SI Vault
Terry Todd
November 05, 1979
Three Americans, one a woman, journeyed to the Highlands to try some ancient Scottish tests of manhood. They rocked the Scots with truly hefty attainments
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November 05, 1979

A Legend In The Making

Three Americans, one a woman, journeyed to the Highlands to try some ancient Scottish tests of manhood. They rocked the Scots with truly hefty attainments

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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.

The following 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?"

Whereupon Kaz 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.

Finally, the 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.

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