Sunday, June 10, 2012
“More than 200 years ago, Indians throughout the United States played a variety of club and ball games described as ‘Shinny.’ Translation of the various Indian appellations given the game include ‘The Club of the War Gods’ or ‘the yielding stick’ but it was popularly known as ‘Rooster’ amongst the Tashuan tribe where it is said to have first originated and had a shortlived, but well-documented history amongst its people.
Introduced to the Tashwans by a seaman second class by the name “Shanks” McNaught who claimed he was washed ashore after riding a great white whale with his Captain Jonah, after the wreck of the whaler, The Raven out of Turro, Massachusetts. Rooster was more akin to dueling than to the game of golf as we now know it. In the game of Rooster - two contestants compete head-to-head in a match of ‘fool-hardy will and dubious courage.’ Each player armed with a wooden club called a baffer, which has a leather grip at one end, and a bent, gnarled, spoon-like head at the other. If the contestants were to smote each other with these baffing clubs they might have caused considerable damage, but the rules of Rooster strictly forbade striking your opponent directly with the business end of the club. Rather, the rules of the game required the contestants to stand 216 paces distant from each other and to “flayel the baffer, thereby striking the baul at yourn foe in the wee hope of goffin ‘im in the noggin.” “Wee hope,” being the operative words. For the most part, it is said Rooster contests devolved into utter frivolity, as few of the players were capable of striking the baul with any degree of certainty, much less inflicting any damage upon a foe so far afield.
Games of the North American Indians was first published in a U. S. Government document titled Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Smithsonian Institution, 1902-1903, by H.W. Holmes.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
|sunset at st. andrews|
Is it true, that I transcribe my memories by hand with a quill honed from the bone of a great white whale and ink from the dust of my ancestor’s bones. Does it matter? My life is a tale so fantastic that none believe it, when it is told. And, yet, for posterity’s sake, I transmit the story for the sake of my people, while briefly noting, for vanity’s sake, my family’s rightful place in the golfing records.
My father was Seamus Shipman Jr., son of a lightkeeper and golfer of little note, who fled Scotland, when the English Courts called him to testify in the wake of a shipwreck caused by the failure of the Kyntire lighthouse in 1871.
My grandfather was Seamus Shipman (Old Seamus, or Elder, in his later years), a noted gaufer in his time, but forgotten now. When Old Seamus was a younger man, he used to beat everyone, at match play, including and especially Old Tom. He was master club maker and wielder of hickory sticks, the best "stuffer of feathers", and an irrascible and fierce competitor who won often. Unfortunately, my grandfather was also prone to rubbing that fact in a little too strenuously when in his cups, which was often. So there was a feud between Old Tom and Old Seamus, a feud that dates back to the early days of Prestwick that came to tragedy off the coast of Machrihanish.
In 1858, Old Seamus took the job as Kyntire lighthouse keeper and moved his family to the westernmost finger of Scotland. Wouldn’t you know it, not two years later, Old Tom helped set up the first, so-called, British Championship in 1860 and finished second, but Old Seamus really hit the roof when he heard that Old Tom won it in 1861. And things didn’t get much better as the decade progressed. Old Tom won the belt three more times, and then, to make matters worse, the son took up where the father left off and capped it by winning possession of the belt with his third consecutive victory.
Old Seamus just bristled that those Easterners, as he called them, (Old Tom and the younger) were hogging all the gaufing glory simply because he and his eldest couldn’t get time off from lighthouse duties to play in these so-called Open Championships. and everyone knew that "the true game of gauf is match play, not stroke, spell it anyway you like."
So in the Spring of 1871, when the membership of Prestwick declined to offer up a new prize, Old Seamus wrote a withering letter to his old club and challenged his rival to a challenge match, pitting the best of the east (Young Tom) against the best of the west (Young Seamus) for a prize to be determined.
Of course, there was no golf course on this westernmost finger of Scotland, except for the sheep pasture where Old Seamus taught his sons to play the ancient game. But Old Seamus was determined to have the match played on home turf, so he bought the farm and spent all that spring fashioning a rough ten-hole course on which to hold the competition. As they say, there's no rivalry like the rivalry of Old Men; and Old Tom leapt at the chance to put his old nemesis in his place, even if it was just a match played between their sons.
My father, Young Seamus and Young Tom Morris played a thirty-hole (three times around a ten-hole circuit) match which ended all square, never one in front of the other by more than a hole the entire way. But, the weather was turning might nasty at the end and so play was suspended while a great storm was rolling in off the Irish Sea. The stoppage imposed by the rule committee, but objected to by both players who were eager to finish.
Old Seamus ordered my father back to to the lighthouse to the tend the signal, whilst he and Old Tom and the committee retired to the nearest establishment to codify the terms of continuance, planned the next morning, if the storm did not pass.
As neitherYoung Seamus, nor Young Tom wanted to quit.
And so, they lingered on the links as the crowd dispersed,
and then decided to continue, sanction or not.
And so, my father sent his young brother of nine
--the lad had carried the bags for the thirty hole match--
to the lighthouse in his stead.
Something that was not 'officially' allowed, but oft happened.
and Seamus and Tom, continued on...
But young Seamus's younger brother, 'his bother' as he called him for the boy was a "bit light in the head, if not in the shoes", couldn’t bear to miss the finish of the match either, for it had been one for the ages, so far. And so the boy hid in the weeds to bear witness to the conclusion of the match, neglecting his older brother's instructions and the family duty.
For six long holes, in the screaming wind and rain it went, until Young Seamus, hit a knock-down cleek from 108 yards into 54 mile an hour gale and watched it drop into the hole for an eagle to win the match on the 36th hole.
But the glory was short-lived.
The son had disobeyed the father,
and brother neglected brother,
one stayed to play,
the other to watch.
And eighteen souls (sailors)
were set adrift at sea
drowned (or so it was thought)
off the Kyntire coast.
Fearing the vengeance of Her Majesty's Courts, my father fled Scotland, to Ireland and then on to America, by hiring out on a whaling ship. He made his way to Newfoundland, and then on to Massachussetts where he prospered in Turro in the whaling business. In 1885, he set sail on one last whaling season but he never made it back to port…the last entry found in the ship’s log noted that “The Raven" (his whaling ship) hunts a great whale..”
|1st tee of Machrihanish|
James Boles Shippen Jr.