Union Grove High School, I participated in football, basketball, soccer, and track.
I was equally inept in all of them. Years later, when asked about my high school
athletic record, I would describe myself as “not very big, but I was really slow.”
The only sport I was any good at was tin can shinny. No, it was not an interscholastic
activity. This rough and tumble game was played far away from the schools of learning.
As I look back, I believe it was more brutal than rugby, hockey, football, or
even boxing, all of which have some semblance of order. In tin can shinny, the
main objective was to beat your opponent into submission any way you could. We
had no referees and no supervision. |
The game is hard to describe, but
from what I have heard, it is somewhat similar to field hockey. The big difference
was that we never used a ball or a puck. Just as the name implies, we used a tin
can. Not just any tin can. Only a six-ounce condensed milk can would suffice.
It was about as tall as it was wide, making it roll end over end as well as sideways.
The path of the roll was unpredictable, making the sport even more interesting.
By halfway through the game, the can became so beat up, it was a dangerous missile.
The number of players was determined by how many were available to participate
on any given day.
Our team consisted of brothers, Bill and Jesse, and
The Lester brothers. We had marked off a field near our house where we would practice
each day. Once we felt ready, we started looking for opponents. Our team had a
definite advantage because we already knew how the game was played. We made up
most of the rules, and they probably changed from time to time to suit the situation.
Our reputation soon spread, and opponents came looking for us. One by one, we
sent them away, soundly defeated.
One day the four brothers from across
the valley came strolling by. They didn’t care much for us, and the feeling was
mutual. In fact, I had been in a fistfight with the elder of the group. We asked
them if they would like to take us on in a game of tin can shinny, but they were
not interested. After much goading, they gave in and agreed to play us. The game
soon became one-sided, with our side scoring goal after goal, but after awhile,
they seemed to get the idea and started catching up. Before we knew it, we were
behind, and the possible outcome of the match was not looking good. Our frustration
turned to anger, and the game started getting rougher than usual. Our sticks were
now hitting things other than the tin can. Surprisingly, no one went to the hospital.
We knew that, sooner or later, we would lose to someone, but to be beaten by this
gang would be a double dose of hurt. But, beat us they did.
I had watched
our high school football team lose a big game we were supposed to win. I was there
when our basketball team was eliminated from the state playoffs by a last second
tip in. Neither hurt as badly as that humiliating tin can shinny loss to our archenemies