On Saturday mornings a couple of us garbage volunteers trudge down to the recycling facility to help our neighbors sort their rubbish. This time of year there is a cluster of regulars, with their returnable bottles and their truckloads of cardboard, the hallmarks of our winter lifestyle, which centers largely around alcohol and mail-order. Then, if the weather is not too miserable, Robin and I tend to stand around in the road for a few minutes, gabbing while we wait for any last trash-day stragglers.

Across the road from the recycling setup is Tony’s field. Once the home of Sugar the Very Old Pony, then a lovely meadow of lupines, much of the property was scraped bare of topsoil roughly 20 years ago by a previous landowner, leaving Tony with a hungry-looking expanse of tundra. He is making improvements, and things are coming back to life, and it does make a decent daylight helicopter landing zone for LifeFlight demonstrations and such. However, as Robin and I stood around in the cold, our minds turned to trouble.

The inspiration of the PyeongChang Olympics, the desperation of cabin fever, and the realization of how much we can get away with when most of the neighbors are gone have spurred some of us on to consider something outside our usual gamut: sports.

“Tony’s field would make a great ax-throwing venue, don’t you think?”

The subject of competition ax throwing, for fun and profit, or for therapy at least, had been brought to my attention by a former student. It took my memories back to the closest I ever got to organized sports in school — and that wasn’t too derned organized — that being the University of Maine’s Woodsman Team in 1983. We wore red suspenders, and most of the women wore two long braids, like something out of a Wagner opera. I remember a couple of girls who went by “Burly and Barely,” and a tall skinny guy in sheet-metal shin-guards at a competition where somebody brought out a big funnel, put it on his head, and called him the Tin Woodsman. I remember the particular fun of trying to cross into Canada at midnight, in a broken-down old bus loaded with college students and axes, on our way to a meet at the University of New Brunswick. The border guard came aboard, woke us all up, and asked each of us a random question. I assume that was some sort of sobriety test. Anyway, these are the sacrifices you make for your team.

I did not actually compete in the ax-throwing events while on the UMO Woodsman Team, but to this day I regret having missed my chance at athletic distinction.



Another encouraging word toward our sportsmanlike intentions came from National Public Radio last week which, perhaps exhibiting some lapse in judgment, broadcast a story about the national sport of Bhutan, that being archery. However, unlike the quiet, staid sport of archery as they might do it in the summer Olympics, the spirit of Bhutanese archery contests resembles nothing so much as football, with lots of yelling, and cheering and heckling the other team, and beer.

My grandmother from South Thomaston happened to be a champion archer, and my great-uncle from Spruce Head was some kind of archery prodigy; his name is still known to the old guys around the L.L. Bean archery counter. Maybe it’s a family tradition. Anyway, Robin said she was good at archery as a kid, and Marcia says she’s in, too — heck, she’s even been to central Asia — and we know that Emily can shoot, and she can probably even keep the rest of us safe. We acknowledged how Tony’s field would be a pretty good archery course. Obviously we would shoot in the opposite direction of the resident poultry. How many people do we need for a proper Bhutanese-style team, and what kind of beer do we serve?

Robin commented that we ought to try bobsledding sometime. There are really only two significant inclines on the island, one being Carrie’s Hill, which also happens to be the main highway although that never stopped youthful sledders in the past (more cautious parents, or older kids, might put a lobster trap, in lieu of a highway cone, at the end of the hill to warn motorists that the road might be scattered with children). The other is a rocky outcropping nicknamed “Mount Ararat,” now Christina’s driveway, where certain tricky, high-speed turns might be required. Well, one very large turn, anyway. I suggested to Christina that in her wintertime absence we might feel the need to convert her steep and circuitous driveway into a “sliding center,” as they call such a track in the Olympics. Christina just made some reference to lessons we learn the hard way.