Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Stumptown Stump

Rain, reigning with the Golden Hammer

We're fresh back from the first annual Stumptown Stump Tournament, the Honorable Margaret "Munny" Munford presiding. Stump is a game in which players attempt to drive each other's nails into a stump with a hammer that is first tossed in the air for a full revolution, caught, and brought to bear on the stump in one fluid motion. There is beer involved. The kids we know from Bowdoin College, most within hollering distance of thirty, are introducing the game here. Ah, youth! All we had was Twister. We didn't even have Pong.

I was an observer. Even if I were inclined to toss a hammer into the air, no one wants me to. I have too much of a history. I've hit my own foot trying to skip stones across the water, and nobody stands behind me in horseshoes. Like a pinball rattling into the drain, I always ended up as catcher in softball after cycling through the other positions and proving myself incapable of throwing the ball farther than I could blow a snot bubble.

And then there was the time Dave tried to do
some repairs on the roof. The slope was steep, and the roof was slick, and I was deputized to toss material up to him so he wouldn't have to keep climbing down the ladder. I'd stand just at the eaves. "Straight up," he said, in the tone of voice one uses to encourage a toddler to take her first steps. "No need to put too much muscle into it. Just loft it straight up, easy, and I'll catch it." I have a faulty release button. The tossed items took a different trajectory every time, and Dave repeated his instructions louder, and then really, really loud. After several ill-advised attempts to snag shit out of the air, he demoted me to cleanup crew. Demotion is the better part of valor.

Stumptown, incidentally, is an early nickname of our fair city, so-called because settlers in the mid-1800s whacked down the lush forest they found here as fast as they possibly could. (Our species' plan for the Earth when we're done with it is to just rename it Mars.) Because there is a beer element involved in Stump, I thought I might be a natural, so I did give hammer-tossing a whirl, in the friendly confines of our backyard. I'm not good. I flip it into the air and then duck, as though I've never seen it before and it's falling out of the sky like a rogue asteroid. Munny took a video of my efforts which,  she says, is capable of lifting her out of the deepest gloom. It's been making the rounds as both entertainment and a cautionary tale. I did not make the cut. I don't like to brag, but nobody could catch a hammer I've tossed.

I arrived in flip-flops, confident I would be required to stay as far away from the hammers as possible. There were three stumps set up and about two dozen players. Everyone had a nail, everyone had a beer. Odds were good something was going to get hammered. Everyone took a position on a stump and the tools began to fly. There are stylistic differences in hammer-tossing technique, but it is particularly important not to be caught cocking it, even a little. Nobody wants to be subjected to mild disapproval for a teeny cock. And failure to observe any of the rules subjected the
Heading into the finals.
player to mild disapproval. Dropping a hammer on someone's foot subjected the player to mild disapproval. Any of fourteen or so possible events could compel a player to take a drink of beer, be subjected to mild disapproval, or both. After about an hour everyone was pretty much out of mild disapproval.

It was the largest congregation of young people I'd seen in a decade who were not checking their phones. They were adorable. They reminded me of us, thirty years ago: attractive, easy-going, smart, and pretty likely to get laid at some point in the day. After a round-robin competition, play-off
and championship round, it was Rain who went home with the Golden Hammer. I don't know what anyone else went home with. It was way better than Twister.

The Honorable Margaret "Munny" Munford
We never actually played Twister, of course. That was for our parents' generation, resplendent in polyester stretch Capris, cone bras and beehives, Bermudas and polo shirts, all giggles and tinkling cocktails. We did something a lot like it, but we didn't need the mat.

43 comments:

  1. I've been in Oregon almost 20 years now and still wasn't aware of this feature of local culture. Maybe it's just as well. If I attempted to toss a hammer I'd undoubtedly kill somebody.

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    1. It's a recent intro! No need to feel left out. Maybe they'll make a special tournament just for us. Special bus special.

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  2. You are definitely a talented person, Murr. I have no doubt that anyone trying to catch a hammer you toss would be unable to catch it. Made for a smiley little post, though. :-)

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    1. They might be able to catch it if they weren't too busy ducking.

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  3. I want to say something pithy involving a sack of hammers, but it just won't come to me, somehow...

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    1. AND nevertheless you got your point across. Point taken.

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  4. You just know overachievers are going to be out in their back yard for hours, developing fancy tosses, or seeing how many nails they can drive in a row or something even more exotic, when the real point of the game is to get hammered and nail someone. A real overachiever is someone who comes in first and third in a circle jerk.

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    1. Get hammered and nail someone?!!! ROXIE!!!!

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  5. "Nobody wants to be subjected to mild disapproval for a teeny cock."

    That will get you some hits from Saudi Arabia!

    Very funny, now I have to find me a stump, a nail, and a hammer.

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    1. You know, these kids are really sweet. Even a teeny cock will only net you mild disapproval. I really think people are nicer today than they used to be.

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  6. Here in Maine we slap the moose.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. Whoa, whoa, there, back up, buddy. This is going to require WAY more of an explanation.

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  7. What fun! The things we think of as an excuse to drink beer! And don't feel bad about being unable to toss the hammer just right - what difference does it make? You still got to drink beer :D

    And you know what Ben Franklin said about beer - it's proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Good old Ben.

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    1. I have that very saying on a beer glass, so it must be true!

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  8. People hear me appear with a hammer and show up to pound the nail and hang the picture.

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    1. It sure sounds like you've got something working for you.

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  9. You'd be doing us all a public service if you posted that video of you and the hammer - those of us who need cheering up, and those of us who want to avoid getting hit with a rogue hammer. Which is pretty much all of us, don't you think?

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    1. I do. I am not in custody of said video.

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  10. jenny_o's comment nailed it for me. Please, pretty please. That video would brighten a lot of days...

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    1. Well, dammit, I can see something must be done. I'm not sure I'VE seen this video. But, as has been demonstrated numerous times on this blog, I have no discernible pride.

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  11. I'm convinced the only reason Forest Park exists is that the early 'stumpers' didn't have climbing gear.

    I'd be no good at hammer catching either but I too would really love to see that video.

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    1. You are so right. Forest Park was too hard to build on. Actually we should look that up and see if there was some visionary involved. Oregon does boast such visionaries. One of them, Neil Goldschmidt, is now universally derided for his sexual predilections, but Portland would have been a way poorer place without his vision. Majorly.

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  12. Some of my most interesting social encounters have involved hammers. Sounds like it's evolving into an art up there. And beer, snotbubbles! I had not thought California culturally disadvantaged until now, but will do my best to advance this bit of it!

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    1. I think you can look up Stump on Wikipedia and get a whole tutorial. I'd do it if I were you. However, that does not get you out of explaining your social hammer encounters.

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  13. Replies
    1. Yes, dear, I know, colorful dots. It's especially fun when you do acid.

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    2. Ah, yes! The generation that doesn't have memories--it has flashbacks.

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  14. Doncha just love the ingenuity of humans? They come up with some very creative ways to mingle and drink beer. I'll also add my voice to those asking to see the video of you throwing the hammer. It would go viral!

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    1. Well, shit. I need to get Munny on the phone.

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  15. Hammer tossing, beer, flip flops? Recipe for disaster if I ever heard one! Although, I'm even more incredulous over the fact that they were all ignoring their phones. Pass the hammer and the beer!

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  16. Don't guys know that it's impossible to toss something "straight up"? Can't tell you how often I've been demoted for that very thing. Or subjected to mild disapproval.

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  17. Even I could have fun there! Let me know ahead of time next year and I'll be there for the festivities. Who knows, I might get lucky and not hurt myself or anyone else!

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    1. Jono, you let me know when you're planning to get your Viking ass down here, and I'll be sure you have at least a beer in your hand.

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  18. I'd be as bad as you at tossing hammers. Or anything else.
    I can't believe you never played Twister! You poor deprived child. I played it when I was much younger(16) and much, much more flexible.

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    1. My neighbor's family had Twister and we tried to do it at age ten or so. I think Geezer Twister would be a great idea. You'd have to negotiate draping flesh.

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  19. I am wondering about those stumps (or sections as they appear to be). Can they then be used as firewood? Can the nails then be re-used, or is this a disposable, one-time-only sort of thing. Do the host and hostess, mightily hung over, go out the next morning with coffee and claw-hammers and pull the nails out to facilitate splitting the sections into fireplace-sized chunks, or do they just maul right through the nails? If they use real stumps, they certainly won't be able to use a stump-grinder afterwards. If they use copper clad nails, it will speed the natural break-down of the wood, if that's what they want.

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