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We asked him to come with us because we felt he would enjoy Scotland and the challenges there as much as the Scots would enjoy seeing him accept those challenges. Thus it was that we three—the self-styled Chub Club—found ourselves late last summer strolling through Gatwick airport, Kaz drawing unbelieving stares, Jan organizing our baggage for transport to a connecting train and I wondering if the wonderfully named "Chubb Alarm" would sound if I were to stick my hand and forearm through the hole in the glass through which I was receiving my meager handful of British currency in exchange for my non-Kazmaier-like U.S. dollars.
Onward then to Irvine, Scotland, to the home of our excited host, David Webster himself, who during our first evening took us around to the home of a whisky distributor who had heard of our planned assault on Scotland's hallowed stones. After the usual small talk we were ushered into another room for the presentation of gifts. Besides Jan, Kaz, Webster and me, our party now included Tony Fitton, another member of the Strength Research Center, who was home in Britain on holiday and tagging along. First our host gave a bottle of Scotch whisky each to Tony, Kaz and me. But no whisky for Jan. Next, he launched into an explanation of the many bloody uses to which the blunt little scabbard knife called a sgian dubh could be put—brisket splittings, kidney thrustings and the like—and then, as with the Scotch, gave a sgian dubh each to Fitton, Kazmaier and me, again excluding Jan. We soon left, realizing as we did so that perhaps everyone in Scotland wasn't as pleased about our primary business there as was Webster. Little did the whisky man know that he was hoisting himself with his own petard, as we shall shortly see.
Next morning early we were away for Braemar, packed into the back of a rented, windowless van, sitting in some lawn chairs for which no sane underwriter would have predicted long life. One chair went just after lunch when Kaz dozed off and leaned back, but the others held, and well before the end of a dreary day we checked into our hotel and decided that although it was misting we should hurry to the inn at Potarch and turn Jan loose on the stones.
Delightfully enough, the photographer engaged by SI to cover our Highland doings was Terence Spencer, who shared with Jan the only minimally dubious distinction of inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records, she, of course, for her lifting, he for having parachuted from a fighter plane falling into the Baltic in the closing days of World War II from a height of between 30 and 40 feet. As for Kazmaier, little Billy will have to wait until next year's edition is issued to see his bench record or records (and perhaps others) listed, because the only other achievement for which he could be included is among the ones Guinness has eliminated as being potentially dangerous. The thing the big guy did that God knows would have to be a world record was to eat, in California in 1978, in two hours, in front of several hundred people, on what other occasion than a Fourth of July celebration, 1,000 (count 'em, 1,000) live goldfish. "It was easy," Kaz recalls. "They gave 'em to us in paper cartons of 50 fish apiece and I just drained the water and knocked 'em back."
Let's just say it was an interesting group that unloaded from the van at the inn at Potarch and crowded around the stones under the lowering sky. The two brutal-looking rocks were chained together, and as I looked at them closely I began to fear, for the first time since Jan did 900 in the partial deadlift, that she might fail to lift them. They were much larger than photographs had made them seem, and I knew this would force Jan to take a wider stance than would provide ideal, or even reasonably good, leverage.
The innkeeper knew of the attempt, and soon we had the stones unchained and in place. Because of the cool, damp day, and because there was no other way to warm up for the two stones together, she first lifted the 340-pound stone twice with her right hand and twice with her left. Then her blood began to move and she stood astride the seemingly intractable 448-pounder and raised it twice each with her right and her left hand. But in order to straddle the huge stone she was forced, as I had feared, to take too wide a stance. All the men who have lifted both stones have been taller than Jan, who stands 5'7" and weighs 195. In fact, the first man after Dinnie acknowledged to have raised the stones successfully was 6'7", 273-pound David Prowse, who hoisted them in 1963 and then went on to a career in television and films, including A Clockwork Orange and Star Wars, in which he had the role of Darth Vader.
But Jan hadn't trained all summer and traveled overseas to back away from the two stones just because her leverage was less than that of Lord Vader, so we moved the boulders together until they touched each other and would, we hoped, lock as she raised them, rather than swing against her legs. Once they were together she moved quickly to them, swung her right leg over and grasped the iron rings as Kaz and I helped her adjust and tighten her wrist straps. And then she pulled, her face drawing downward as she leaned back to apply her leg and back strength against the stones. The small one did swing clear, but though she pulled for several seconds the big stone failed to move. As she released the iron rings and moved a few feet back, people crowded around, consoling her and offering advice, but she walked away and stood alone, trying to prepare her mind to overcome the obvious limitations of her body.
Again she stepped across the stones, positioned her feet, secured her grip and began to pull, moaning with the effort, and again the small stone swung free of the ground. But as before, the large stone stayed put. She came to me then, shaking her head. "They're so heavy. So heavy." We left the crowd and walked together, past the lovely pink-flecked field of Rose Bay Willow herbs that led down to the Dee, and stood awhile without talking, looking at the flowers and the Dee and the bridge across which Dinnie had carried the stones almost 100 years ago. "Perhaps you should give it up," I remember saying. "The lifting of them isn't worth a serious injury."
"Not yet," she said. "I want to try just once more."
As we walked back to the stones and the crowd, I said the usual words about bearing down and positioning her feet properly and leaning back so that the heavier stone, which was in front of her, would come up. But I had said those words before, and though I knew they were true, I had little confidence in them. Finally, for what I knew would be the last time, she stood again over the stones, placing her feet as well as she could, and we began to tighten her wrist straps. As we did so I leaned close against her and whispered, "Let's see you pull this one for the whisky man."