Friday, July 20, 2012
If the Summer Olympics Were Held In East Texas
Bernie and Marjorie are at a county fair and happen along a fellow carving a chainsaw sculpture out of a piece of loblolly pine. Turning a piece of timber into art is a common medium of East Texas folk art.
The Summer Olympics shall soon commence in London, where rain falls in absurd amounts, buses carrying athletes are locked in traffic, the company charged with hiring security guards is a few thousand short of employees, and those in charge are trying not to freak out. But, as the British have said since the eve of World War II, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Stiff upper lip and all that.
Many years ago I posited a piece about what events would fit a Summer Olympics in East Texas. I took a look at that piece, written during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, to come up with a new version. It’s fair game in the writing world to steal from oneself.
• Washer pitching. This topped the list 16 years ago and still does. This is a fine sport that can be played with a beverage in one hand, washers in the other. A big-city friend who moved to the Pine Curtain years ago thought it involved chunking large appliances, sort-of the East Texas version of curling. Luckily, it doesn’t. I once competed on the dirt floor of the Astrodome during the 1985 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo contest, representing San Augustine County. We possibly set a record for the team eliminated in the shortest time. I am an exceptionally mediocre washer pitcher. But there are some mighty fine washer pitchers here Behind the Pine Curtain. It should be quite a contest.
• Hog killing from an ATV (New category): Feral hogs are a nuisance and abomination in East Texas. They are tearing up the land, breed at alarming rates, and are cunning creatures. Any fool can kill hogs with a semi-automatic weapon or from a helicopter, firing down on porkers feeding on a deer feeder. This contest pits man on a four-wheeler with a single-shot .22 wandering around the woods hoping to catch a sow not paying attention. Good luck with that. They are smarter than they look. I have tried. So far, the score is Hogs 13 (or maybe 16) Me 0.
• Piney Woods Spitathlon: I photographed high school football off-and-on for nearly three decades and became adept at dodging streams of saliva, with juke moves that would have made Deion Sanders proud in his heyday. East Texas football coaches and their charges are masters of the art of expectoration. As a paperboy I watched with awe as florid-faced wildcatters played 42 in the Brass Rail in downtown Longview and hit the spittoon on the floor with a brown stream of tobacco juice with nary more than a sidelong glance. It must be an inherited trait. Having been born a Yankee I did not inherit this skill and spit rather ordinarily and only out of necessity. For the contest, points could be awarded for distance, ability to spit between one’s teeth, and the quality of the gross hunkering noise made before spitting.
• Chainsaw sculpture: I got this idea after watching Bernie, which captures East Texas dead-on. I mean they ate at the Jalapeño Tree! The fellow talking about San Augustine, where the trial was held, had us in stitches. I ran the paper there for five years in the 1980s. While his description was a tad severe, I could see where he was coming from. Anyway, at one point Bernie and Marjorie are at a county fair and happen along a fellow carving a chainsaw sculpture out of a piece of loblolly pine. Turning a piece of timber into art is a common medium of East Texas folk art. I have an Indian head sculpture sitting on my fireplace, carved out of pine with a chain saw, which I wouldn’t take anything for. Well, that’s not true. Make me an offer.
Anyway, this could be a compelling — though noisy — event. Entries would be judged on originality, recognizability and absence of injury to the participant. Loss of body limbs would result in immediate disqualification.
• Trotline running: The contest consists of seeing how fast contestants can run a 50-yard trotline, pull catfish off the hooks, toss the wriggling still-alive creatures into five-gallon buckets, then rebait the trotlines with chicken hearts, which are slippery little devils. I speak from experience. The winner would be based not on the biggest fish but on success keeping the fish in the boat, not spearing one’s hand with a hook or gill, or tangling the trotline in the outboard motor’s propeller.
Instead of gold medals, we would give out brass spittoons for the winners, then fry the fish and have a big ol’ dinner on the ground. I’ll make the cole slaw.
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Anne Lamot said "You simply put down one word after another, as you hear them, as they come to you." That’s what I try to do.