Under the Wire
How sports get started
June 17, 2020
Coming up with a funny story every week can begin to wear a writer down, even one who has now composed close to 2,000 of them. In order to give the old brain a rest, I decided to switch to a history lesson this week. Hope you all enjoy and learn a valuable, previously unknown bit of our past.
About four million years ago a funny looking little creature showed up in the African forests. His name was Australopithecus Afarensis. He had a very small brain which explained why he choose such a strange name. According to what I can find, they all used the same name, which was even stranger. Surely scientist’s records have omitted at least one had to be named Fred.
Fred had a pretty good life for being only about three feet tall and dumber than a bucket of mud. At least he was smarter than the rest of the creatures around him. He was top hand in the African forests for a million years or so until another guy showed up named Australopithiaus Africanus. He was some bigger than Fred and was replaced a million years later by his cousin A. Robustus (Robby). Once again after about a million years had gone by, a new fellow Homo Habilus showed up. Harold, as we’ll call him, had a brain about twice the size of Fred’s, stood much taller, used stone tools and had very long arms. Although I’ve never read any facts on the matter, I’m going to bet Harold was a bully and picked on little Fred. I assume this from what I learned spending three years in the seventh grade at LaPorte. The big guys pick on the small ones.
Having a relatively big brain, and since television hadn’t been invented yet, Harold began to get bored. Eventually his constant picking on Fred evolved into the first recorded sport on earth, Fred Tossing. Harold and his relatives would get together on a Sunday afternoon, gather up Fred and a few of his unlucky cousins and see how far they could throw them. Harold thought this was a real hoot until one day, as always happens, some one bigger than him showed up. Homo erectus (Eric), was even bigger, stood up-right, was smart enough to live inside caves and loved to toss Harold around.
Over the next few million years the sport thrived but was plagued by one repeating problem. Every few million years a group of bigger folks showed up and the tossers became the tossees. As each group’s brain became bigger, finally they became aware of this re-occurring nuisance. Not wanting to give up the sport, a fellow named Ralph, got an idea. Ralph had been noticing all the little horses running around outside the cave. One day he found one that ran slow enough that he could catch it on foot. Ralph and his buddies tried tossing this little critter and found much to their surprise, it gave the same satisfaction as did hurling little people. Soon, horse tossing was all the rage. Leagues were formed and everybody had a shirt with the team logo on it ... OK so I got carried away for a moment ... if they had clothes, they would have had a shirt with the logo. I think they just dabbed mud on their foreheads to identify their team.
Life was good for Ralph, but he, too, had a problem. The horses they had been throwing kept getting bigger and bigger. The better tossers began using a form of primitive steroids that involved putting a prickly pear cactus pad in their loin cloth but nothing seemed to give them strength to throw these evolving equines far enough to please the crowd. Eventually, these horse creatures got so big that Cro Magnan team ropers tired of roping on foot, decided to try riding instead of tossing them. Since Ralph’s ancestors had moved from the jungles of Africa to Walden, Colorado by then, they soon found their steeds feet needed protection from rocks. A cave girl named Beth (who later would found Betheleham Steel) hurriedly invented iron. Soon all the horses wore iron shoes. As much as man enjoyed riding horses, a primitive urge secretly longed to be throwing old Sorrely rather than riding him. Horses, too, remembered the old system and frequently retaliated for old injustices by hurling their riders.
One evening a group of folks were sitting around the campfire when one admitted his strange craving to throw a horse. Surprised, one after another admitted the same craving.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” a guy named Jake boomed, “If we’re too weenie-armed to throw a whole horse, let’s go take the shoes off one and throw them! They smell the same and we can get our crowd back to watch us!”
Since few, if any of you, realized how the modern sport of horse shoe pitching evolved, I have been happy to share this story with you. By the way, speaking of evolution, I also happen to own a horse that evolved from the only one early-day Ralph could catch on foot!