A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 103

In the noble tradition

The combat of two single persons, who may or may not be deciding great questions in the process, dates back to prehistoric times. Take the Biblical story of David and Goliath, or the Homeric tale of Achilles and Hector, by way of examples. Then there were the amphitheatre fights, popular among the ancient Romans, with the protagonists purposefully trained to give an exciting show and called gladiators.

These guys came in several guises - some unlucky enough to be "andabatae" fought blindfolded; others were "mirmillones" with sword, shield and unimpaired eyesight; the "retiari" were given a net and three-pronged lance; and the "thraces" hacked away with a short sword and a round buckler. Very popular spectator sport, the gladiator shows. The MTV of its day.

The next upsurge of Double Trouble was arguably the jousting tourney of the Middle Ages, when knights, at a loose end between crusades and wars, would whop at each other with spikey metal balls, pikes and lances. Yessiree! Seats sold out months in advance. The King and his buddies were never too happy about tournaments, though, apparently, for when large numbers of crazies, like knights, gathered in a bunch, they were just as liable to set off and cause an insurrection somewhere.

It was a relief to the authorities when jousting gave way, in Tudor England, to the masque. This was merely a gorgeous cloud of wimps darting around in spectacular costumes. No danger there. And no surprise when, a few years later, things deteriorated further into opera. Pah! Where were you, Willis?

Combat made a comeback with the rise in popularity of the Honorable Duel, and for a while, things perked up, with lots of business for the undertaking profession. Slowly, however, the spark dimmed to the extent that Bierce, in the 19th century defined the duel as "a formal ceremony preliminary to the reconciliation of two enemies."

It was not until the latter half of the 20th century, in the small New Hampshire town of Farmington, that the glory of two people locked in hand-to-hand combat once more grabbed the world's imagination, with the banner headline "Women Fight Over Cord Of Wood On Main St." The classical deciding of a Great Question was back. A few months later, just to prove that this was no isolated fluke, a gladiatorial contest between Officer Quinn (Retiari, with two-pronged zapper) and Royce Hodgdon (Andabata, blind with drink) was held before a large and appreciative audience.

And now comes news of a joust, recounted last Thursday in Farmington District Court, twixt Arthur Roberge and Lancelot Smith. Again, a Great Question was involved...should Smith continue to lounge in the doorway of Vinnie's Pizza?

"No!" contended Roberge, and probably wished he had a spikey metal ball to draw attention to his police uniform.

"Yes!" averred Smith, possible embolded by an absence of said spikey metal ball.

By all accounts, a spirited contest ensued.

Unfortunately, history reveals no shortage of detractors and killjoys, bent on squashing this noble tradition. In A.D. 500, it was Theodoric the Great who outlawed gladiatorial clashes. Tudor monarchs craftily steered the good old boys away from jousting. Richelieu banned duellists from France and Wyatt Earp banished gunfighters to Boot Hill.

Last Thursday, Judge Carignan fined Lancelot Smith $400, with reference made to the dungeons, and if this outbreak of peacekeeping were not enough, Police Chief Carr has just withdrawn the zapper from the blue corner, unwittingly lessening the chances of an attack on his men with a cattle prod.

(Cattle prod? says you. Cattle prod, says I, an investigative journalist sworn to secrecy.)

And so it goes. Circles, cycles, war and peace, noble tradition and Nobel Peace Prize. Will there come a day soon, when the only arms raised in combat are those of Farmington Menís Basketball League? Hmm.

School news

High School Principal Ken Beaupre, who just completed an unsuccesful season of hunting, has embarked upon an equally futile spell of ice-fishing. An outlay of $3.50 for bait gave him a return, last week, of one small pickerel, valued at 25 cents. Don't give up your regular job, Mr. B.

Joan Funk of the Booster Club reminds us that nylon Tiger jackets are once more on sale at $37, with $48 being sought for the corduroy version

The Party Place

That Mecca of Fun, which was formerly a somber downtown apartment, is the provider of mirth in dull moments. A typist, for example, in the adjoining lawyer's office was amused the other day to see a decorated Christmas tree come hurtling suddenly out of the front door and over the balcony.

Unfortunately, things may be winding down. An inrush of Blue Meanies, claiming a disturbance of the peace, has resulted in at least one inmate being arraigned to appear at Farmington District Court on Jan. 21. Be sure that this column will rush you the facts on that one.

Ice Rink news

A few days ago, permission came through from the town hall administrative branch to go ahead with the creation of an ice rink in Fernald Park, the site of last year's partially successful effort. The hold up, this year, has been with clarification of the town's liability with regard to insurance coverage.

As in 1987, a large sign will inform citizens that they skate at their own risk, as they have done, since the founding of America. I would accuse any person trying to make a buck from a lawsuit, of gross unpatriotic behavior. Such actions destroy the recreational life of this country. Take responsibility for yourself! Don't blame others! Accidents happen!

Jan. 12, 1988

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