Offerings of a Prize-Winning Poet, Aging Jock,and Recovering Lawyer

Archive for June, 2009


by Art on June 24th, 2009

                                          AWC’S Slight Revision of Published Story


       With six screws and plates in his shattered collarbone, Art Campbell, 61, of the Lakeside Polo Club, is recovering slowly.  More interesting than being tossed over his thoroughbred’s head during solo polo practice, was what happened afterward.  Art lay on the field, pulled out his cellphone, and called his wife, the novelist Drusilla Campbell.  “I think I’ve broken my collarbone,” he said.  “Would you mind driving out here and taking me to the hospital?  No, wait,” he added feeling his collarbone. “The bone still feels intact.  I’ll call you back in five minutes.” 


       When Art’s horse came back and stood over him, Art reached for the bridle, heard a series of snaps, and felt instant pain.  Drusilla, however, had jumped from her chair when Art first told her the news, and pulled a muscle in her back.  Thinking “Art’s fine, just shaken up,” she swallowed a muscle relaxant for her aching back.  When Art called the second time, she dutifully clambered into her van for the 30 minute drive from San Diego to the polo field at Hering Ranch. 


       Fifteen minutes later she called Art on his cellphone.  “Honey… I’m so sleepy,” she moaned.  “I can’t …stay awake… to drive.”  Art said, “You’d better pull over, take a quick nap.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going anywhere.” 


       Forty-five minutes later Drusilla arrived, refreshed and alert, and drove Art to the hospital.  “One more chapter,” philosophized Art, “in our marriage of thirty-six volatile years.”


       [P.S. As of 7 November 2008, I’ve still got the plate and six screws, but the arm works just fine.  Last week, however, I got kicked in the knee by an opponent’s horse while my horse was trying to overtake it at 35 m.p.h.  Strange, the knee doesn’t hurt much but it keeps giving out on me.  Could it be that I’m 64-1/2 years old and coming apart bit by bit?  Nah!]

Campbell Is Down But Not Out in Polo Tournament!

by Art on June 24th, 2009

       Visiting Australia in May, I just missed being able to see Oz’s Makybe Diva, the greatest racehorse (a mare, actually) in the world. But my consolation was coming home and riding my own don’t-say-whoa Thoroughbred mare in the Margarita Invitational Polo Tournament. In my first chukker I got to drill a 40-yard goal off Chloe as she broke away from the pack and raced down the field at top speed.  I once heard a fighter-pilot say that charging down the polo field on a breakaway was more exciting than anything he’d ever done in a jet plane.  Since I had been only an Air Force navigator, his thought goes double for me.  


       In the tournament’s last chuckker our team was down two points. This time I rode my Arabian, determined to stop an opponent who had gotten a pass from his team mate.  As the two of us broke away, he kept eluding my defensive hooks and swats at his mallet as he leaned forward and stroked the ball towards the goal.  I spurred Zarahas one stride ahead of him, so I could take one last desperate overhand whack at the ball itself before it crossed the goal line.  I leaned far out to the left, a move most polo ponies would feel and accordingly shift to the left to keep me on board. 


       But good old Zarahas was the typical “thinking Arabian.” In two prior games he had let me get knocked off his back by a goal post when he swerved past it in the opposite direction I was leaning in an effort to smack the ball. So that was the moment he decided he’d leap to the RIGHT. 


       Result?  I not only missed the ball but came crashing off his back in front of my charging opponent!  My old rugby reflexes folded me into a tuck and roll, so I wasn’t hurt (just stiff next day.)  The other guy’s horse managed to veer away from my body. Zarahas instantly halted, looked over at me, and said, “Sorry, Boss, I thought you’d prefer me to move AWAY from all the commotion!” 


       As a spectator, my wife Dru was standing only ten yards away but was looking at something else. She missed hubby’s tumble until I finished my roll by bouncing up, raising both arms like a gymnast, and grinning for the judges to score my fabulous unorthodox dismount. 


       Overall, although my team lost, it was a terrific tournament.  Like landing a plane, any fall is a good fall if you can walk away from it. In fact it reminded me why, at 64-1/2, I continue playing the world’s fastest contact sport: to lessen the chances I’ll die of cancer or Alzheimer’s!  Where else can an old jock find thrills like this?




Polo Moment for an Aging Jock

by Art on June 20th, 2009

This morning (in April 2009  tossed an aging jock a peak experience in his life of sport.   

Writing later in the afternoon, I feel I’ve been tee-boned by an S.U.V.  One week short of turning 65, I’ve gathered in two wobbly knees, several bones repaired from breaks, six concussions, steel plate with six screws inside one clavicle, the other with two shattered halves now overlapped.  My body asks, “How long can this go on?”  It gives a digital salute to Nietsche and asserts, “What doesn’t kill me makes me fokking tired!”


I’m glad I dropped my weight below 160 and each day either ride my horses, run beside our dogs, or lever 22 machines with cute wahinis at the Y.  Without all that this morning never could have been.


At risk of boring you, let me preface with some details.  This story really starts one week ago at Hering Ranch’s Lakeside Polo Club.  During his two chukkers of a game, my over-thinking Arab horse Zarahas chose to go on strike.  Indeed, two years earlier he’d unfurled another job-action by swerving left or right each time my mallet swooped to smack the ball.  That time I furloughed him a month and he returned refreshed and willing to the polo field.


But last Saturday his form of equine strike was refusing to bump or ride-off horse at a gallop.  When I resorted to a whip and spurs to urge him to engage, he upped his ante and declined to even ride into a crowd of moving mounts.  So I furloughed him again in hopes his alpha personality would overcome his genes.  (He’d been bred for endurance races− 50 mile contests− not polo’s sprints, skid-stops, and banging larger horses.)


That afternoon I asked Kip Hering if he’d let me borrow Bambi, his big, grey, ex-professional-polo-playing Thoroughbred.  Like her namesake from the tribe of deer, her penchant is for leaping into the next county when she’s slightly cued for speed.  (Whips and spurs need not apply.)  She then goes nuts if asked to stop.  Ever the generous gentleman, Kip warned me of her tendencies before he let me ride his manic mare.


Last Tuesday I saddled Bambi for the first time, warmed her up inside the turn-out ring, took her to an ersatz track, and let her “have her head.”  She ran away with me.  Which isn’t quite as dire as it sounds.  I just said, “Sheeite− no way I can bring her back right now!”  But after a hundred yards of trees and bushes flew past at the speed of light, I gradually began to pull her in.  Thinking she’d soon get a little tired, I romped her for a lap around the track, then let her out again.  Same result.  After one more lap?  Ditto etc.


Two days later I returned with Bambi to the track.  On the straightaway, three laps in a row, I let her out as fast as she would go.  I was glad to see her come back every time I tugged hard on the reins.  So I tried a fourth− and learned why three times is a charm.


Last Friday (yesterday) I rode my jiggy julep to the polo field to practice hitting from five inches higher than from my Arabian and two inches higher than my other in-shape polo horse.  “Stick-and-ball” this exercise is called.  We worked for fifteen minutes− until my wrist complained from swinging a two-inch longer, heavier mallet.  All the while Bambi squirreled and dolphined up and down the field− not hot to trot but clearly rash to dash.


So I awoke at 6 today with trepidation lying on the sheets twixt Dru and me.  I drove to Hering Ranch alone, called Bambi to me from her pipe corral and hitched her to the rail at my Shack-o-Tack.  Then I cautiously led Chloe up to her.  Chloe is another head-strong, ex-pro-player’s Thoroughbred, but one I’ve ridden for three years, long enough to “find the whoa” in her.  I fed them breakfast from adjoining tubs.  Unlike geldings, who’d likely kick and punch (with clenched teeth) at each other til they’d settled who was alpha, the mares− fervent warriors on the field− calmly munched their hay.


Next I cleaned eight hooves, curried both their favors, brushed them, cleaned their privates, and tied up their tails so they wouldn’t snag a swinging mallet.  Wrapping all their legs inside protective velvet bandages, I velcroed hoof-boots on each fore.  (Alas, Bambi later got a gash on one unbooted hind!)


I added saddle pads, saddles, breast bands, martingales, and bridles to each mare, and sheathed myself in leather boots, knee-guards, and helmet.  Then Ego with two lusty Ids sauntered to the polo field.   Bambi would play chukkers one and three; Chloe would play two and four.


Just before the game, Drusilla came to watch her own Bambino knight and his uncertain charger.  As part of warming up the not-so-old grey mare, I asked Bambi for a routine “roll-back” (quick-stop, pivot on hind legs, and charge the opposite direction.)  Both rear hooves skidded forward underneath her belly on the dewy grass until she almost sat down on her butt!  Not a positive beginning, but a crucial caveat: Because she wasn’t shod on either hind, I’d better tone down rollbacks in the game and try to halt all field-length dashes in the dirt beyond each goal.


In the first chukker Bambi roared around the field like a train-wreck waiting for a crash.  Somehow I managed to stay on and even made a few defensive plays, steering my grey locomotive next to a competing horse and shouldering it aside.  Once she slipped into another rear-leg skid but managed to regain her feet instead of flipping on her back, pan-caking me. 


Throughout the chukker Zarahas watched us from his pipe corral fifty yards away.  He kept up a plaintive neigh, “Why can’t I have some fun?”  Once I hollered back, “Because you’re a butthead and still don’t get ridden for a month!”


In the second chukker I rode Chloe and scored my first goal of the game.


For me chukker number three was another who’s-in-charge on Bambi.  Once we got the ball on a breakaway.  I hit it slantwise to the boards, then tried to check my mare’s frantic dash, so I could whack it once more towards the goal.  Bambi stuttered to a stiff-legged halt and pivoted 180 degrees− right into charging horses!  That equinocide maneuver made me realize her value on the field would be mainly on defense.  Indeed her wild abandon caught each horse I aimed her at and stoutly bumped or shoved it to one side.


Fourth chukker, back on stalwart Chloe, we scored two more times, another rush for truly yours.  Now out of mounts, the game was done for me.  But sometimes peak experiences conclude with, “I survived!”


Gentle reader, I’ll spare you post-elation details, like removing all that tack, feeding both mares apple chunks, hosing them, toweling off their lowered heads, and letting them roll dry.  I’ll only mention quaffing Guinesses on Kip’s porch with him and friends, replaying highlights of the game.  These recollections stud my memory but are too lackluster to relate.  (Say, that reminds me: Have you heard sex described as “merely poor man’s polo?”  You haven’t?  Fancy that.)


Back home, I’ve pudding-ized my aching bodd in our Jacuzzi but my hands are still so swollen they won’t close into a fist.  I’m slumped in a reclining chair while a harpsichord sonata wafts from the radio.  My Zen bird has resumed his perch on my right shoulder.  He’s the one who chirps at me, “Is this the day you’re going to die?”  I grin at him and answer, “Not today, my friend!”