Monday, June 05, 2006

Slingin' the 'Barb



Mrs Jorgensen poses with the stalk
with which I broke the World Record in 1921.
They don't make rhubarb -- or women --
like that anymore.

From the Winona (Minnesota) Daily News:

LANESBORO, Minn. — There are hundreds of ways to cook rhubarb but only one way to throw it: awkwardly.

“You’ll want a little arch and a straight release,” Jeff Kamm said as Ashley Solsrud stepped to the line, stalk in hand. “Give it all you’ve got.”

Solsrud, of Holmen, Wis., flung the floppy stalk, which stayed aloft for about 10 feet. Line judge Dave Sefton proclaimed it “a solid two” -- about half the distance of the day’s record toss.
"Only one way to throw it: awkwardly..." Pish-tosh! I weep for the lost arts of yesteryear!

In another day, at another time far back in the dusty corridors of dimming memory, I, Hugh Jorgensen, captain of the vaunted Brainerd High School Rhubarb-Tossing Team -- the Fightin' Loons, we were styled -- made strong men tremble and beautiful women swoon with the mighty arcs of my doughty heaves of the stringy stalks of family Polygonaceae, genus Rheus.

Far they flew, and long. Far, too, and wide, did tales of my godlike prowess run. Newspapers from such far-flung climes as Bemidji and Saint Cloud vied like tomcats for nacreous mots from my cupid's-bow lips. Into the shell-like ear of a young Grantland Rice, then a cub scribe for the Detroit Lakes Aftonbladet, did fall a breathless account of my exploits contra the hated crosstown Tech team. He was moved to limn it thus:
Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Jorgensen, Olesson, Malmqvist and Soderberg. But the greatest of these, the most feared, is Jorgensen, for it is he whose miraculous heaves send slung stalk skywards in slow spiral, disappearing out of sight into the lowering clouds, there to mock the Gods themselves....
I carry the clipping, now crumbling with age, with me still.

We played in moleskin and leather in those days. Real men to the core, we eschewed the helmets and sissifying pads that have ruined the Glorious Game for succeeding generations -- those softened and denatured descendants of the hardy North Woods pioneers who imported the game from their native Småland. I scoff at modesty, and proudly point out that ours was the Dead-Stalk Era, when the equipment suppliers of the day would let their freshly harvested rhubarb stalks hang for three weeks in their barns, acquiring an inimitable elasticity and heft. We had a saying in those days: "Hang your 'barb for three weeks/Sling like the Greeks." (It was a bit puzzling, this saying of ours, as nobody in Crow-Wing County had ever seen a Grecian 'barb-slinger, but it was taken as read that they must have flung their rhubarb a good long way.)

Oh, how I pine for the gamey odor of well-hung rhubarb, and of the neat's-foot oil with which we softened our throwing palms! The players of today, spoiled by fresh, unhung rhubarb stalks -- we oldtimers dismiss them as "jackrabbit stalks" -- have no appreciation for it. They might as well be slinging celery-shaped sticks of frozen butter, for all they know of the ways of rhubarb!

How the grand sport has become a cruel parody of itself, an exhibition put on by hoodlums and mountebanks for yokels and rubes at country fairs and carnival midways! Scorn! Scorn! Scorn! And fiddle-faddle!

Let me show you how we did it. Gimme that stalk! You stand about three feet from the line, see, facing away, and -- hey! Where are you going! Get back here!

7 comments:

roxtar said...

That's just fucking devastating.

Employee of the Month said...

The highly erotic Minnesotan rhubarb fan-dance.

Blue Wren said...

I find flinging watermelons far more satisfying, but as fan-dance material, they're lacking, I'll admit.

Bob Dwire said...

Scandinavians! Everything they know abaht rhubarb, which int much, their criminal Viking forefathers stole from honest Yorkshire yeomen.

corndog said...

Damn kids today, flinging fresh rhubarb stalks, all hopped up on auxins and gibberellins, listening to that acid polka crap! Makes me want to uiwbzfy!

Highlander said...

I killed a man with a rhubarb, once.

It was an accident. I meant to kill him with the grapeshot, but some dang kid stuffed a lot o' rubbish in on top of it, and I didn't know. Wound up putting a rhubarb stem right through that Johnny Reb's eye, I did.

XTCfan said...

Oh, how I pine for the gamey odor of well-hung rhubarb, and of the neat's-foot oil with which we softened our throwing palms!

Jesus. I've never been more turned on. Who knew you could write this turgid, rhubarb-ripping style?