Today we are going to Muse about boys and girls. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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The other day Jeanette and I were on the road, leaving Charleston on our way to Maryland. We were in the early days of a two-week road trip up to Massachusetts and back. That took us through eleven states and the District of Columbia. Along the way the plan was to visit the Ellis-Nicholson Gallery (where I have representation) in Charleston and friends and family along our route on our way to a Croquet Tournament in Lenox, Massachusetts. Both Jeanette and I were scheduled to compete in the tournament.
Boys and Girls
As we sped down the highway we passed a manufacturing complex. A large entry sign identified it as FRUIT OF THE LOOM.
“Now that’s a name that has been around a long time”, I said. “I remember that from when I was a boy.”
“I do too”, said Jeanette. “I remember when I would get a set of underwear with the days of the week written on them.”
“That’s one of the differences between boys and girls”, I opined. “Boys didn’t get things printed on their clothes. Why, the only thing on my clothes I remember as a boy was cowboys and Indians, maybe horses, on my pajamas. Boys might have a striped shirt, something like that, but nothing like the girls would wear. As a matter of fact we thought the days-of-the-week panties were pretty strange.”
Jeanette looked at me and asked, “How did you even know about them?”
“Well”, I said, pausing, “The girls showed us. They were so proud!”
On a road trip there are down times. I brought along Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck to fill those times. He is one of my favorite authors. Many of his stories, East of Eden, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, etc take place in Monterey County, California, in Salinas, Monterey, Pacific Grove and towns nearby. I lived in Carmel as a boy and am quite fond of the Monterey Penninsula.
Croquet was also on my mind due to the pending tournament. A variation of croquet is a game called Roque. Imagine my delight when in Chapter 8 of Sweet Thursday I came across this:
Once, during its history, Pacific Grove was in trouble, deep trouble. You see, when the town was founded many old people moved to the retreat, people you’d think didn’t have anything to retreat from. These old people became grumpy after a while and got to interfering in everything and causing trouble, until a philanthropist named Deems presented the town with two Roque courts.
Roque is a complicated kind of croquet, with narrow wickets and short-handled mallets. You play off the sidelines, like billiards. Very complicated, it is. They say it develops character.
In a local sport there must be competition and a prize. In Pacific Grove a cup was given every year for the winning team on the Roque courts. You wouldn’t think a thing like that would work up much heat. particularly since most of the contestants were over seventy. But it did.
One of the teams was called the Blues and the other the Greens. The old men wore little skullcaps and striped blazers in their team colors.
Well, it wasn’t more than two years before all hell broke loose. The Blues would practice in the court right alongside the Greens but they wouldn’t speak to them. And then it got into the families of the teams. You were a Blue family or a Green family. Finally the feeling spread outside the family. You were a partisan of the Blues or a partisan of the Greens. It got so that the Greens tried to discourage intermarriage with the Blues, and vice versa. Pretty soon it reached into politics, so that a Green wouldn’t think of voting for a Blue. It split the church right down the middle. The Blues and the Greens wouldn’t sit on the same side. They made plans to build separate churches.
Of course everything got really hot at tournament time. Things were very touchy. Those old men brought a passion to the game you wouldn’t believe. Why, two octogenarians would walk away into the woods and you’d find them locked in mortal combat. They even developed secret languages so that each wouldn’t know what the other was talking about.
Well, things got so hot and feeling ran so high that the county had to take notice of it. A Blue got his house burned down and then a Green was found clubbed to death with a Roque mallet in the woods. A Roque mallet is short-handled and heavy and can be a very deadly weapon. The old men got to carrying mallets tied to their wrists by thongs, like battle-axes. They didn’t go any place without them. There wasn’t any crime each didn’t charge the other with, including things they’d outgrown and couldn’t have done if they’d wanted to. The Blues wouldn’t trade in Green stores. The whole town was a mess.
The original benefactor, Mr. Deems, was a nice old fellow. He used to smoke a little opium, when it was legal, and this kept him healthy and rested so that he didn’t get high blood pressure or tuberculosis. He was a benevolent man, but he was also a philosopher. When he saw what he had created by giving the Roque courts to the Pacific Grove retreat he was saddened and later horrified. He said he knew how God felt.
The tournament came July 30, and feeling was so bad that people were carrying pistols. Blue kids and Green kids had gang wars. Mr. Deems, after a period of years, finally figured that as long as he felt like God he might as well act like God. There was too much violence in town.
On the night of July 29 Mr. Deems sent out a bulldozer. In the morning. where the Roque courts had been, there was only a deep, ragged hole in the ground. If he’d had time he would have continued God’s solution. He’d have filled the hole with water.
They ran Mr. Deems out of Pacific Grove. They would have tarred and feathered him if they could have caught him, but he was safe in Monterey, cooking his yen shi over a peanut-oil lamp.
Every July 30, to this day, the whole town of Pacific Grove gets together and burns Mr. Deems in effigy. They make a celebration of it, dress up a life-size figure, and hang it from a pine tree. Later they burn it. People march underneath with torches, and the poor helpless figure of Mr. Deems goes up in smoke every year.
There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.
Here is a picture of the early Pacific Grove Roque courts.
Notice the smaller size, the rounded corners and the border. Roque employs some elements of billiards, utilizing banked shots.
When will the fun ever end?
more to come
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