The Winter Olympics are a fine thing, just as the Summer ones are. However, they are nothing in comparison to the Olympics that the Westhoffs held once. It was a many day event held in the summer at various venues. For example, Olympic Old Maid (the card game) was held in the bedroom in the basement that was never used as a bedroom anymore, but was the only bedroom of the house when Mom and Dad were first married and the upstairs had not yet been built. It would have been where Mrs. Carroll’s basinet was. After the upstairs was built, it became the hot water heater room and the place where Kath and Barb played paper dolls (a high-tech form of entertainment) and its one time use as the venue for Olympic Old Maid. It was played on the bed that was still there. I don’t know who took the gold but for every medalist there was a medal made of paper that was awarded in great ceremony at the end of all competition.
Speaking of beds, another event, one that has probably never been an event in any other competition in the world, was Olympic Bed Kicking. You read that right. My sister Kath invented that one. The rules were pretty simple: Lie on bed, start kicking feet up and down continuously. As soon as one stopped kicking, even for a moment, he was done. Again, I don’t remember who won the gold, but I do remember that brother Dave did not. The competition began – upstairs in the bedroom with a double and a twin bed with all contestants kicking away. (There were five of us entered in this event.) Shortly after the kicking had commenced, Dave announced, while stopping his kicking, “I can do this all day.” Since he stopped kicking to announce that, he was, of course, out of the competition and out of the medal race. The rest of us continued kicking as we laughed continuously at Dave’s elimination.
Another event never before and never after held anywhere in the world was Olympic Davenport Walking. You read that right. The venue for this event (and by the way, construction of all venues were completed on time for the events) was the sunporch. The sunporch, I believe, was added on to the house after the fourth child was born. So the light that was directly above the davenport that was used in the competition was originally the outside porch light. The event may have slightly resembled the balance beam, except there were no tricks or anything that one did – one just had to walk across the back of the davenport without falling or using the wall that it was up against for support. (I kind of think we weren’t the most coordinated kids in the world, but this made it easy to come up with difficult events.)
Now the games weren’t all held indoors. We had acres of land to host this Olympiad. Probably the greatest competition outside was Olympic Barrel Rolling. You read that right. We had lots of these big barrels around the farm, and never being a kid-in-the-know or very inquisitive, I have no idea what these barrels were originally used for. I do remember ones that were not used in Olympic Rolling formed part of a sheep pen down under the old cottonwood tree that used to have the tire swing hanging from it. These barrels held something that was used a lot on the farm, but for me they were used for rolling. Now Olympic Barrel Rolling was probably the most dangerous of our events. Each Olympic Athlete chose a barrel. All of them had names written in chalk on what would have been the top of the barrel. Here are some of the names I remember: “Tonner”. This barrel was heavy. I think it might have had some tar inside. “Smokey”. This barrel, when rolled, would emit a reddish looking smoke. Maybe from rust? “Little Joe”. This was the smallest of the barrels and we were fans of Bonanza. I wish I could remember the name of the barrel that had some rocks in it. I just can’t think of it. All the great athletes mounted their barrels – there were no additional points to be gained by a dramatic mount. Then everyone started rolling around trying to knock other world-class barrel rollers off their barrels. It was really fun. I don’t know if “Tonner” had an advantage – he was powerful, but sort of slow. “Little Joe” was quick, but light and knocked around easily. And given our coordination levels as evidenced in the difficulty for us of Olympic Davenport Walking, probably most of us fell off without ever making contact with another barrel.
We had a velodrome of the open-air variety. The course ran around the house. All biking events had to be time-trial events since we had only one bike — the bike Mom bought from the Milk Man whom we kids called Gus. I don’t know what his real name was, but we always called him Gus. Years later we got a couple new bikes for Christmas, then we called the Gus Bike “the Harley Davidson” because we always thought that was the worst name for a motorcycle. We thought Kawasaki was the best name. We really wanted a motorcycle, but we got a couple bikes instead. Given our coordination levels, this was probably very smart.
The bike track did run through the golf course, location of more Olympic excitement. We had no lawn around the house – just dirt. And so on the east side of the house there was a golf course that Jim and Dave built. The holes were dug and a tin can inserted and then the grounds crew carefully replaced dirt around the can – a perfect golf hole. The holes were not of uniform size – one was a giant peach can, another a little soup can. The golf balls were plastic Wiffle ball-like golf ball size balls. Our clubs were parts off an old potato digger. Great course, great equipment – hours and hours of fun. My brothers used to play golf late into the night – they would bring a car around and turn on its headlights so they could keep playing long after sunset. So, of course, Olympic Golf was one of our events. Even though the area that was the golf course is all different now, I could take you to the location of each of the nine holes. (For an 18 hole course, one played the holes in reverse.) There was the hole by the red ant hill, the one by the basketball goal (the golf course doubled as a basketball court and barrel rolling arena), one that was in the mowed weeds with the rough of tall weeds all around it – it was just a little ways in front of the original front porch steps that had been replaced long ago but remained in a ravine just beyond the hole. There was the hole near the septic tank and another right up against the sunporch. The final hole was near the yellow rose bushes. I’d love to play that course again. Greater than Pebble Beach in my estimation.
Well, that’s how we had our fun one summer. There were no terrorists threats, we were all housed comfortably after the day’s events, we were self-judged and I don’t remember anyone contesting any of the results, there were no injuries, even though there was great danger in Olympic Davenport Walking. I just wish I could remember that other barrel’s name.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.