Well! What a day I had yesterday. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, this old mutt learned a few last night. Not only did I learn the grand old game of curling, but I got some tips on this internet thing as well. Gary Krevice, a former curling star, came up to see me, and show me a thing or two about chucking rocks, as they say. Mr. Krevice was sent by another curling star, Olympic sliver medalist George Karrys, who was too busy with his curling blog to come and see me as he had promised. Mr. Karrys did send me a kind email, though, and he introduced me to something called links. So, you see how the word "blog" is all lit up? Well, if you "click" on it, the internet page will switch over to his blog. Ok, don't do it yet, you've got to keep reading me first.
Mr. Krevice showed up at my doorstep yesterday around 2pm, a broom in one hand, a six pack in the other, and a sack of rocks on his back. We hiked up to the frozen stream just the other side of Moose Hill. Krevice dropped the rocks and broom on the ice, pulled out two beer, cracked 'em both, and handed me one.
"First things first," he said, as he downed his can of Old Vienna. "We've got to mark the sheet." Then he walked out to the middle of the stream, whipped it out, and pissed a strategic yellow arc, turning as he did. When he had come around 360 degrees, he stopped, stepped back, and let a few drops fall right in the middle of the circle. He looked at me, 'marker' in hand.
"Now it's your turn. Walk down the river thirty paces, and make your rings." I finished my beer and marked my territory. Curling was looking to be my kind of game. Now Gary pulled out the rocks. They were real curling rocks, with red metal handles on the top of polished granite. They were heavier than I thought.
"Take the handle in your hand. Slide the rock back and forth on the ice. Do you feel the line?" He was starting to get a funny look in his eye. He squatted down, then lunged forward, gliding along behind the rock. "When I hold the rock, I can feel the line under the ice, all the way down to the house. I know where it's going to go."
"What house?" I asked.
"The house is where you pissed."
"Here, hold it. Can you feel it?" He urged me to follow his example. I couldn't feel anything but the cold metal. I'm in good shape for an old guy, but my bottom was starting to get sore from all the squatting and lunging. But it's not polite to insult a guest.
"Yes, yes, indeed, I do feel the house."
"Good, good, now just follow the line." He gave my rear a little shove. Not sure I liked him touching me there. I slid forward with the rock. "Ok, now let it go! Let it go!" I let go. I fell over sideways. The rock skidded half way to the piss-ring and stopped, the handle turned around to face me, as if wrinkling its nose at my urine. I looked back. Gary was squatting in the middle of his "house" with his eyes closed, inhaling deeply. I sighed.
"Uh, Gary, the rock stopped."
"Oh, yes, of course, that's because you didn't give it enough encouragement."
"Yes, let me show you." He picked up another rock, flipped it over, rubbed the bottom with his broom, and whispered something to the smooth granite bottom. I imagined this was the encouragement he was talking about. Then he got into his crouch, reared back, and lunged. I have to admit, it was pretty to watch. He let fly the stone, with much more authority than I had been able to muster. When the rock got just past where mine had stopped to rest, it started to slow down. That's when Gary started the "encouragement."
"HURRY! HURRY! HURRY!" I nearly fell over again. Sure enough, the rock seemed to gather momentum again, and, thanks to Gary's encouragement, slid over the closer crest of my piss-circle, and stopped about half-way to the centre.
I let out a low whistle. "Nice work, Gary."
"Your turn." He passed me another stone. I tried to imitate his crouch and lunge, but my old bones protested every swing. I put as much as I could behind my shot. Again, the rock slowed and seemed ready to give up.
"Encouragement!" Gary whispered urgently. I bellowed, recalling what I could from drunken, dozy Saturday afternoons spent watching curling (only when there was really nothing else on):
"HURRY! HURRY HARD! HURRY!" Miraculously, as if carried by angels, my second rock moved past my first, and into the piss-house, just nudging Gary's stone.
"Nice shot, friend."
We spent the afternoon and evening chucking rocks, finishing the beers, and generally having a good time. He was a bit of a religious nut about his curling, but fair enough, it was fun. When it got too dark to play, we decided to call it quits. We packed up the rocks and our empties. Then, something dawned on me.
"What's the broom for?" We hadn't really used the broom, other than to clean off the bottom of the stones, but sometimes Gary had just used his hand for that.
"Oh, right! Thanks for reminding me." Gary dropped the bag, and picked up the broom. He went over to the circles and started sweeping away at the piss. "Can't leave it like this. Curlers are very environmentally conscious, you see."
We got back to the cabin and Gary passed out on the floor. This morning, we got him up early and strapped him to a snowmobile, and off to catch his plane. I guess I can't say I understand curling much more, but I can say that I appreciate the skill involved. I had no idea it was a game that required such mental focus, literally willing those rocks down the ice.
Oh, and now you can go and "click" on George Karrys' curling blog. He's got lots more stuff to say about it than I do. Curling. A great Olympic sport.
See you soon,
Donald S. Thompson