I saw her face
flush as she lowered her hips and began to pull, and I shouted along with
everyone else as the smaller stone came up quickly, much higher than before,
and I shouted again as she leaned back and at long last the larger stone swung
clear. It came off the ground neither very far nor for very long, but by God it
came, and although Jan was disappointed at not standing erect with the stones,
she was assured over several pints of bitter inside the inn that as the years
passed, the height she had lifted the stones would no doubt enjoy the increase
usual in such matters.
morning Jan was lame but happy as we piled into the van to pay a visit to the
Inver Stone on the way to the Braemar Games. Her work was done, but Kaz was
feeling his porridge and wanted to try the smooth, round boulder that had
resisted the efforts of so many men. As Dave had said it would be, the stone
was resting in deep grass under a tree across from the inn, and as I rolled it
around it was easy to see why many strong men had failed not only to hoist it
to their waists but also to lift it even an inch from the ground. It was like
the King Kong of bowling balls, but for what I thought might really be the life
of me, I couldn't help but try it.
One of the
miracles of modern technology is the marvelous restorative effect a camera has
on aging, debilitated muscles. How else is it to be explained that when Terence
Spencer, our low-level parachutist, focused his expensive machine on me, the
Inver Stone wound up at the required waist height? But just as I was catching
my breath to do a little crowing, I heard Kaz ask Dave if anyone had ever
lifted the stone to arms' length overhead.
"Are ye daft,
man!" Webster replied with a shocked look. "Ye'll hae trouble enough
matching your auld bearded friend there." Then, turning to me, " Todd is
a Scottish name, is it not?"
started growling and rolling the stone around like a bear with a pumpkin.
Finally he found a grasp that suited him, and in one sweeping motion he pulled
the boulder not just to his waist but to his chest. Then he carefully moved his
hands under the stone and, wonder of wonders, pressed it easily overhead,
prompting Dave to remark, "Och, but I've seen it all now. Yesterday the
Dinnie Stones conquered by a woman, and now the Inver Stone handled as if it
were a wee pebble!"
A few dozen
photographs later we were on our way to Braemar to don our kilts and
participate as best we could in the games. Once there, we Americans were not
prepared for the pomp and majesty of the affair, or for the beauty of the
valley setting, the formal Highland dress and the skirling bagpipes, but we
were pleased to see the center of the arena devoted to the hammer throw, the
caber toss, the stone put and the many other events in which we and the other
"heavies" would take part.
As the day
progressed and as we competed in a few of the activities, we began to sense a
lack of excitement about the games, and when I asked Dave he confirmed my
suspicions that the murder of Lord Mountbatten, which had caused the Queen to
forgo one of the few Braemar gatherings missed by the royal family in this
century, had also taken a bit of life out of the games.
After a minute of
silence to remember Mountbatten, the final heavy event of the day began—the
56-pound-weight throw for height, in which the object is to throw a solid iron
weight with a ring in the handle over a crossbar placed on a set of pole-vault
standards, using only one hand. Until that afternoon Kazmaier had never even
seen a 56-pound weight, much less tried to throw one, but what he was
nonetheless able to do brought the crowd of 20,000 to its feet and lifted the
spirit of the entire games.
The bar was set
at 11 feet as we began to throw, and from the very beginning it was apparent
that Kaz had found his event. Most of the other men would gauge their power and
apply only enough to clear the bar, but on his first throw Kaz cleared it by at
least four feet. The crowd roared, and the rest of us heavies simply looked at
each other and shook our heads. And it continued. The bar was raised six inches
at a time and some of the men began to miss, but at every height Kaz' throw
surged far over the bar.
three other remaining competitors and I missed at between 13'6" and 14' and
Kaz was told that the Braemar record stood at 15'1". So the bar was raised
to 15'2", and again he sailed it over, high and easily, at which point
several retired heavies who were judging the event walked over and announced
that the world record was 16'1". "Will the wee laddie have a try at
16'2"?" one asked me with a wink, then signaled for the bar to be
raised without waiting for my answer.