In moments of weakness, however, he thinks of returning to Iowa and perhaps farming. But not even at his weakest will he consider it for at least another 15 years. For now there is no way to keep Feuerbach down on the farm. He has not only seen Paree, but Stockholm and Barcelona.
In Preston there was concern for Allan's life-style, and Doc Feuerbach still winces at his son's long hair. But the questions about hippie freaks and dropouts from life ended when Al put the shot 68'11" in San Francisco on Jan. 22, 1971 to set a world indoor mark. A month later he stopped off in Iowa on his way back from the AAU indoor championships in New York. "I should have known something strange was happening when the whole family arrived dressed up for the first time ever," Feuerbach recalls. But Al didn't catch on until his mother pointed out the unusual traffic at Goose Lake, seven miles outside Preston. The traffic jam by the side of a cornfield was half of Preston: a caravan of fire engines, buses, vans and trucks to escort the hero into town for Al Feuerbach Day. Streamers and banners announced: THANKS FOR PUTTING us ON THE MAP. Across U.S. 64, entering Preston, was the banner: WELCOME HOME, BIG AL.
The caravan rolled up to the high school. The town was shut down and 500 people crowded into the auditorium to watch Al Feuerbach being presented with the wooden key to Preston. Called upon to say a few words. Feuerbach thanked the townspeople, then allowed that he should have suspected something was up since Doc Orlyn Gene was wearing a pink tie and a purple shirt when he met his son at the airport. "You can say I was embarrassed," Al says. "No, it was painful. They even retired my track jersey, and then the school band played something appropriate like You've Come a Long Way, Baby."
Feuerbach spent that summer in Europe, putting his way from country to country but always going back to Stockholm to visit a beautiful Swedish girl. When he returned to San Jose, his weight was down, his hair was past his shoulders, his left ear was pierced by a pearl earring and he was determined to make up for lost time.
"That was one wasted Rhino," says Samsam. "I don't know what his problem was, maybe it was that Midwestern conscience, but he was impossible. The thing to remember about Al is that he just loves the shot. Then, of course, he's always put, put, putting. It's crazy, but that's Al. This was much worse. It was impossible. He was unbelievable!"
Samsam and Marks were not only witnesses, they, too, had to suffer for the Rhino's misspent summer. Marks eased off. He could not stand the unending program. Big Simba wanted to quit, but held on.
" 'Al, this Berber is tired. Skip a day,' " Samsam recalls pleading. "For months, no girls. If I suggested dates, Al had an excuse. 'What about a movie, tonight, Rhino?' No, nothing. All he wanted to do was brood about the shot."
When the pressure became unbearable, which it often did, Samsam, the Berber from the Atlas Mountains, would sneak off to Mount Hamilton, San Jose's friendly peak, get his head together and then come down and put some more.
There were advantages. In competition Samsam threw 67'1", a personal best by almost five feet. Meanwhile, the Rhino went temporarily wild. On Feb. 11, 1972 Feuerbach hit 69'�" to break his world indoor record. Indoors and out he exceeded 69 feet in nine meets and on three occasions surpassed 70, including a personal record of 70' 7�".
In the Olympics, Feuerbach's best throw was only 68'�", which got him fifth. Something, obviously, went wrong. That something, argues Samsam, was the murder of the Israelis, which destroyed Feuerbach's psych. But this is not the answer. Al Feuerbach has developed a technique for shutting out life, insulating his shotputting. Once a zealous Fundamentalist, Feuerbach now says, "I have no room in my life for Christ. He interferes with my shotputting. (I hope He doesn't read this.) When I was a found Christian, converting people, then I thought obsessions were a mortal sin, but that's wrong. Now I feel my obsession is the one right thing in my life. To be the best in the world at anything is an incredible accomplishment.