Posts Tagged ‘Traditions’
The Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team is kicking off the official start to a new basketball season with the 25th Annual Late Night in the Phog. Hopes are running high this year with dreams of reaching Indianapolis for the Final Four. My brother-in-law, Phil Priebe, already is planning the trip.
Like all good fans I am beginning to sharpen my game, too. You might ask what preparation I have to do? It’s not too hard to sit on your butt and watch young men play basketball.
Oh, but the passionate fans know there is much that can be done in the stands or in front of the T.V. to turn the tide of close games in the favor of your team. So that I am prepared when I’m needed I have been refining my technique to deliver the most powerful hex that I know… The Pissy Rivers.
I learned this mysterious curse from my friend, eighteen year classmate (kindergarten through super senior year at KU) and fellow Greg Dreiling Fan Club member Scott Focke, aka Scooter. The Pissy Rivers is relatively easy to describe but extremely hard to execute.
The basic moves of the hex are simple. Cross the first and second fingers of your writing hand. Place your hand with crossed-fingers casually behind your back. Do not make fanfare of what you are doing. At the crucial moment in the game, quickly swing your hand and crossed fingers from behind your back as if you are throwing an underhand curve ball. Snap your wrist just before your arm fully extends. And, at the moment your hand jerks, whisper (or if you are alone in front of a T.V. shout) “Pissy Rivers.”
Sounds simple doesn’t it. Only the masters are consistently effective. There is a lot that can go wrong when casting a Pissy Rivers. The hex can even be reversed on your own team. Overuse is the surest way to ruin the Pissy Rivers. If someone sees or hears you throw the curse, it can kill the spell.
Some people believe a double Pissy Rivers – crossing all four fingers rather than just two – is more powerful than the traditional version of the curse. I’m not a believer in the double Pissy Rivers. I’ve seen it backfire just as often as I’ve seen it work.
Skeptical about all this? Think this is nothing but superstition and coincidence? Well I have evidence.
Scott Focke propelled the Jayhawks over Michigan State in the Sweet 16 of the 1986 NCAA tournament and on to the Final Four. Several members of the Dreiling gang scored tickets to the game in Kansas City’s Kemper arena. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve seen. It included controversy – a stopped clock for 15 seconds when KU was trailing – and role player heroics.
The Jayhawks were down by six points with just over one minute to go. I was a nervous wreck. Scott told me not to panic. I shouted back, “There’s only sixty seconds left in the whole *#%$@ season, don’t tell me not to panic.” But, Scott just gave me a look.
The Jayhawks began to foul the moment Michigan State touched the ball in a last ditch effort to close the seemingly insurmountable gap. That’s when Scott went to work from the top row of the arena.
Michigan State missed the front end of a one-and-one two consecutive times in the last minute of the game allowing KU to tie the score on an Archie Marshall tip-in with just a few seconds left. I still feel hoarse thinking how loud and long we screamed with joy.
KU’s best players, Danny Manning and Ron Kellogg, had fouled out of the game. But the momentum had already swung the way of the Jayhawks and fan favorite Calvin Thompson led the way to a 10 point victory in overtime.
I didn’t see it, of course. But, Scott told us later that he’d used the Pissy Rivers when the Michigan State players were shooting their clutch free throws. That’s the moment I became a believer.
I use it myself now when the moment is right. I’m not a master like Scott. But, occasionally I do my part to help out the ‘Hawks.
I don’t want to claim too much credit. But, I was in the stands in San Antonio when Mario Chalmers hit his miracle shot and the Jayhawks won the national title.
And, you might remember, the Memphis Tigers did miss a few key foul shots down the stretch…
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I had a great time as always at the 2009 Atwood Jamboree. Michael Terry and too many others to name put on a great tournament. Thank you!
I was sorry to hear that Ol’ Crow had back surgery this year so Worthy and Ol’ Crow weren’t with us. This year we golfed with the Brad and Chad Bowles, as usual, and Brian and Brandon Sabatka. We had a good time.
Paul and I finished in the money again this year – but not because of our effort on the golf course. We were wise investors in the Calcutta.
Brad and Chad Bowles had more bad luck than you can shake a stick at on Saturday. We new that wouldn’t carry over on Sunday. So, we tried to buy them in the Calcutta. Only problem is Paul and I got confused. We won the bid for a wildcard team but in the wrong flight. We went out on a limb and selected Chuck Focke and his partner Mark Frame of Kinsley, Kansas. Later in the auction we succeeded at our original goal and won the right to choose the Bowles team. Feeling optimistic we bought ourselves, too.
I would like to thank Brad, Chad, Chuck and Mark – because of your Sunday efforts we came out ahead. Paul and I finished out of the money but we broke 70 for the second time in our long and storied careers.
The highlight of the weekend tookplace on the shooting range, I mean hole number 2. The tournament organizers added a twist. They launched two clay pigeons at once – hit one, earn a birdie; hit two, earn an eagle and win a hat.
After years of shooting at air, I am now the proud owner of an orange Beaver Creek Hunting hat – thanks Brad Leitner. I may just to take that hunter’s safety course and come back in November to show folks how it’s done.
All-in-all, A good time was had by all.
The Atwood Jamboree golf tournament is one of my favorite weekends of the year.
It is the weekend each year I spend time with old friends. We tell the same jokes and laugh like it’s the first time we heard them. That’s part of what makes the Jamboree and the weekend special. It’s familiar. Old friends, old jokes, old routines. It is a weekend that I truly relax.
My friend Karl Spiecker, formerly of Longmont and now Colorado Springs, is a regular at the tournament, too. A few years back Karl had a magical weekend a la Tom Watson in this year’s British Open. On Saturday, Karl shot the best round of golf he’s ever played. Saturday night, his ticket was drawn for the putting contest. On Sunday, he made the first putt to qualify for the big money shot. He rimmed out the putt for $2,500 to the groan of the crowd. He didn’t make a putt the rest of the day.
The title of this post comes from one of the familiar jokes we tell each year.
On Sundays, on hole number two, teams are given the option of shooting a clay pigeon or playing the hole. Most of the golfers in Atwood are better shots with a gun than a club. As we approach the tee off box, my playing partner of the past 20 years, Paul Hayden, shouts, “Nothing like alcohol and firearms to make a good golf tournament.” We all laugh.
Paul and my sixsome of the past few years – the Bowles brothers, Worthy and Ol’ Crow – laugh a lot over the course of the weekend. Paul reminds everyone about the pecking order, “Bowles… you’re the second best putter here.” Or calls out to groups passing on another hole, “Sandbaggers!”
The Bowles brothers play the best golf in our group usually contending for the Championship Flight title. But, Paul and I are no slouches ourselves. We have all the qualities of the great golfers.
We’re dedicated. We both play 45 holes a year counting the 36 holes we play in the Jamboree. Sometimes we only play 40 if we exit the Friday night shootout on an early hole. I used to play a practice round in Longmont before the Jamboree. But I’ve learned not to over prepare.
We’re competitive. We scratch our way into the fourth flight every year. We finish ahead of at least eight or nine teams of the 50 entered every year. The big drivers they make these days have helped us stay at the top of the bottom flight.
We’re consistent. We shoot between 72 and 75 every round we play – Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes our effort is a little unorthodox. Last year, for instance, we completed the first nine holes on Saturday in 32 strokes – we don’t quite have the sandbagging thing down. The second nine we had to use two tosses of the ball and two mulligan’s (legal in this tournament) to scratch out a 42. But there we were with our normal 74.
We’re poised under pressure. One year Paul and I won the Friday night shootout – a process of elimination game in which the low score on each hole is forced to retire. It was a nail biter. We tied with our competition on the final hole. We both shot 10 on the par five number three. We we’re the only team to get it on the green in the chip off.
We’re resourceful. We’re more than willing to shell out a few dollars to save a stroke. It costs five dollars for two shots at the clay pigeon on Sunday. If we hit the pigeon, and earn a birdie on the hole, it is guaranteed to save us at least one stroke, maybe two. Last year it took us three tries and 15 dollars but we saved the stroke. I thought Paul was a much better shot.
And, most important of all, we’re a good bet. On Saturday nights, the teams are auctioned off in a Calcutta. The teams in each Calcutta group that improve the most on the second day win money. Paul and I finish in the money about one out of every three years. I don’t want to drive our price up but I’m just saying, better odds than Vegas.
As an aside for those of you who might be curious. I once asked my Dad if the Calcutta is a legal activity. Here’s what he had to say, “When I was county attorney I was at the Calcutta. George Beims (the police chief) was there, too. No one said anything so it must be legal.” Good enough for me.
The Atwood Jamboree, along with my kids’ birthdays, is one of the few things on my calendar that I will not negotiate. The first weekend of August each year (except when the Olympics are held in the United States) I’ll be in Atwood.
I can’t wait.
My Dad invented this snack – at least as far as I know. He often ate it on summer evenings after long runs. I picked up on the habit at about nine or ten years-old. It’s been my favorite snack ever since – though I only have the snack occasionally now. It’s best enjoyed with a cold glass of milk.
Here’s a video by Emma in which I show Joe and Ada Grace how to make the best snack ever.
I rang the doorbell, turned and ran as fast as my feet would carry me toward the front gate. But, I hadn’t planned well. The gate was latched shut.
The seconds it took to make my way through the front yard exit cost me dearly. Miss Bearly was swift of foot. She caught me by the collar just a few strides outside her gate.
The penalty for trespassing was severe. I knew it before I rang the bell. A kiss. Or, a pinch. Probably both.
A game of ding dong ditch? No, it was May Day.
May Day – not to be confused with the Communist celebration – is one of those second tier holidays you greatly anticipate as a child and then forget completely until you have children of your own.
Our tradition was to make baskets filled with candy for our friends and neighbors – it was the sugar fix between Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Mom often added pansies to the baskets for the other Moms.
Apparently, flowers is supposed to be the featured item in a May basket. I cared only about the sweets.
My favorite “basket” was the cupcake with a pipe cleaner handle. I loved to decorate the cupcakes and lick the knife.
Once the baskets were complete, we left them on a friend’s or neighbor’s doorstop, rang the door bell and tried to escape. The chase was the best part of the holiday (okay, licking the knife with frosting was the best part but the chase was a close second). I liked being chased far more than chasing a culprit from our yard. I didn’t want to catch anyone. Especially if I had to kiss them.
We always went to Miss Bearly’s (now Mrs. Erickson) on 2nd Street, I think it was. She was my first grade teacher. She was fun. She was always up for a chase. We share a birthday of October 11. And, most of all, I’m grateful that she helped Mom discover I had dyslexia. That led to a lot doctor’s visits and exercises I wasn’t too keen on but paid off in the long run.
Joni was excited to renew the May Day tradition when we moved to Longmont. She had fond memories of the holiday, too. But, we soon discovered we were one of the few people who had ever celebrated the holiday as children. When our kids placed baskets on friend’s doorsteps and rang the door bell, no chase ensued. There were just strange looks and questions, “What are you doing.”
We still plan to celebrate this year. Our kids are getting older and we won’t have many May Day’s of interest left.
The debate in the house is what to include in the baskets. Our kids follow in my footsteps. They want candy.
Joni suggested flowers, fruit leathers and pistachios. Huh?
In the end, it won’t matter much what we give as gifts. The main thing is that May Day is our last good excuse to ding dong ditch.
Our team might still be reigning champion of the Lake Atwood Days canoe races. I can’t verify this. So, for now, I’ll assume that we are. Please don’t notify me if I am wrong.
Several years ago my brother-in-law Phil Priebe, nephew Taylin Hein and I spontaneously entered the three person canoe races at the Annual Lake Atwood Days.
No one liked our chances to win. Not even us. The competition included three high school Boy Scouts who had just returned from a weeklong canoe trip in Nebraska.
But, Phil and I had raced together before in the Manhattan to Lawrence race upon the Kaw. Could we regain our college form? Or, would our college form be an even greater handicap?
This was a good year for Lake Atwood. The entire lake was full. There was a good three to four feet of water. Plenty for canoe races.
We made it to the finals. So did the Boy Scouts. They were rightfully feeling a great deal of confidence.
The course was short and simple. The starting line was near the boat ramp. Teams were required to paddle about 100 meters to the west, circle the buoy (aka Fr. Damian Richards), and return past the starting line.
The race began as everyone expected. The scouts opened up a large, early lead. Our goal was to be respectable. We just tried to keep our canoe strait and paddle in unison.
The scouts rounded the buoy well before we did and we lost sight of them, since our backs were to them now. We approached the buoy and started to veer off course. That’s when we experienced Divine intervention.
We were headed straight for the buoy. A collision was imminent. The water was about chest deep on Father Damian – the buoy. He tried to evade us but it’s hard to move quickly in chest deep water.
Father Damian grabbed hold of our canoe and spun us around. He gave us a push back toward the start/finish line and simultaneously straightened our course.
When we looked forward, we noticed the scouts had run into trouble. Perhaps they had grown over confident. I don’t know. But, they had moved to close to shore and got hung up in the rocks. They were stalled.
We paddled harder thinking we might have a chance. We might even have broken a sweat. We moved past the scouts just as they freed themselves from the rocks. We were too close to the finish line for them to recover.
Victory was ours. We lifted our hands and ours in the air savoring the moment. Guided by the hand of a Father fleeing in self-defense, our win must have been pre-ordained.
We returned the next year to defend our title. But, alas, there was no water in the lake. We would continue as defending champion by default for another year.
Lake Atwood is once again full of water, or so I am told. Perhaps our team will return to defend our crown. Or, perhaps, it is better to retire as champions.
I had one thing I cared about when we planned our wedding. I wanted our dance to be open to the public – meaning anyone was welcome to attend. I was glad when Joni readily agreed.
The open wedding dance is one of the icons that best symbolize what it means to live in a town like Atwood.
I was reminded of my fondness for wedding dances when I received a phone call and an email from Jack Henningsen. He told me the story of meeting his wife, Marilyn, at a Harvest Festival at St. John’s Catholic Church. (Jack contacted me after reading this blog. One of the unexpected pleasures of writing “snapshots” is that I’ve connected with people who I don’t know well and/or seldom see.)
Though not a wedding dance, Jack’s story reminded of Joni’s and my wedding at St. John’s and our dance at the Columbian Hall in town.
I don’t like to dance. I don’t now and I didn’t then. That’s not why the wedding dance was important to me. In fact, I seldom danced at the many wedding parties I attended. Lisa Collins (now Moos) did try to teach me the two-step. I mostly learned to bounce or perhaps I was skipping, heaven forbid. I stepped on her toes as I often as I touched the floor. Still, I did enjoy an occasional Cotton Eyed Joe.
When attending wedding dances, I spent most of my time in the parking lot. There were more than a few in which I never entered the hall. The parking lot was the best place to catch up with friends, trade gossip, speculate about romance (speculation being the operative word) and, of course, mix a drink or two.
The open wedding dance is symbolic of a marriage being a community event rather than a private affair. Marriages, in many ways, belong to the community – in a small town at least. In places like Atwood, everyone impacts your life. Some more directly and forcefully than others, but everyone plays a part.
The role people have in shaping their neighbors’ lives gives them a rightful claim to the wedding celebration. The open wedding dance is a time for everyone to share in the joyous step being taken by the wedding couple. The community helped to prepare them for this day. Thus, the community should be welcome at the celebration.
At 24 years old, I was not so philosophical. My thought at that time was simply, “Closed dances aren’t cool.” I knew how we used to ridicule people who had a closed dance. I did not want people saying those things about Joni and me. Besides, who was I to deny people a chance to party?
The open dance also solved a practical dilemma. There were not enough seats in St. John’s to accommodate all of Joni’s relatives – I had no idea that our nuptials would connect me to half the county. It was uncomfortable crossing them off the ceremony guest list. Opening our reception and dance allowed us to include more people.
My favorite moment of this wonderful day occurred between the reception and dance. Joni and I sat on metal folding chairs in the Columbian Hall, taking a moment to catch our breath. I can still see the smile on Joni’s face and feel the one on my own. Joni’s family – who catered the entire event, my first real exposure to the do-it-yourself Mickey Clan – scurried about cleaning up the remnants of the reception. There have been few times in my life that I’ve felt so at peace.
As Joni’s and my years together accumulate, the meaning of our dance has grown in my mind. We meet couples in the various places we’ve lived – Boston, Maryland and Colorado – and trade wedding stories. Our friends tell tales of private affairs for an exclusive set of friends – certainly wonderful events in lives.
But, their stories make me appreciate that our celebration was open to all who cared to attend.
That’s what it really means to be part of a small town. On the most special and personal of days, everyone is welcome at your “table.” Your family, your dearest friends, your kindly neighbors as well as your rivals, the annoying people who gossip too much and the folks you simply can’t stand – everyone is there. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
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What’s your favorite wedding dance story?