Allow me to brag. I can juggle a 16-pound shot put.
I’ll take your questions.
Keep three of those babies aloft at the same time? Hey, they should name a circus after you.
Silly. I’m 70 years old. One weighty object. Two bean bags.
Do you practice safe shot put?
Yes. I juggle over the bed. Better to have a dent in the mattress than my foot.
What’s the backstory here?
I started juggling baseballs long ago when I coached my kids’ teams. It was something to do in the dugout instead of watching us overthrow the cut-off man. The third-graders got a big kick out of it, so I told them I’d add an eight-pound bowling ball to the act if we made the playoffs. We didn’t, but I learned anyway.
What was your secret to success?
Channeling my inner Paul Bunyan.
And the shot put?
A birthday present. I decided to stage the occasional track and field competition — well, field — with myself. And like all shot-putters worth their sinews, I had a great grunt — “HARRUMGOOSBAH,” just as the thing left my fingers.
You threw it in the back yard?
I wanted to give the neighbors something to talk about, and the mole population went down by 80 percent. They hate it when the round ball hits home.
So we have a grown person devaluing his property by heaving a shot put on his lawn.
Did I mention that the boys on the team cheered me on? They especially enjoyed it when I farted trying to squeeze out those extra inches.
Did your wife threaten an intervention?
No, because she understood the plus side. We lived in a rural area and I don’t own a gun. Any prowler would have received a face full of shot put. We agreed that would be a must-see mug shot.
We conducted a Google search for Jugglers Of Ponderous Masses and your name did not come up. What happened?
When I no longer had baseball kids to goof around with, I put away my bowling ball and shot put. It was like the Peter, Paul and Mary song, “Puff The Magic Dragon.” Dragons live forever, but not so little boys.
The “Puff” thing. Did you inhale?
Never mind that. Suffice to say the heavy stuff was relegated to the deep recesses of the basement. Decades went by. I retired from juggling except for the occasional request for a parlor trick when I’d grab something like a spoon, a mustard packet and a salt shaker.
So you moved on with your life and quit assassinating moles.
Yes, but I really missed having teams. Every spring I’d go to the ball field and watch the next generation of grown-ups experience the same joy I once felt. I envied them.
Now we know. Deep down, you’re a raging sentimentalist.
Sue me. Then one day I found a pile of scorebooks of the Plaza Park Cubs. Thumbing through the faded pages, I remembered the right fielder who missed a fly ball because he was picking flowers, and the second baseman — an aspiring pirate — who came to the plate with a black patch over one eye. An idea hit. If I can still juggle the bowling ball, it would sorta be like reliving the good old seasons.
Not even a little bit. But I was determined to get the trick back, and ramped up my workout sessions to include extra rounds of planks, curls and bench-presses. It wasn’t long before I could do 25 or more passes with the bowling ball without a drop. Then I challenged myself with the shot put.
Why, for heaven’s sake?
Not many persons my age can do it. Maybe the right individual will hear about the feat and want to give me money.
Not very likely.
You’re right. So I plan to make a little video of Mister Shot Put and me and share it with former Plaza Park Cubs.
Do you plan on grunting?
Oh, absolutely. And with any luck, I’ll fart. The guys will get a big kick out of it.
— Garret Mathews
Garret Mathews is a retired metro columnist for the Courier & Press (Evansville, Indiana). His 12 books include Swing, Batta (Michigan State University Press). His website includes links to some of his favorite columns as well as material he wrote about Appalachia and the civil rights movement.