agree with these sideline laddies. No indeed.
"Hoots tae ye!” says my Scotch skip. “D’ye ken the laddie is makin’ muckle ice wi’ the awfu’ sweat frae his noble brrow?”
Then the old members chuckle and move on to encourage others of the novices who are busy doing foolish things and who need encouraging. That is the kind of old members we have in our dub. They are fine old members and I admire them, but for a long time I hoped that misfortune would overtake them, and that they would each throw a bad stone and feel downcast about it. I did indeed.
I have forgiven them. The light of the pure faith is dawning. I realize that I am a member of a great brotherhood and that the old members acted for the good of my soul. That is what I realize, and I have secret. My skip told me privately that once, long, long ago he was much worse than I am. “Aye, laddie,” said my skip most confidential, “I wis a gowk.” That is what he said, and now he skips a rink in the Governor-General’s competition.
The trail is long, but the reward is great. It is indeed. But I wonder. I sure do wonder if my skip has imparted this same secret to the other novices. Certain of them have been acting mighty chesty lately. The Scotch at heart are a kindly people. Even a novice curler is a brand from the burning. I wonder.