Curling is the only time you can tell someone that he or she is too heavy.
Watching the Scotties and the Brier on TV, I couldn’t help but be very impressed by the finesse, accuracy and strategy of the sport these days. Curling bears little resemblance to the game I enjoyed a few years ago.
When we first moved to the little community of Invermay, the ladies’ bonspiel was the big social event of the winter. That meant that every able-bodied female in the area was recruited and expected to participate, whatever curling skills she might possess. And so it was that I found myself on someone’s team for several years where I usually played in the position known as lead.
Our community rink has natural ice which means that the temperature outside is pretty much the temperature found inside. (But sometimes on frigid days I swear it was colder inside that building than outside.) Yet despite that fact I usually preferred the colder weather as it made for keener ice and easier draws. But when it turned warm outside the ice became “heavy” and it was then that I had to put both feet in the hacks and shove the curling stone with all my might and still not make the hogline. That pretty much rendered me useless to the team!
One of my most memorable moments was being part of a team that scored an 8-ender on our opposition. (For you non-curlers that’s almost the equivalent of a perfect cribbage hand or a hole-in-one in golf.) Very few teams accomplish this, but even fewer do this and still lose the game. Somehow we managed to do both!
But my favourite curling story has little to do with actual curling. It is customary in small rinks across this province to bring something to the game which will help fellow teammates keep warm during the 2 hour contest. Our team’s preference was Butter Ripple schnapps – nothing over the top, just a little nip to ward off the cold. In our rink, players step off the ice, go behind a little wall at the far end and enjoy a quick “warmer upper”.
When it was my turn to supply the chill-chaser I went to the cabinet, found a half-full bottle, grabbed some plastic glasses and was on my way. Once we were into the game I poured each gal a shot and kept curling while the other girls who were a bit chilled had a sip. Finally I had an opportunity for a drink, but after the first mouthful I found it to be less than enjoyable and wondered why I had ever liked this beverage as I now found it to be rather harsh in flavour.
When I was back on the ice I said as much to my friend and she responded with, “Maybe that’s because you brought straight rye.” (Apparently someone in our household had decided to pour some remaining rye from a big bottle in my empty little bottle from Butter Ripple.)
It seemed that not only was I a poor shot maker on the ice, but also a terrible shot provider off the ice! As my life became busier I gave up on the game, but I always enjoyed the camaraderie and entertainment of those small-town bonspiels.